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Steve McQueen: Who Should Play the McCoolest Man in Town?

Steve McQueen has probably inspired more men to buy battered, beaten-up, brown leather bomber jacket than any fashion designer ever could. And no one has ever looked better in a pair of white jeans except for maybe that guy I crushed on in the 7th grade! The only actor who has ever even come close to McQueen's cool in those white jeans is David Hemmings in Blow Up. Go ahead young one, look it up.

Even if you've never seen The Great Escape, Bullitt, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair (the sexiest chess game in the history of filmor The Getaway you know Steve McQueen, Mr. Cool McCool. Movie star with a capital M. The thing about McQueen is that he didn't just act tough, he didn't just go through the motions of being a loner, a drifter, he was. His father left when he was a baby, his mother shipped him off to Missouri to be raised by a relative, he ran away, and kept running his whole life. Like Paul Newman he was addicted to racing fast cars.  Like James Dean he liked nothing better than to take off on his motorcycle. But his love of speed didn't kill him, McQueen was taken out by cancer when he was just fifty years old. He died on an operating table in Juarez, Mexico; he had a heart attack in the middle of a procedure to cut out the cancerous tumors invading his body. That was November of 1980.

Thirty five years later the 'King of Cool' is finally going to be immortalized in a film based in part on the book Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon by Marshall Terrill. The producers, who have just secured funding, and are seeking the right screenwriter, promise it won't be the obvious bio-pic schtick:
“[There is a diary] that was kept by his nurse in Mexico who gave it to the author of the book that was done on him by Marshall Terrill,” said GrahamKaye. “Something happened in McQueen’s life that has been kept secret for a long time. We think we have a very interesting way into this story.”

Something very interesting that's not already known? Because we know that he went awol during his time in the Marines and was put in the brig for 41 days; that drifted from job to job before he became an actor, that he sold encyclopedias and was a runner in a Texas brothel. We know he was married three times, once to Ali McGraw; and there are rumors that he was a cheat, did a lot of drugs and abused McGraw.*  I don't know. I can't stand the thought. The same can be said about Cary Grant who is said to have abused wife Dyan Cannon. I don't know. I don't want to know. I know it's terrible but I'd rather keep my rose-colored glasses on.

We do know he liked guns a lot. We see it and hear it from his first wife, Neile, in the video below. That's probably the one real thing I don't find cool about McQueen but I forgive him that because of the time period he came of age in. I had my own run in with gun fascination. Guns used to be cool, especially movie guns. It's just getting harder to see them that way.

But let's put the rose-colored glasses back on and play the who would you cast game. Who should play the iconic Steve McQueen? Because those are some sexy shoes to fill. Jeremy Renner and his The Immigrant director, James Gray are very hot on this one. I like Renner a lot but he's not my McQueen. Rumor has it Channing Tatum is interested. Fantastic in Foxcatcher but he's not my McQueen either. Too big and muscly. But, but, but Ryan Gosling is also in the conversation. If you know me, you know he's my McQueen.

“With strangers, I can’t breathe,” McQueen told LIFE about Neile. “But I dig my old lady.”

* I suppose a rumor like that merits a source:Daily Mail: Steve-McQueen, Wife-beater, drug-taker, relentless philanderer

Additional sources: Time-Life/July 1963

Variety, THR

This beautiful video interview includes some gorgeous photos of McQueen and his then wife Neile Adams, shot at their Palm Springs home by John Dominis.

Make sure to view in full screen mode to avoid the annoying overlap