A full and frank portrait of the complex man behind the icon of cool.
Steve McQueen, one of the first ‘cool’ film stars, remains a cultural icon the world over. His image is used to sell everything from cars, to beer, to a range of dolls. From the Cicinnati Kid to Frank Bullitt, Tom Crown to Papillon, his roles exemplified a certain school of male charm, as well as grit and a hint of menace.
McQueen was born in 1930 into a poor Mid-western family to a highly strung mother and truant father. In and out of reform school from a young age, he was eventually made a ward of court and the resulting sense of abandonment never left him. His big break came with the TV Saga Wanted: Dead or Alive and the now cult-classic B-movie The Blob. Just two years later he was one of the leading lights of tinseltown.
Sandford goes on to chart McQueen’s phenomenal Hollywood career, starring in some of the world’s best-loved films, in tandem with his turbulent private life: his marriages, his bisexuality, the drink, the fast cars, casual sex and violence. As a close friend has remarked: ‘You couldn’t peg him. He wanted to be memorable as an actor – but in his private life you got the impression he was trying to speed up, to get into the next hour without quite living out the last one.’
As Sandford reveals, McQueen’s public demeanour of studied nonchalance hid chronic self-destrutive urges which emerged in his favourite hobbies, including bare-knuckle boxing and porsche-racing, as well as several suicide attempts. His ‘lost’ years at the very height of his fame are illuminated with disclosures of rampant addiction, bizarre health cures, fringe religion and androgyny. McQueen died in 1980 at a ‘wellness’ clinic in New Mexico, having been earlier diagnosed with lung cancer . His last words were ‘Lo hice’ – Spanish for ‘I did it’.
Sandford has spoken to a wide range of McQueen’s contemporaries – Hollywood stars, friends and family – and discovered the man behind the myth, the abandoned little boy underneath the movie-god swagger.
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Highly entertaining...a compelling portrait of a true original. -- The Mail on SundayFrom the Back Cover:
'McQueen' brings life to the Hollywood icon, the enigmatic and intensely troubled King of Cool who was both admired and feared by those who knew him. Onscreen he was the incomparable, laid-back superstar who jumped barbed-wire fences on his motorbike , and who invented the modern action hero yet who, at the height of his career, chose to bewilder audiences by filming Ibsen's 'An Enemy of the People'.
As a 21-year-old drifter, Steve McQueen applied to join Sanford Mesiner's Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. After a Dickensian childhood – in and out of reform school – he variously worked as a hustler, a cab driver, a builder's mate, TV repairman, lumberjack, boxer, bookie's runner and a towel boy in a brothel. Along the way McQueen spent three years in the US marines, where he was both a morale problem and a hero, roles he'd continue to play in his 28 blockbuster films including 'The Great Escape', 'The Thomas Crown Affair' and 'Papillon'.
Offscreen he was a moody and sometimes violent husband, fond of casual sex and bare-knuckle boxing. But, he was also a loyal friend, and loving father of two children. Throughout his career McQueen managed to hide the fact that he tirelessly supported dozens of individuals and groups who reminded him of his own, dire childhood. Offscreen, Sandford explains, he was nothing like the stock character he played, at least until McQueen's final and most heroic role, played as he lay dying in a Mexican clinic, under bizarre and controversial circumstances – revealed here for the first time. This is the definitive story of the complex man behind the icon of cool.
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Book Description Harper Collins, 2001. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0002571951