Film: Steve McQueen The Man and Le Mans, Asbestos Kills Him

Le Mans Steve McQueen 1971 Solar Productions

Le Mans
Steve McQueen
1971 Solar Productions

In theaters in NYC and LA starting Friday, November 13th, 2015, on digital and Blu-Ray on Tuesday, December 1st *** Three Stars

By Gabrielle Pantera

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Daily Star) 2015/11/1r – “As an actor, if you get into a position to be able to have control, or as a film¬maker, you must carry your project,” said Steve McQueen. “Carry it all the way through to the end. That means you can’t give up, you can’t let a thing go. And nobody will make a decision for you. And nobody is smarter than you are.”

Steve McQueen, The Man and Le Mans is for fans of McQueen, fans of motor racing, and anyone who wants an insight into the psyche of the “man’s man” personality.

In 1970, Steve McQueen was at the top in Hollywood. Industry executives were thrilled with his success in The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and The Thomas Crown Affair.  He set up his own production company so he could make the movies he wanted.

McQueen had been abandoned by his father and may never have gotten over the trust issues of that. While McQueen did whatever he pleased, he demanded total loyalty of others. He could be heartless when he felt crossed. The documentary shows the struggle of an actor turned producer who was in over his head, who no one should dare say no to because they would never work again if they did.

La Mans is a 24-hour car race in France. When McQueen entered car racing it became an obsession for him. He raced hard and won the respect of professional racers by finishing in second behind Mario Andretti in the 1970 Sebring 12-hour race. McQueen drove that race despite having a broken leg. Later, McQueen was angry he didn’t get to drive the real Le Mans race.

There is a special feeling you get when driving in a car race. McQueen wanted the viewer to feel and understand it. McQueen as executive producer had control. He had $6M to make the movie.

McQueen had revolutionary ideas for shooting the race. He had issues with all the scripts he read. What he didn’t want was that he would be the winner of the race. He started shooting without a script. It all went downhill from there. He was fighting with his director, his business partner, his writer and his wife.

McQueen’s son Chad narrates. He describes how he became obsessed with racing from the influence of his father. The filmmakers uncovered more than three and a half hours of behind-the-scenes footage about the making the film Le Mans, found under a sound-stage in London covered in dust. There were 500 boxes of film.

Making Le Mans was very personal to McQueen. At the time he was obsessed with racing. An irony is it was the racing suit designed to save McQueen from fire, not the deadly car crashes, was the bigger danger to him.

McQueen would later die of lung cancer and mesothelioma, a disease caused by asbestos. McQueen had worked in shipyards as a young man, a workplace full of asbestos at the time, and later wore racing suits made with asbestos. Asbestos is dangerous in the lungs because the tiny fibers perforate the lungs and are difficult to expel. The longer the fibers are there, the more damage they do. Anything that decreases lung function, such as smoking, makes it worse. Exposure to asbestos and being a heavy smoker killed him.

Twitter: @TheManLeMans




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