Rob Jones

The contemporary celebrity status tag is randomly applied to anybody who has had two minutes of fame or one minute of infamy! However, when it comes to a real legend the life and times of Hollywood icon Steve McQueen (1930-1980) genuinely merit credit. Steve McQueen: The Cooler King is a Big Star Creations publication written by Richard Sydenham. This 600 page plus text examines 28 McQueen movies plus 100 interviews provide insight in to the personal and professional activities surrounding these celluloid releases.

Steve was a juvenile delinquent with a rocky family background and it’s amazing that from this background he reached the heights of global glory. As the text unfolds it is clear that McQueen was a ball of contradiction. This renowned force could terrorise and treat his peers with disrespect but many acquaintances observed a funny, warm, talented and inviting soul; he could be mean but he also showed great acts of generosity; long term friendships were formed but many people were shunned by a sully demeanour that did not allow any close contact; mostly at home with ordinary folk and not the glitterati this stance did not stop a desire to sit on a pedestal with acting royalty; his family meant everything to him but the thrill of the female form led to a series of break ups and affairs; short tempered but considerate, awkward but affectionate a complex being unravels.

However, star quality aplenty and a Midas screen presence places McQueen as a performer who did not need words to put over a message or a mood. Probably, happier motorbiking, racing cars or piloting a plane Steve was at ease with characters that dallied with speed and danger. McQueen did things his way and he did not care about risks!

A perfectionist at the challenges that lay ahead it was a shame that at the age of 50 it was cancer that took for a man whose major box office successes included: The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon and The Towering Inferno.

McQueen admitted he was ‘better walking than talking’ but he had an uncanny knack of turning the ordinary in to the extraordinary. Steve McQueen defined cool and this book does a fine job in exploring a guy who many women wanted to be with and numerous men wanted to be.