Hollywood Legend Steve McQueen Is Getting The Biopic Treatment

Olivia Ovenden
Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection - Getty Images

From Esquire

The recent trend for musical biopics has seen Rami Malek win an Academy Award for his turn as Freddie Mercury, praise heaped on Taron Egorton for playing Elton John in Rocketman, and Austin Butler and Sophie Turner cast as Elvis Presley and Boy George respectively.

But Hollywood has always loved taking the life of a someone we think we know and bringing their secrets to life, with films following everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Frida Kahlo, Harvey Milk to King George VI, winning big come Oscar season.

Now Hollywood legend Steve McQueen is the latest to get the biopic treatment, with the news he will be the subject of a new based on Marshall Terrill’s 2010 biography Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon.

The Hollywood Reporter yesterday broke the news that rights had been acquired for an adaptation of the book which Terrill spent 10 years researching and which "follows the actor’s life from humble beginnings in the Midwest to the pinnacle of Hollywood and ultimately to his untimely death at the age of 50 in Mexico."

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The project has had a number of names attached to it in the past, with directors such as James Gray and Steven Soderbergh, and actors like Jeremy Renner and Ryan Gosling mooted to play McQueen.

The reason behind the decision to make Terril's book into a feature film now is partly the link between McQueen and Charles Manson, which the film will explore. As Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood revealed to many less familiar with this slice of cinema history, McQueen was friends with Tate and Polanski and attended the same parties as the couple.

A few months prior to Tate's murder, Manson approached McQueen outside his production company with a script he wanted to get made. According to reports, an altercation took place between the two, resulting in McQueen breaking Manson's nose. Later Manson Family member Susan Atkins admitted that this altercation put McQueen at the top of the killer's hit list.

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Stranger still, according to McQueen's ex-wife the actor was meant to be at the dinner on the night of the murder of Sharon Tate and four others at the hands of Manson's followers, but instead "ran into a chickie and decided to go off with her instead".

"When I found out from Marshall’s incredibly researched and thorough book that McQueen was supposed to be at the Sharon Tate house the night of the Manson murders, I was instantly engaged in that story thread," Bowler told THR. "I think we’ve found a fascinating way into the story of an incredible legend."

The renewed interest in the Manson murders thanks to the Tarantino film, plus various other serial killer-themed film and TV, is an interesting backdrop to the career of McQueen. Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood also holds the actor up as an example of the kind of career which Leonardo DiCaprio's character, the fictional failing TV star Rick Dalton, aspired to have.

Photo credit: Silver Screen Collection - Getty Images

The film will likely chart the classic films of his career, showing numerous Western and action films heavy on stunts and chases, such as Nevada Smith and Bullitt. Though several of McQueen's films dominated the Box Office during the Sixties and Seventies, the kind of films he was making were in decline, as studios struggled to keep up with changing audiences as the New Hollywood era was ushered in.

It will also cover his death at 50, a result of a rare lung cancer associated with asbestos exposure. His untimely death only further cementing his status as one of cinema's most enduring icons of style and charisma.

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