Fifty-year-old former police major Gail Bowen left the force nearly a decade ago to care for her terminally ill mother. The years away from the force left her reassessing her profession. Intrigued by stories of the difficulties women endure as stunt doubles—they often work twice as hard, wearing less padding to maintain a feminine appearance, than their male counterparts—she decided to train as a stunt person for her second career. Bowen now works as a stunt double and at Bobby Ore Motorsports as a high-performance driving instructor. She shares her thoughts on everything from her experience teaching soldiers on their way to Iraq to her preference in lesbian movies.
What do you teach at Bobby Ore?
I teach stunt driving, military groups and law enforcement. We get military personnel, sometimes right before they deploy. I love working with them, they are the most intense group to teach; they really, really want to learn. So many of them are killed driving, we teach them how to use a vehicle as protection, as a weapon and for safety. You gotta care about what you’re teaching and what they need to know, because you know where they are going and what they have to do.
Are you out and open about your sexuality at work?
At first I wasn’t because I wasn’t sure how it would be accepted. In the entertainment industry it’s a little more common and accepted, I guess you would say, so recently in the last couple of years I’ve been very out. It was very well-accepted and it was actually much easier than I thought it would be.
Do you have any advice for women who want to try stunt work?
I have a lot of friends that got into the business, and they got there different ways, whether they knew somebody or worked their way up through the live shows, like at amusement parks and that type of thing. I can just tell you how I got there, which is taking every class, learning everything I could and meeting everybody I could in the industry. But even then it’s a very hard road to get into [stunt work]. I trained probably six months to a year before I even got my first job, and it was another six months after that before I got the second one. It took a long time to be able to build up and be able to even think about doing it full-time.
You’ve branched out into directing and producing as well?
I guess I was disappointed with a lot of the movies that I’ve seen. I kept saying, “You know, I can write something like that.” And then I tried it. I have some friends who are really great writers and they really helped me a lot. I really want to get into making good movies for lesbians, an action romance. I was out at a gay and lesbian film festival and that’s what I heard, that nobody does those or writes those kinds of movies…nothing with good stories and action where the couples happen to be women.
What would your dream project be?
To get to direct an action movie for lesbians and hopefully get to do some of the stunts for it as well.
What message would you want to share with lesbian audiences in your films?
I think the biggest thing is in most of the gay movies that I’ve ever watched it’s mostly all about a girl meeting a girl. That’s a typical gay movie—it’s all about the relationship, not just about life. I’d like to see just regular movies, whether it be action adventure, whatever the stories are, where their being gay isn’t the story, it’s just natural.