Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans

 

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The film Le Mans made by Steve McQueen in 1970 brought together his passions for acting and for racing and this documentary integrates the two to good effect.


Made by Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna and utilising footage recently discovered dating from 1970, this documentary is fairly named: it features Steve McQueen the racing driver but it also touches on the actor’s life, offering a convincing portrait of him while putting the chief focus on the project of his that brought cinema and sport together, the filming of Le Mans.
 
Although the work comes family approved and with appearances by McQueen’s son Chad, it presents its subject as a man of many virtues who nevertheless let fame go to his head. Clips from interviews with the man himself show him to be direct and honest readily acknowledging that he came from the gutter, but it is fully admitted that his womanising, encouraged by the appeal that females found in him as a famous film star, destroyed the marriage to his first wife, Neile Adams, the mother of Chad, who is a major contributor here. However, despite an interesting digression relating to the Charles Manson killings, it is the troubled realisation of McQueen’s long-cherished project to use the 24 hour Le Mans race as the basis for a big movie that becomes central. And once again it often shows McQueen in a bad light.
 
The essential issue was that McQueen was so keen to capture more authentically than any rival films what it meant to drive in a race that he pushed ahead without an adequate script. His passionate involvement led to conflict with the director John Sturges who walked out to be replaced by Lee H. Katzin. McQueen himself caused a car accident that injured the actress Louise Edlind who accepted the need to hush it up and filming on the track led to injuries to drivers, one of whom, David Piper, narrowly escaped death and now contributes to this film.
  

 Steve McQueen  

 

This movie does contain one or two reconstructions which seem a bit forced (that includes the build-up to the accident involving Edlind) but it does give a fascinating insight into what can go on behind the scenes when a film is being made. Film buffs will be intrigued throughout, and the film is just in recognising that Le Mans received decidedly mixed reviews but for all its faults has now become something of a cult piece because it does achieve something of that authenticity that McQueen sought with such passion. 

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Chad McQueen, David Piper, Neile Adams, Louise Edlind.


Dir Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna, Pro John McKenna, Screenplay Gabriel Clarke, Ph Matt Smith, Ed Matt Wylie, Music Jim Copperthwaite.  


I Wonder Pictures/Marco Polo Production-The Works UK.
102 mins. UK. 2015. Rel: 20 November 2015. Cert. 15.