I had to write a biography on Steve McQueen because, if he’s dead, he doesn’t know it, and neither do his friends. I probably should elaborate.
I was working on adding some local friends to my Myspace page. I have no idea why I looked up Steve McQueen, but he wasn’t hard to find. It needs to be noted that I’ve tried to find LIVING people whom I know- know their email addresses, display names and the like, and I can’t find them. I found three pages of Steve McQueens just by typing in the display name “Steve McQueen.” He’s been dead since 1980, at age 50, from a heart attack that resulted after a rare and painful form of lung cancer. But he’s alive and well at Myspace.
Granted, even with living celebrities, these things are tribute pages, and are actually pretty cool to deal with. With the many Steve McQueens, it struck me much like it struck me in regard to the actor himself-larger than life, always cheating death, with a fan base that would form a human bridge for the man to walk upon so his feet wouldn’t have to get dirty.
The first Steve McQueen Myspace page struck me that way. In the comments section, in Sepetember, 2006, there’s a comment from Katie: “Hey Steve-how goes it? Haven’t heard from you in awhile!” From Ivan, also in 2006, “Hey Steve…looking good my friend….” (Remember, Steve McQueen has been dead for 26 years, so yeah, he looks good in the photo in comparison to what he’d look like now otherwise.) In the July comments, another girl pined: “Oh Steve, why couldn’t you have waited a couple more years to leave? We coulda been together. We coulda had something special… even though you would have been 52 when I was 2”)
And that’s the point, fans, old young, people born AFTER he died who became fans from watching movies, are one of a kind. So, how is such a legend created?
Let’s go way back to where it all began. Okay, not quite that far, but let’s hit the highlights to figure out where this all-consuming adoration comes from.
What you’ll find is that Steve McQueen was the epitome of the American dream. He’s a guy from a broken home, from the wrong side of the tracks who worked hard and made it good. That, in and of itself, starts a legend. Bad boy who made good, AND stayed bad. Both women and men love that, regardless of what they say.
His parents split up before he a year old, and he was sent to live with an uncle. When his mother remarried, he moved back with her, but since he was a handful, he ended up in a California reform school. By 9th grade, he’d had enough of school. He ended up in the Marines where he was thrown in the brig for 41 days for going AWOL for two weeks. Even BEFORE he was Steve McQueen in all of our minds, he was living like Steve McQueen.
And still he made it. He’s the guy who had nothing to start with, amassed just a handful more, but pursued the life he wanted anyway. He thumbed his nose at things that didn’t interest him. And still people loved him.
For as anti establishment as he was from start to finish, the one place he threw it all in at involved acting. After leaving the Marines, he went to New York, taking a series of menial jobs, in hopes of getting accepted into Lee Strassberg’s famed Actor’s Studio. From there, he was unstoppable. Again, if you want to see the key to the success of Steve McQueen, it’s looking at the fact that he figured out what he loved to do, and then did lots of it.
More than that, he was into fast cars, motorcycles and wild living long before it became cool to do so. At the height of it all, he considered giving up the acting gig so he could race full time. How cool is that? No wonder the guy has fans a quarter of a century after his demise. Male or female, we all wish we had cajones like that!
Then there is the career itself. You’ll find actors who are revered by their peers and overlooked by the public, and vice versa. Not so with McQueen. He was regarded as one of the greatest actors of his time by his peers. Papillon, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles (for which he received an Academy Award nomination) and Bullitt are just a few that lead the public and fellow actors alike wondering which is their favorite.
Bullitt was, and still is, the barometer for the classic action movie. Most regard the car chase from the movie to be the most exciting chase ever filmed then or now. Few motion pictures have that sort of staying power.
Regardless of peer accolades and fan adoration, you’re not truly a star-haven’t truly hit the apex of your career-until someone pays homage to you in an animated movie. It’s difficult to say if McQueen would have been thrilled or horrified, but the fact is, Pixar’s Cars includes a “character” Lightning McQueen which is clearly a tribute to the late actor.
Fast McQueen Facts
-He became born again after
-McQueen was a pall bearer for Bruce Lee.
-He is the first of the Magnificent to have died.
-McQueen was arrested in 1972 for Driving Under the Influence, but skipped bail.
-One of his major regrets is that he could never own the Mustang GTO from the movie Bullitt. It seems to have disappeared.
-Received a patent for a special bucket seat he developed.
-Nicknamed “The King of Cool”.
-At the time he filmed “The Getaway,” McQueen was the highest paid actor in the world.
-He tried to enter a Porche 917 (with Tony Stewart) into the 1970 LeMans. He had to give up his dream when film backers threatened to pull support.
Roles he was offered but missed out on:
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (due to a contract for another film).
These he turned down:
Ocean’s Eleven, butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Apocalypse Now, the Bodyguard, and Dirty Harry.