Steve McQueen in his prime was the King of Cool
Even his NAME sounds cool!
The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968
In 1974 Steve McQueen was the highest paid movie star in the world. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon and The Towering Inferno.
Bullitt featured an unprecedented auto chase through San Francisco. McQueen did all his own stunt driving with the exception of the Chestnut Street flying jumps and the gas-station crash.
Some interesting aspects of the man;
McQueen had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk from studios when agreeing to do a film, such as electric razors, jeans and several other products. It was later found out that McQueen requested these things because he was donating them to the Boy's Republic reformatory school for displaced youth, where he had spent time during his teen years. McQueen regularly returned to to the school to spend time with the students, often to play pool and to speak with them about his experiences. He also personally responded to every letter he received from the boys there, and retained a lifelong association.
After discovering a mutual interest in racing, McQueen and his Great Escape co-star James Garner became good friends. Garner lived directly down the hill from McQueen and, as McQueen recalled, "I could see that Jim was very neat around his place. Flowers trimmed, no papers in the yard ... grass always cut. So, just to piss him off, I'd start lobbing empty beer cans down the hill into his driveway. He'd have his drive all spic 'n' span when he left the house, then get home to find all these empty cans. Took him a long time to figure out it was me".
McQueen was conservative in his political views and often backed the Republican Party. He did, however, campaign for Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964 before voting for Republican Richard Nixon in 1968. He supported the Vietnam War, was one of the few Hollywood stars who refused numerous requests to back Presidential hopeful Robert Kennedy, in 1968, and turned down the chance to participate in the 1963 March on Washington. When McQueen heard a rumor that he had been added to Nixon's Enemies List, he responded by immediately flying a giant American flag outside his house. Reportedly, his wife Ali McGraw responded to the whole affair by saying, "But you're the most patriotic person I know."
A guy after my own heart. Where are today's Hollywood action movie star patriots? Instead we've got George Clooney, Sean Penn and Brad Pitt out there bad mouthing their own country every chance they get. Steve McQueen has more cool in his little finger than all three of those guys have in their entire bodies put together.
In 1947, McQueen joined the United States Marine Corps and was assigned to an armored unit. Initially, he reverted to his prior rebelliousness, and as a result was busted to Private on seven different occasions. Additionally, he went UA (unauthorized absence) by failing to return after a weekend pass had expired. He instead stayed away with a girlfriend for two weeks, until the shore patrol caught him. He responded to his captors by resisting them and as a result spent 41 days in the brig.
The Sand Pebbles, 1966
After this episode, McQueen resolved to focus his energies on self-improvement and embraced the Marines' discipline. He saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea. He was also assigned to an honor guard responsible for guarding then-U.S. President Harry Truman's yacht. McQueen served until 1950 when he was honorably discharged.
He had a daily two-hour exercise regimen, involving weightlifting and at one point running five miles, seven days a week. McQueen also followed Tang Soo Do training; his instructor was ninth degree black belt Pat E. Johnson.
McQueen served as one of the pallbearers at Bruce Lee's funeral in 1973. Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee taught McQueen's son Chad Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do, (respectively). Later on, McQueen persuaded Norris to attend acting classes.
McQueen considered becoming a professional race car driver. In the 1970 12 Hours of Sebring race, Peter Revson and McQueen (driving with a cast on his left foot from a motorcycle accident two weeks before) won with a Porsche 908/02 in the 3 litre class and missed winning overall by a scant 23 seconds to Mario Andretti/Ignazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella in a 5 litre Ferrari 512S. The same Porsche 908 was entered by his production company Solar Productions as a camera car for Le Mans in the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans later that year.
McQueen wanted to drive a Porsche 917 with Jackie Stewart in that race, but his film backers threatened to pull their support if he did. Faced with the choice of driving for 24 hours in the race or driving the entire summer making the film, McQueen opted to do the latter.
The film was a box office flop that almost ruined McQueen's career. In addition, McQueen admitted that he almost died while filming the movie. Nonetheless, Le Mans is considered by some to be the most historically realistic representation in the history of the race.
I didn't know that film was a flop. I LOVED that film when it came out. Shows what I know about art. -S.L.
He owned several exotic sports cars, including:
* Porsche 917, Porsche 908 and Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans film.
* 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso Berlinetta
* Jaguar D-Type XKSS (Right-Hand Drive)
* Porsche 356 Speedster
McQueen also collected classic motorcycles. By the time of his death, his collection included over 100 and was valued in the millions of dollars.
There's the iconic Tag Heuer wristwatch made famous by McQueen in the film Le Mans.
REBEL & ANTI-HERO
His "anti-hero" persona developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture.
Here he is hanging out with his pet wolf.
THE DEATH OF COOL
McQueen died at the age of 50 in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico, following an operation to remove or reduce several metastatic tumors in his abdomen. He had been diagnosed with mesothelioma (a type of cancer associated with asbestos exposure), in December 1979, and had traveled to Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, in July 1980, for unconventional treatment after U.S. doctors advised him that they could do nothing to prolong his life.
In late October 1980, McQueen flew to Ciudad Juárez to have the five-pound abdominal tumors removed, despite the warnings of his U.S. doctors that the tumor was inoperable and that his heart would not withstand the surgery. McQueen died of cardiac arrest one day after the operation.
Shortly before his death, McQueen had given a medical interview in which he blamed his condition on asbestos exposure. While McQueen felt that asbestos used in movie soundstage insulation and race-drivers' protective suits and helmets could have been involved, he believed his illness was a direct result of massive exposure while removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship during his time in the Marines.
"A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it . . . it’s life. Anything that happens before or after . . . is just waiting."
Race Car Driver Michael Delaney (Steve McQueen), Le Mans 1971
McQueen was cremated, and his ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.
He's hanging out by that Great Big Track in the Sky . . . where all the dead race car drivers go.