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R.I.P. Kitty O'Neil, stuntwoman who helped bring Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman to life

O’Neil on the set of Wonder Woman in 1979.
Photo: Tom Nebbia (Getty Images)

Kitty O’Neil, the American stuntwoman and racer known not only for being the world’s fastest woman, but also for bringing Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman to life as the actress’ body double, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She was 72.

Born on March 24, 1946, O’Neil lost her hearing at just five months old due to a bout with measles, mumps, and smallpox that nearly claimed her life. According to O’Neil, it was her mother who taught her to “read lips” as a means of communication. She later learned to play the piano, as well as other instruments, but her achievements don’t stop there: In 1976, she became the first woman to join top agency Stunts Unlimited, for whom she performed in the TV series The Bionic Woman (1976-1978), Jerry Jameson’s Airport (1977), John Landis’ The Blues Brothers (1980), and fellow stuntman Hal Needham’s Smokey And The Bandit II (1980). However, her most notable stunt work was for the Wonder Woman series starring Lynda Carter that aired on ABC and CBS from 1975 - 1979.


O’Neil would go on to perform over 120 stunts in both film and television between 1974 and 1980, including Two-Minute Warning, Airport ‘77, September 30, 1955, Foes, The Mike Douglas Show, Damien: The Omen II, Foul Play, and Silent Victory: The Kitty O’Neil Story, a 1979 TV movie starring Stockard Channing based on O’Neil’s own life. She retired—both from stunt work and from her side career as a record-setting land and water racer—in 1982. In a 2015 interview, upon being asked if she was afraid at all while performing stunts, she replied, “I’m not afraid of anything. Just do it. It’s good when you finish, [you know] you made it.”

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