Steve McQueen - The "King Of Cool"
Movies With Steve McQueen
Despite his rugged good looks, cool guy reputation and Hollywood success later in life, Steve McQueen’s youth and early years were punctuated with struggle. The actor known as Steve McQueen was not, in fact, a “Steve” by birth.
Born Terence Steven McQueen in 1930 at the dawn of the Depression, he was abandoned by his mother to be raised until age 8 by his grandparents and an uncle on a farm in rural Missouri. His uncle was one of the few adults in his childhood of whom he had fond memories. He would go on to live with his mother and two successive stepfathers, both of whom were physically abusive.
In his teenage years, McQueen bounced back and forth between living on the streets, his mother’s home, and his uncle’s farm. His life was one of beatings, rebelliousness, and petty crime, and he was eventually sent to a boy’s home, the California Junior Boys Republic, where he stayed until the age of 16. The institution left a profound mark on McQueen, and he would go on to support the institution for the rest of his life.
McQueen eventually landed in the Marine Corps, a 4 year experience which was not surprisingly riddled with resistance to authority. After numerous scrapes, demotions, and even a month-long stay in the brig, McQueen committed to the discipline of the Marines and was eventually honourably discharged with positive memories of his time with the service.
Steve McQueen Persols
By 1952, McQueen decided to use his GI Bill funds to study acting. He supplemented his earnings by racing motorcycles, and even in his early days of driving, he was often successful.
In 1955 he moved to Hollywood, where he landed bit parts in film and TV. Throughout the 1950s, McQueen work steadily in television, culminating in the successful series Wanted: Dead or Alive, in which he played a bounty hunter.
McQueen’s first big break into film came in the early 1960s when he was talent-spotted by none other than Frank Sinatra and given a small part in the film Never So Few. It started somewhat modestly (“The Blob”) but he went on to starring roles in such hits as “Bullitt,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “The Getaway,” “Papillon,” “The Towering Inferno,” “The Sand Pebbles” and a couple of dozen more.
McQueen nearly stole the rug from under star Yul Brynner in the acclaimed movie "The Magnificent Seven" (1960).
He next portrayed a brash, but wily escape artist in "The Great Escape" (1963) before giving acclaimed performances in "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965) and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), the latter of which earned him his only Academy Award nomination.
Following a small break from the screen, McQueen entered into his most memorable phase with "The Thomas Crown Affair" (1968) and "Bullitt" (1968), which featured what many considered to be the greatest car chase ever seen on film. After the underperforming race movie "Le Mans" (1971), he had one of the biggest hits of the year with "The Getaway" (1972) and delivered a solid turn as an escaped prisoner in "Papillion" (1973).
He was, in the 1960s and into the 1970s, as big a star as there was (and most highly paid one in 1974), standing on equal box-office footing with such contemporaries as Paul Newman. He even turned down starring roles in such blockbusters as “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Apocalypse Now,” choosing instead to play a cowboy in “Tom Horn” and a contemporary bounty hunter in “The Hunter.”
In his personal life, McQueen’s rebellious, competitive nature proved to be a lifelong companion. He was famously antagonistic with directors and co-stars, and he considered Paul Newman as his professional rival.
McQueen also passed on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because he and Newman couldn’t agree on who would receive top billing. He also missed roles in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Ocean’s 11, and Dirty Harry among others, some due to scheduling conflicts and others due to McQueen’s personal whims.
Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw
He was married three times (his second wife was actress Ali McGraw, whom friends claimed was his true love) and had two children with his first wife, though he was connected with numerous other women and actresses in Hollywood over the course of his career.
He was a prolific drug user, smoker, and drinker. His love for racing never waned, and he enthusiastically embraced every opportunity to drive and do his own stunts in his films. He would eventually own a collection of 130 motorcycles.
A brooding performer with a rebellious streak and a proclivity for speed, actor Steve McQueen forever changed the definition of the Hollywood leading man with roles as quiet, but tough protagonists who sought their own methods outside the bounds of authority.
