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Photo of Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Entertainment

born:
3/24/30
died:
11/7/80
website:
http://www.stevemcqueen.com

Terence Stephen "Steve" McQueen was an American actor. He was nicknamed "The King of Cool." His "anti-hero" persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, The Blob, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. Although McQueen was combative with directors and producers, his popularity put him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.

McQueen was an avid motorcycle and racecar enthusiast. When he had the opportunity to drive in a movie, he performed many of his own stunts.

Perhaps the most memorable were the car chase in Bullitt and motorcycle chase in The Great Escape. Although the jump over the fence in The Great Escape was actually done by Bud Ekins for insurance purposes, McQueen did have a considerable amount of screen time riding his 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle. It was difficult to find riders as skilled as McQueen. At one point, due to editing, McQueen is seen in a German uniform chasing himself on another bike.

Together with John Sturges, McQueen planned to make Day of the Champion, a movie about Formula One racing. He was busy with the delayed The Sand Pebbles, though. They had a contract with the German Nürburgring, and after John Frankenheimer shot scenes there for Grand Prix, the reels had to be turned over to Sturges. Frankenheimer was ahead in schedule anyway, and the McQueen/Sturges project was called off.

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 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. Le Mans is considered by some to be the most historically realistic representation in the history of the race.

McQueen also competed in off-road motorcycle racing. His first off-road motorcycle was a Triumph 500cc that he purchased from friend and stunt man Ekins. McQueen raced in many top off-road races on the West Coast, including the Baja 1000, the Mint 400 and the Elsinore Grand Prix. In 1964, with Ekins on their Triumph TR6 Trophys, he represented the United States in the International Six Days Trial, a form of off-road motorcycling Olympics. He was inducted in the Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1971, Solar Productions funded the now-classic motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday, in which McQueen is featured along with racing legends Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith. Also in 1971, McQueen was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine riding a Husqvarna dirt bike. McQueen also designed a motorsports bucket seat, for which a patent was issued in 1971.

McQueen collected classic motorcycles. By the time of his death, his collection included over 100 and was valued in the millions of dollars.

Check out the McQueen Collection by Troy Lee Designs