Tragedy Struck During Kentucky Film Shoot of This 1979 Action Thriller
I have been writing quite frequently about movies being made in Kentucky, and it's been happening so much that I feel like I'm trying to keep up. But all that tells me is that filmmaking in the Commonwealth is proceeding at a healthy pace.
1979's 'Steel' Was Filmed Entirely Within Lexington and Fayette County
But let's jump back to a time BEFORE tempting tax incentives made the Bluegrass State a hot Hollywood target. In fact, we're going all the way back to 1979 and a movie that, to be quite honest, only came to my attention recently. And, as a movie lover, I'd have to say I'm surprised that I'd never heard of Steel, which was filmed entirely in Lexington and surrounding areas within Fayette County.
Starring Kentucky native Lee Majors--who, by 1979, was an icon among, at least, all us kids of the 70s, thanks to The Six-Million-Dollar Man--Steel is the story of a truck driver and former construction worker who comes out of retirement to assemble a "dream team" and get a skyscraper built before a big corporation shuts down the operation. A trailer is unavailable, but you can view a clip on YouTube. And, if you like what you see, you can stream the entire movie:
Hollywood Stuntman Perishes in Fall While Filming 'Steel'
But the biggest story surrounding this movie and the film shoot was, more than likely, the tragic death of stuntman AJ Bakunas, who died from a fall while performing a scene as a stunt double for actor George Kennedy.
Bakunas had few credits under his belt prior to working on Steel, but two of them--Dog Day Afternoon and Hooper--were enormous hits. The scripted fall during the film shoot wasn't really anything unusual for a stuntman, but when Bakunas landed on one of those gigantic airbags commonly used for stunt work, it split resulting in the 27-year-old's death.
It certainly serves as a grisly reminder of what a seriously dangerous job stunt work is, although that's hardly news. Today, it's difficult to find videos of news stories about Bakunas' death that don't include the actual fall, which I felt was too disturbing to include in this story.
While interest in Kentucky as a filming location has been growing considerably over the last 18 months, making movies here is nothing new. It's not really anything new for Lexington, either, according to IMDB.
Steel was dedicated to AJ Bakunas.