The car or the idea of ​​dying at speed? What drove Steve McQueen crazy?

Cinema and motorsports

The legendary film about motorsport from 1971, became a cult thanks to what its protagonist lived behind the scenes.

Steve McQueen at Le Mans, a cult movie for motorsports. (Photo: IMDB)


Steve McQueen at Le Mans, a cult movie for motorsports. (Photo: IMDB)

Our fathers wanted to be like him and our mothers found him attractive because of his profile as a rebellious and indomitable man. Steve McQueen was an atypical figure who stormed into Hollywood to prove that hunk did not wear suits and could be addicted to adrenaline, even greater if it was with the sound of an engine as company.

The legendary actor had a fascination for driving motorcycles and cars without fear of accident. On the contrary, he had a particular taste for danger. But that attraction pushed her to the edge of her own sanity when she fully immersed herself in the role of pilot Michael Delaney in the film. Le Mans, from 1971.

McQueen forgot he was an actor. He reached the point of feeling like a true racing driver as soon as he drove a Porsche 911S and accelerated on the professional track where the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit takes place. Everything changed in him. From the outset, he became obsessed with the idea of ​​making a realistic film about what motor racing entails, so he proposed to film with three cameras the speed of a racing car moving at more than 300 kilometers per hour. Take into account that the cameras at that time were large.

The Le Mans premiere was a flop at the box office, however, as time went by, it became cult material, especially when in 2015 the documentary was screened at the Cannes Film Festival Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, by Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna.

This material focuses on the level of madness that the actor reached during the six months of filming of Le Mans. To begin with, he felt confident that he was a driver, so he didn’t want to be dubbed in the driving sequences. Those who worked with him on that production have told countless anecdotes, including one that addresses his resignation to dying on the track.

This conception that there was the possibility of finding fatality in a car was taken seriously due to two speeches he gave to explain his vision of racing: he had a passion for driving at extreme speeds and believed that no professional driver is capable of explain why you chose to be. Starting from its premises, a questioning that to date surrounds the mystique of motorsports was put on the table: does the car that will race or the idea of ​​dying in full ecstasy seduce by reaching that maximum speed that pilots call “flying? “?

With the specific case of McQueen, according to what those who witnessed his accelerated pace of life and devotion to risk tell, the actor sensed that he was going to die young, as happened when he died of lung cancer at 50 years of age in 1980. Under the protection of that premonition, combined with the experience of having driven at more than 200 kilometers per hour, The actor found on the Le Mans track an excuse to live intensely without fear of the outcome.

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The car or the idea of ​​dying at speed? What drove Steve McQueen crazy?