Dubbed "The King of Cool," McQueen ushered in a new breed of anti-heroes who commanded the begrudging respect - along with large salaries - of studio producers and directors, while attracting millions of moviegoer fans around the world.
McQueen was Hollywood’s “King of Cool” for a reason. His legacy lives on in a new generation as his image is ubiquitous in culture (especially hipster culture). He also still appears in modern films like the recent remake of The Magnificent Seven.
In The Great Escape McQueen played Virgil Hilts in a role that propelled him to super-stardom. Then there’s his role as the detective Frank Bullitt. He literally flies his car through the streets of San Francisco in what is regarded by many as the greatest car chase scene in cinematic history. Steve McQueen was not cool because he drove the Bullitt car. The Bullitt car was cool because Steve McQueen drove it.
At the time, Steve McQueen was the number-one movie star in the world, and he is still used as a point of reference for masculinity and “coolness” to this day. He was (and is) the definition of an American icon.
McQueen was a private guy. In the late 1970s he was once approached in person by Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, who had initially been rebuffed in his attempts to interview the actor.Siskel asked, “Do you think there’s a chance we could do an interview in the future? Should I call your press agent?”McQueen said, “Maybe. Look, I’m sorry but I just don’t do interviews. I haven’t given one in seven years.
Yes, I have a press agent, but his job is to turn down interviews.”There is no doubt that this reluctance to talk about himself (especially to writers, he said once, “I just can’t figure writers”) helped to burnish his star. It seems refreshing in this brand-fashioning, what-I-ate-for-breakfast internet age, doesn’t it? Mystery fascinates but does not explain.
In a 1966 interview, McQueen himself declared his goals and they weren’t solely based on getting extra screen time.“I’ve leveled off in some respects, plan my business and my career ahead now and try to schedule my work so I’ll have time off,” said McQueen. “I just want the brass ring and the pine trees and my kids and the green grass.
I want to get rich and fat and watch my children grow.” McQueen may have had a conflicting relationship with his fame as an actor. Still, McQueen is celebrated as one of the most important actors in Hollywood’s history. He lived a brief, fast-paced life.“There is just so much legacy there,” he said. “But I think the lasting legacy is this individual who represents freedom, who represents pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps. A street kid that made it big. And that’s sort of the American dream, isn’t it?
The Great Escape Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen Car In Bullitt
Bullitt was one of McQueen’s best-known films in terms of critical acclaim and commercial success. The film spoke to his love of cars and driving. The plot begins with McQueen’s maverick police sergeant character Frank Bullitt being assigned to protect a mob defector, Johnny Ross, from retribution before he can be called as a star witness in a hearing on organized crime. An assassination attempt is made, and through a series of aliases, cover-ups, and other twists and turns, the viewer is led to a dramatic conclusion.
The film is noted for filming extensively on location and capturing realistic depictions of police procedural detail at the time.That being said, the most memorable scene in Bullitt is the car chase, in which Bullitt (in a Ford Mustang) chases two hitmen (in a Dodge Charger) through the streets of San Francisco.
The scene is considered to be one of film’s best classic car chases and took nearly 3 weeks to film on location. At the time, it was certainly it’s ground-breaking even though it might seem slow compared to modern-day car chases. McQueen tried in vain for years to buy the 1968 390 V8 Ford Mustang GT fastback he drove in the film, but he never succeeded. Nevertheless, Bullitt is certainly one of Steve McQueen’s most iconic works.
Le Mans With Steve McQueen
Actor Steve McQueen
Following the epic disaster movie, "The Towering Inferno" (1974), McQueen's career hit a down slope that was later revealed to be the result of his battle with lung cancer. Though his life and career were cut short at age 50, McQueen remained one of the most iconic and beloved film stars of the latter half of the 20th century.
In 1980, at the young age of 50, Steve McQueen died from pleural mesothelioma, a type of cancer associated with asbestos exposure. McQueen believed it originated from high exposure to asbestos while in the Marines.
Steve McQueen Footnotes:
Steve McQueen Facts
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