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September 3, 2023

Incredible Car Stunt From Steve McQueen's Last Movie “The Hunter” (1980)

A stunt car drives off the parking garage at Marina City Towers during the filming of The Hunter, starring Steve McQueen on Sept. 21, 1979, in Chicago. The car crashed into the Chicago River below. This would be McQueen's last movie before his death in 1980.

In the 1980 Paramount Pictures film The Hunter, Steve McQueen plays a bounty hunter who chases a fugitive up the spiral parking ramp on Marina City’s west tower before the villain loses control and drives off into the Chicago River.

The stunt was performed on Friday afternoon, September 21, 1979. McQueen kept mostly to the parking ramp that day, venturing out once but returning when spectators got too close. About 1,500 people gathered near Wacker Drive to watch the stunt.

The car was a green 1980 Grand Prix Pontiac. With a dummy and a movie camera in the front seat, the car moved at 40 miles per hour, guided by a stunt man running behind it. He then locked a throttle that was rigged to the trunk. The car crashed through a fake cable barrier made of wood on the 17th floor of the ramp and dived hood-first into the Chicago River, landing halfway across.

When it landed, it sounded like a cannon blast. The car floated for a few seconds and then disappeared into the dark river. Six camera crews filmed the stunt, including one from a helicopter hovering over the Dearborn Street Bridge.

In the script, the driver was supposed to survive the crash. But the impact was so severe that producer Mort Engelberg changed the story. “If it had surfaced,” he told the Chicago Tribune, “we could have gotten him out.”

The car was later salvaged. If the stunt had not worked, filmmakers were ready with two more cars.

While in Chicago, McQueen visited an antique store on Wells Street to look for antique airplane memorabilia, which he collected. While speaking with antiques expert Anita Gold, he said he was glad the stunt at Marina City was over and he was relieved that no one was injured.

It was McQueen’s last film. He died on November 7, 1980, of mesothelioma.


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