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For 17 days after a horrific incident left her severely injured and partially paralyzed, stunt performer Olivia Jackson suffered from nightmares and hallucinations while in a medically induced coma.
In one of these visions, Jackson was being jerked around a bridge at lightning speed while tethered by rope to a motorcycle.
Of all the dreams she had, that one bore a passing resemblance to the real-life event that landed the former model and Cape Town native in the hospital after the first day of shooting began on Resident Evil: The Final Chapter in her home country in September 2015.
“You just have the deepest, the darkest, the heaviest hallucinations and nightmares, one after the other,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter during an interview. “They’re so vivid, so real, you think that’s reality.”
Last week Jackson filed a lawsuit in L.A. County Superior Court against the film’s director, Paul Anderson, producer Jeremy Bolt and production companies Tannhauser Gate Inc, Impact Pictures and Bolt Pictures behind the blockbuster franchise, which has brought in upward of a billion dollars at the box office. The suit is seeking unspecified damages. None of the companies responded to a request for comment.
“Olivia has confronted her devastating injuries with relentless courage, but she continues to face immense physical and emotional challenges,” states Jackson’s attorney, Gabe Barenfeld. “Olivia deserves full financial support to aid her in this ongoing battle.”
Speaking from her home in the U.K., where she lives with her husband Dave Grant, also a stunt performer, Jackson says she only took the job as Milla Jovovich’s stunt double at the last minute, after another stunt performer got injured.
A former Muay Thai fighter who had a special expertise with motorbiking, Jackson was a good fit for the movie. She had plenty of experience on blockbuster action movies, doubling for actress Rosie Huntington Whiteley in Mad Max: Fury Road and performing stunts in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. I.
She says she took the Resident Evil job while waiting for production to begin on another movie she had signed up for, the then-upcoming Wonder Woman, which would be filming back home in the U.K.
The crew had been rehearsing a fight scene for weeks when, on the day shooting was to begin, Jackson learned that the fight scene they’d been rehearsing was to be replaced with another, unrelated sequence.
This one involved riding a motorcycle at full speed toward an action van mounted with a crane-mounted camera that would itself be traveling full speed in her direction. After a couple of takes that went well, Jackson started the third, live run.
Only this time, unbeknownst to her, some key elements of the stunt had been changed, according to the lawsuit.
“Numerous things were changed at the last minute that I wasn’t aware of,” she says, “Which resulted in the crane operator not lifting the crane in time and basically driving it straight into my left arm and left shoulder.”
She was rushed to the hospital where staff induced a coma. Jackson survived, but was left with monumental physical and emotional scars. The camera had ripped a portion of her jaw off, leaving her teeth exposed. She suffered nerve damage to her spine and her left arm was amputated above her elbow.
“It’s had such a huge impact on every single part of my life, my body is so physically damaged and a lot of it beyond repair,” she says, “Every single moment of my time I’ve got nerve pain.”
The upper-right quadrant of her body remains paralyzed, along with a portion of her face, and she says she has a “droopy eye” with a pupil that refuses to dilate.
Jackson says she’s doing her best to recover, and has started to resume a physical regimen that includes kickboxing. She also volunteers at an equestrian center that helps elderly people with dementia. And she meditates, which she says helps with the pain.
“One of the hardest things is I lost the life I loved,” she says, “I knew that I would never work again. I loved my job with all my heart.”
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