Review: Steve McQueen, The Man and Le Mans
Racing is life, anything that happens before or after is just waiting.
Steve McQueen was a Hollywood legend known for such films as The Great Escape, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Getaway, On Any Sunday and Bullitt. For those of us who count ourselves as gearheads, petrol sniffers or fan boys, McQueen also left a lasting legacy far beyond the Hollywood hits he’s remembered for. In 1970 and 71 McQueen made arguably the most realistic and greatest racing movie ever.
The recently released film, Steve McQueen, The Man and Le Mans is a look at the sacrifices, struggles and personal demons faced by McQueen in his efforts to make and star in the movie Le Mans. It was a commercial failure that almost ruined his career and could have easily taken his life, yet it became the probably the greatest tribute to racing ever captured on film.
The Man and Le Mans is an inside and intimate look at the making of Le Mans told through interviews with friends, family and those he sometimes battled with to make the film. By the time you finish the film, you will know why Steve McQueen was the King of Cool, and you’ll have insight into just how determined he was to make the film his way, at times burning down every metaphoric bridge in sight. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the film was the fact that many of the interviews revealed visceral and unguarded reactions by those interviewed. As has been stated, McQueen was the King of Cool to those who primarily got to know him by watching him on TV and film. In reality, he was, at times, much different to those with whom he shared his life. He could be cold bastard, a coward and could lack basic human compassion. These aren’t things “people” necessarily associate with McQueen, but they are things that were part and parcel of the man. To the film’s credit, there are no excuses offered for his bad and sometimes irrational behavior. The film and interviewees left him responsible for all the things he did and he undoubtedly left a good deal of cosmic baggage when he died of cancer in 1980 at only 50 years of age. The interviewees pulled no punches in their assessments of McQueen. His life was contrast and conflict. Those who were part of his life clearly embraced and at least tacitly accepted his virtue, as well as his vices.
It is an inside look at how a well intended dream project can turn into a slow motion disaster as millions of dollars get spent before a script is even written. Le Mans is a movie known not only for its realistic portrayal of on-track sportscar racing, but also for the lack of dialogue (YESSSS!). After watching The Man and Le Mans it becomes clear that, as months of filming passed without a script, with McQueen clearly didn't want or care if a workable script actually existed. Le Mans wasn’t just about making the most realistic racing film ever, it was McQueen’s chance to branch out from superstar actor to producer. The Man and Le Mans reveals how desperate McQueen was to balance the need for power over his own career and his drive to produce an artistic ode to motorsports.
As the documentary reveals, after pouring out his vision on the screen for Le Mans he gave up his need for speed. He simply walked away from the desire and need to race.
The Man and Le Mans is worth checking out as the it presents a fascinating behind the scenes look at the greatest racing movie ever made. And you don't have to take our words for it. Pop in your favorite VHS/DVD copy of it or download it from wherever you download stuff and discover/decide for yourself. #MichaelDelaney