An iconic actor, martial artist, and car and bike enthusiast, Steve McQueen was a perfect fit for the counterculture era, portraying himself as a true embodiment of the anti-hero archetype.
McQueen’s seemingly effortless cool was highlighted in films like “The Great Escape,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” and “Bullitt.” The actor presented a new image for a leading man in Hollywood: unconventional, rebellious and rugged.
The actor’s rebellious on-screen persona matched who he was in real life. Born on March 24, 1930, McQueen never quite escaped the damage of his volatile, unmoored childhood. He spent his adulthood ensconced in risky behavior and a life of excess, from fast vehicles and illicit substances to many storied deals. The McQueen actor was known for his outlandish on-set demands, including losing a starring role in ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ to Robert Redford because McQueen wouldn’t sign on without getting the top rating on Paul Newman. He complained about the lines and costumes, and on several occasions filming had to be delayed because McQueen was intoxicated with narcotics or alcohol (or both). Other times he turned down roles in films that are now masterpieces, such as ‘Apocalypse Now’, ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘Flight Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’.
McQueen also allegedly abused his wives and lovers. In her memoir “My Husband, My Friend,” McQueen’s first wife, Neile Adams, described the ongoing emotional and physical abuse. Other allegations suggest the same treatment of McQueen’s second wife, Ali MacGraw.
Early in his career, McQueen got his hands on Harley-Davidson and Triumph motorcycles. In the early 1950s, living in New York and studying acting, McQueen began traveling to Long Island on weekends to compete in motorcycle races. His earnings each week were around $100, more than $1,000 in today’s money.
McQueen’s enduring character is that of a shamelessly flawed man whose legacy spans nearly three dozen films and countless television appearances. His signature style – often associated with Barbour jackets, Persol sunglasses and TAG Heuer watches – and larger-than-life personality captivated audiences and influenced fans throughout the 60s and 70s and right up to the present day. today. Keep reading for Stacker’s curated list of 25 lesser-known facts about the iconic and complicated star.
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