Steve McQueen: A Biography
Steve McQueen is one of America’s legendary movie stars best known for his hugely successful film career in classics such as The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, and The Towering Inferno as well as for his turbulent life off-screen and impeccable style. His unforgettable physical beauty, his soft-spoken manner, his tough but tender roughness, and his aching vulnerability had women swooning and men wanting to be just like him. Today—nearly thirty years after he lost his battle against cancer at the age of fifty—McQueen remains “The King of Cool.” Yet, few know the truth of what bubbled beneath his composed exterior and shaped his career, his passions, and his private life.
Now, in Steve McQueen, New York Times bestselling author, acclaimed biographer, and film historian, Marc Eliot captures the complexity of this Hollywood screen legend. Chronicling McQueen’s tumultuous life both on and off the screen, from his hardscrabble childhood to his rise to Hollywood superstar status, to his struggles with alcohol and drugs and his fervor for racing fast cars and motorcycles, Eliot discloses intimate details of McQueen’s three marriages, including his tumultuous relationships with Neile Adams and Ali MacGraw, as well as his numerous affairs. He also paints a full portrait of this incredible yet often perplexing career that ranged from great films to embarrassing misfires. Steve McQueen, adored by millions, was obsessed by Paul Newman, and it is the nature of that obsession that reveals so much about who McQueen really was. Perhaps his greatest talent was to be able to convince audiences that he was who he really wasn’t, even as he tried to prove to himself that he wasn’t who he really was.
With original material, rare photos, and new interviews, Eliot presents a fascinating and complete picture of McQueen’s life.
From the Hardcover edition.
newcomer Michael Cimino (who would not get the picture made until 1980, as Heaven’s Gate, which became one of the biggest flops in film history that all but brought down United Artists and effectively ended Cimino’s directing career). At the same time, 20th Century Fox acquired the rights to a novel by Richard Martin Stern called The Tower, about a fire that destroys a commercial high-rise. It was based on a real-life disastrous fire that had taken place at One New York Plaza, a Manhattan
1974, perfectly timed for Christmas. It received ho-hum reviews for its script but raves for its production. Vincent Canby’s New York Times review called it a “suspense film for arsonists, firemen, movie-technology buffs, building inspectors, worry warts,” and went on to conclude that it appeared “to have been less directed than physically constructed.… [It] is overwrought and silly in its personal drama, but the visual spectacle is first rate … a vivid, completely safe nightmare.” Russell
construction. Engelberg had reserved a luxurious suite for Steve and Barbara at the famed Drake Hotel in Chicago. When Steve arrived with Barbara, he looked the place over and then asked where Engelberg was staying. Engelberg said he would be at the Holiday Inn with the rest of the crew. Steve promptly checked himself and Barbara out of the Drake and moved into the smaller chain hotel. He had had his fill of star treatment, he explained, and just wanted to be among the crew while the film was
frustrated and noticeably angry over what he considered to be Steve’s obstinate disrespect. Inevitably it came to a head between the two. According to Dexter, who witnessed the incident, after Steve took his hat off while he was in the background of a three-shot that featured Brynner in the forefront, “Brynner turned around and said to Steve, ‘Do this one more time, and in any scene you have all I have to do is take my hat off and you won’t be seen anymore.’ ” Steve remembered the tension
Steven was held back by those who didn’t go and was forced to run the athletic track, over and over again. And when he still didn’t break, they made him dig ditches all day. He didn’t care what they did to him because he was already planning another breakout, a great escape that would leave the others in his dust. That is, until he first became aware of Mr. Pantier, one of the school’s superintendents, who disdained physical punishment in favor of talking things out. He believed that all boys