Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans (3 stars)

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans

Repetitive yet still interesting documentary about the titular screen icon

35 years after his death, Steve McQueen remains the epitome of effortless cool. His screen persona of the taciturn, flinty, lone wolf dominates the 1960s from his scene-stealing young pretender in The Magnificent Seven to his Bogart-like San Francisco cop in Bullitt. At the height of his fame and bankability, he secured funding for his passion project Le Mans, a film that would weave a dramatic story around the famed 24-hour race. The intention was to make the ‘ultimate racing picture’ and something that would define his career.

Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s workmanlike, repetitive documentary reveals why Le Mans never realised McQueen’s dreams. The duo have had access to extensive rushes from the original shoot and a poignant audio interview with McQueen, recorded in the months before his death. They also have fresh interviews with McQueen’s then-wife Neile Adams and his son Chad McQueen. Together they piece together the story of how everything fell apart, from the moment insurers refused to let McQueen compete in the Le Mans race to the arguments with original director John Sturges that led to his departure. The fact that there was never a finished script also proved to be fatal and more than one million feet of film were said to have been shot.

It is interesting enough as a film history footnote and a story of obsession but slightly more compelling for the unflattering portrait it paints of McQueen. What we witness is a womanising, faithless husband and a selfish, arrogant individual who seemed to believe that any indiscretion could be forgiven or covered up and that nothing was beyond the reach of his talent. The making of Le Mans proved to be a cruel awakening and the implication here is that his career was never quite the same again.

Selected release from Fri 20 Nov.

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans

  • 3 stars
  • 2015
  • US / UK
  • 1h 42min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Gabriel Clarke/John McKenna
  • Cast: Steve McQueen, Chad McQueen, John Sturges
  • UK release: 20 November 2015

Workmanlike if repetitive documentary about Steve McQueen's attempts to make 1971's Le Mans the 'ultimate racing picture', which were ultimately foiled by innumerable problems, not least the absence of a script. Interesting enough as film history, more compelling for its unflattering portrait of the star as a selfish…