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Blake murder to be subject of TV biopic

Will not answer the question of who killed Bonny Lee Bakley.
/ Source: The Associated Press

In the opening scene, Robert Blake and his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, are leaving the restaurant. He goes back inside. A vehicle pulls alongside the couple’s car and Bakley’s hit by gunfire. The killer is not shown.

As the murder trial against Blake proceeds, a made-for-television movie is in the works about Bakley’s life. But “Dying for Stardom: The Absolutely Unbelievable True Story of Bonny Lee Bakley” does not attempt to answer the question of who killed her.

Producer Larry Thompson said the film is more about the twists and turns of Bakley’s life rather than exposing her killer.

“Whether Robert Blake pulled the trigger or whether he had someone pull the trigger ... we leave that up to one’s own determination,” Thompson, who managed Blake in the early 1980s, said in a phone interview Wednesday. He has produced numerous TV movies, including “The Sonny and Cher Story” and “The Trial and Capture of Andrew Luster.”

“The point we’re trying to make in our movie is she desperately wanted respect, love and fame and she paid the ultimate price,” he said. “Who killed Bonny Bakley isn’t as important as how she lived.”

Actor Steve Railsback, whose 50-plus roles are highlighted by a turn as Charles Manson in the 1976 television drama “Helter Skelter,” will play Blake. Bakley’s role hasn’t been cast yet.

Thompson said Bakley had an abusive childhood and numerous marriages. “She was a train wreck to begin with,” Thompson said. “She was literally married some 12 times to men...most of them who she knew only for days or through mail correspondences.”

The $6 million film is scheduled to begin shooting Dec. 6. Thompson wants to air it in April, when Blake’s murder trial is expected to end. Thompson said he paid a “six-figure” amount last year to Bakley’s younger sister, Margerry Bakley, who lives in Tennessee, for the rights to the story.

Meanwhile, jury selection is continuing for the trial of Blake, 71, former star of the “Baretta” TV series. He has pleaded not guilty to Bakley’s killing on May 4, 2001.

Thompson said the outcome of the trial may change the tone of the film, but not the scenes in the 115-page script — like one that shows a man approaching the couple and saying, “I can’t do it,” referring to allegations that Blake had hired someone to kill his wife.

“Our intent is to tell you what Bonny Lee Bakley experienced without saying who shot her,” Thompson said. “We have everything except the verdict.”