"In my own mind, I'm not sure that acting is something for a grown man to be doing."
– Steve McQueen
By all accounts McQueen was a difficult, prickly individual. He abused drugs, drank to excess, smoked three packs a day and was riddled with self-destructive urges . He landed bit parts in stage dramas and TV episodes, and his role on Dead or Alive made him a bona fide TV star. This led to the film role in The Magnificent Seven, and the rest is a lightning fast trajectory into Hollywood superstardom. Like his onscreen characters, McQueen went his own way and pretty much did what he wanted. He turned down the film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid because he refused second billing to Paul Newman. He was an independent, sexy movie star whose sense of “cool” defined the era.
In his heyday, with a salary of $5 million a movie, Steve McQueen was the highest paid actor in the world. If you want to see him at his best, watch Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) or The Getaway (1972). In the former he is sexy and appealing; in the latter he is sexy, tough and violent (his costar was future wife Ali MacGraw). McQueen was a good actor and a true cinema icon.
McQueen lived life at top speed, like the machines he raced so famously. Always difficult on film sets, he became a diva, firing crew on a whim. In the end fewer scripts came his way, because he had burned too many bridges. He was well on his way out in Hollywood when he contracted cancer. His early death at age 50 in 1980 remains a source of speculation, all of it explored in a biography by celebrity chronicler Darwin Porter: Steve McQueen, King of Cool: Tales of a Lurid Life. Others were shocked by the sex and violence in this book; I was shocked to learn that he was a staunch Republican and evangelical Christian.
Steve McQueen, as sexy as his car, is shown here with one of his signature muscle cars, a 1956 Jaguar XKSS Le Mans racer. Only 16 were produced. This Jaguar was powered by a straight six engine with triple Webers, packing 250 horsepower. It was said to be brain-meltingly loud at 6,000 RPM, and also very pretty – like its owner.
The film Bullitt (1968) contains one of the most influential car chase sequences in movie history. Screeching through the streets of San Francisco, McQueen, in a 1968 green Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback, chases a 1968 black Dodge Charger R/T 440 Magnum. When McQueen, an accomplished race car driver, overshot a turn and smoked the tires (around the 1:10 mark), it was decided to replace him with a stunt driver. The Mustang’s interior rear view mirror gives clues as to who is behind the wheel. When the mirror is up (visible) McQueen is behind the wheel, and when it is down (not visible) stuntman Ekins is driving. It took more than three weeks to shoot the footage that took up less than ten minutes of screen time in the final edit.
Other than acting, McQueen's great love was fast cars and motorcycles. He filmed a spectacular motorcycle jump in the 1963 film, The Great Escape. Worth checking out. Here he's riding with one hand behind his back.
Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.