F13 Hall of Fame: Steve Daskawisz

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Principal photography on Friday the 13th Part 2 was barely underway when the producers were forced to recast the role of Jason Voorhees, the film’s demented killer. Warrington Gillette, the actor who had been set to portray the character, had proven to be a problem for the filmmakers, due to his inability to perform the required stunts. Steve Miner, making his directorial debut after almost a decade of working in a production capacity for Wes Craven and Sean S. Cunningham, had suddenly found himself without an actor to play the role. Stunt coordinator Cliff Cudney, however, had a solution and turned to one of his friends for assistance. Steve Daskawisz was a formed cop from New York who had turned to acting in 1977 and had landed minor roles in Wolfen and The Jazz Singer. The latter led to work on the Sylvester Stallone thriller Nighthawks, where he first made the acquaintance of Cudney.

This meeting would result in Daskawisz taking a keen interest in stuntwork, something that would bring him to the attention of Miner. Although the Screen Actors Guild had announced a strike, Friday the 13th Part 2 was able to continue as they had already moved into production and so Daskawisz, desperate for work, agreed to come onboard as Gillette’s replacement. Forced to borrow $25 from his brother-in-law for fuel, Daskawisz made his way from New York to Kent, Connecticut, where shooting was already underway on what had been tentatively titled Jason. Having been led to the wardrobe department to try on his new costume, Daskawisz was horrified to learn that he would spend the duration of the movie with a sack over his head. Not being familiar with Friday the 13th, Daskawisz approached Miner for a copy of the screenplay in order to learn his lines but was informed that the only directions he would need to know where when to chase and when to kill.

Despite not having a script, Miner would advise Daskawisz prior to each scene what part it played in the story to allow him to get into character. Daskawisz would be injured on more than one occasion throughout the shoot, although these would mostly be due to mere accidents than negligence on anyone’s part. During a sequence in which Jason was to pounce on the heroine, Ginny, Daskawisz and actress Amy Steel were forced to perform the scene almost a dozen times, with Daskawisz landing in a dug out spot to avoid hurting his feet. But, during one of the takes, Daskawisz would miss his mark and landed on his pitchfork, breaking four of his ribs. The second incident was during the climax, when Ginny was to swing her machete down on Jason, only for him to block it at the last moment with his axe. But the stunt went askew and Daskawisz almost lost a finger, resulting in a further thirteen stitches.

Although he would portray Jason for the majority of the movie – with the exception of the prologue, which would see production assistant Jerry Wallace and costume designer Ellen Lutter as stand-ins – Daskawisz was informed after the shoot that Gillette, who was originally hired for the role, would be credited as Jason. The producers eventually settled on a Jason Stunt Double credit for Daskawisz, although this would not be listed along with his fellow cast members. Thus, the truth behind who really played Jason would remain a mystery for over twenty years. Daskawisz, who would later change his professional name to Steve Dash, continued to work as an actor and stuntman throughout the 1980s and remained unaware of how popular his character had become until he was contacted by author Peter Bracke for the retrospective Crystal Lake Memories. Since then, Dash has appeared at numerous horror conventions, where he has not only met his fans but also Gillette, who was also promoting his work as Jason on Friday the 13th Part 2.



Friday the 13th Part 2 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)

Director: Steve Miner
Starring: Kirsten Baker, Stuart Charno, Steve Daskawisz, Rex Everhart, Warrington Gillette
Rating: R (Restricted)

List Price: $24.99 USD
New From: $4.79 In Stock
Used from: $3.48 In Stock
Release date June 16, 2009.
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