- Last Updated: 5:28 PM, July 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:47 AM, July 1, 2012
She broke her back for “Men in Black.”
Brooklyn model Danika Gerner, 23, donned a 30-pound sheet-metal dress and 6-inch heels to play an alien from the planet Glamoura during filming of “MIB 3” in Manhattan last year.
Gerner claims the intergalactic get-up caused her to suffer a herniated disc and nerve damage, halting a promising career that she hoped would include Victoria’s Secret and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
“I had to give up everything,” the 6-foot-2 beauty told The Post.
Gerner graced Allure and Glamour magazines, modeled for products like Olay , and had bit parts in “Ugly Betty” and “Sex and the City 2” before taking the nonspeaking role in the Will Smith flick.
For the scenes, filmed in a SoHo loft, she was outfitted with a giant suit of armor. Underneath, she wore only two metal bands fastened with Velcro. She balanced on spiked heels under hot lights.
In a 12-hour shift, she wore the costume all but three hours, five days in a row. She had to sashay on a runway or remain motionless, along with two shorter models in lighter costumes.
“I complained about my back hurting and asked the wardrobe people if I could take the costume off” between takes, she said. “They kept saying, ‘No, not yet, because you’re in the background of every shot.’ ”
Afterward, she felt so sore she could not accept new gigs assigned by Wilhelmina Models, which had booked her “MIB 3” job. Within a month, the agency dropped her.
“Unfortunately, this e-mail is to inform you that we are releasing you from your freelance agreement here at Wilhelmina,” it read. “It doesn’t seem to be working out. Best of luck in your future endeavors.”
Her pay came to $4,578 after taxes and Wilhelmina’s 20 percent cut.
Gerner said she tried chiropractors, massage and medication, but nothing eased the excruciating pain.
“I woke up one day and couldn’t walk. I called my parents, crying and screaming.”
An MRI confirmed a large herniated disc pressing on her nerve. She underwent a laminectomy to remove part of the vertebral bone.
“This wasn’t an instantaneous break,” said one of her lawyers, Tim Yusuf. “This actress’ back was broken slowly, with constant pressure, over the course of a week.”
Before MIB 3, Gerner played tennis competitively, and baseball, golf, and basketball for fun. "Sports and fitness was a huge part of my life."
Now she can't do any jumping or twisting that would jar her spine. "I can shoot hoops, but I can't play the game." No more flag football or "Insanity" workouts.
She's paying off $30,000 for the surgery and other treatment.
To make ends meet, she now works as a certified personal trainer and deejay. "I had to switch everything up," Gerner said.
Gerner is suing Columbia Pictures and Amblin Entertainment in Brooklyn Supreme Court, seeking unspecified damages.
"There are too many examples of Hollywood taking advantage of young, enthusiastic actors like Danika," said her New York lawyer, Arkady Frekhtman. "They work grueling hours for little pay. They should not have to compromise their safety as well."
A spokesman for Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia’s parent company, declined to comment, saying it had not seen the suit.