documentary · movie review

Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool (2005) and The Man & Le Mans (2015)

steve mcqueen first pic

“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.”

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Steve McQueen has always been an iconic actor to me and I wanted to learn more about him. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve watched two documentary biographies. Each covers a different time period of his life. If you want a broad look at the man behind some of the greatest movies ever made, these two documentaries are the ones to watch.


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Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool (2005) was added as an extra disc to the special edition of “Bullitt” that was borrowed from the library. Full of interviews with several stars from those times: Robert Culp, Suzanne Pleshette, Martin Landau, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach, Richard Attenborough, Alec Baldwin, and LeVar Burton, it’s an hour and a half that begins with Steve’s humble beginnings that will just break your heart. Beginnings of the kind that can either break a person or make them. It shows how he got into acting and how he met his first wife, Neile. There is a well-developed section on how he optimized his time working on TV series then how he transitioned to the big screen. Steve was very careful about which roles he chose to associate himself with. As his stardom rose, he continued his careful selection of roles. Steve always challenged himself in his rise to fame and adulation. After forming his own production company, he made one of his great movies, “Bullitt”. Then he decided to make a movie about the French 24-hour auto race, Le Mans.  At the pinnacle of his career, he took on what many felt was an impossible challenge.

steve mcqueen the man and le mans

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (2015) picks up where The Essence of Cool leaves off and it is, like the title suggests, a study of both Steve and the race itself. There are so many anecdotes, from his ex-wife, his son, directors, writers, producers, business partners, and the race car drivers that bring this documentary to life.  

Steve was a star who burned so brightly and was taken from his adoring fans way too soon. He died of lung cancer and complications from asbestos poisoning in November 1980 at the age of 50.

There is a plethora of interesting bits of information on Steve also at:

imdb Steve McQueen biography

Aside from Steve, the human doing, it is the human being he was that captures the minds and hearts of his fans. He was a man who lived by his own code. He was the hero he played in real life.  Likewise, he felt film was an art form that he was able to build masterpieces with — and he did.


8 thoughts on “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool (2005) and The Man & Le Mans (2015)

  1. I’ve seen the 2015 documentary I wasn’t aware of the earlier one now I will have to look for it. Steve McQueen=cool. … Love the Sheryl Crow song Steve McQueen “Like Steve McQueen All I need’s a fast machine”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t know about it either until I borrowed Bullitt (the first movie *his* production company produced) and it came in a special 2-DVD collection, where Bullitt was one disc and the documentary was the other. I did see also on my research for this that there is talk of making a movie of his life (a dramatization). All I can say is they had better pick someone good to play him! I think Charlie Hunnam would be perfect 🙂 Yes, LOVE Sheryl Crow! Great musician. Is she in your list???

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I will have to look for that DVD documentary- I am a fan of Sheryl Crow’s- but she didn’t make my list. It’s a hard list to make so many artists I like.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thats only if you like westerns… It was out around the same time as Gunsmoke and really good. He was of course great in it. I think that is where he first took off.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, a good one to skip for! As a kid watching it, I saw certain things in the film. Watching it recently, as an adult who has worked in office environments, courts, etc. and the politics of them, I saw different things in it. What shines for me in Bullitt is Steve’s character’s integrity and how a person with integrity has to navigate through all of the BS in order to get things done. Knowing what I know now, that this was the first movie created with the new production company, makes me understand how important this film is. After watching The Man and LeMans and seeing what he was trying to do with the film, only to have it taken away from him, was fatal for him. I think it broke him in more ways than one.

    Liked by 1 person

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