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Marshall Terrill interviews Dave Friedman.

Dave Friedman Dave Friedman was the still photographer on Steve McQueen's last two motion pictures – Tom Horn and The Hunter.

The first and only still photographer to be voted into the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, Friedman is credited with some of the greatest images in cinematic history, having photographed many of the world's most iconic movie stars, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Barbara Stanwyck, Jean Simmons and of course Steve McQueen.

Dalton Watson Fine Books, the publisher of Steve McQueen: The Last Mile recently released Friedman's My Life in the Movies, which showcases the best of Friedman's Hollywood-era camera work over a twenty-year period.

In an exclusive with Steve McQueen Online, Friedman recalls his time with the King of Cool.
MT: When did you first meet Steve McQueen?

DF: I met him sometime in the early '60s. I saw him at several races in southern California and when he picked up a Shelby Cobra at the factory in June 1963, I took a picture of him. Steve was always very nice to me. We didn't really develop a friendship until Tom Horn. But we were very much alike in certain ways. We both knew how to separate the “reel world” from the “real world.” When a movie was over, I'd take off and disappear for a few months. Steve did the same thing.

MT: The filming of Tom Horn commenced in January 1979. Were you there for the entire picture?

DF: Yes, the entire time. McQueen was really the director of that movie. Because of a Directors Guild of America ruling at the time, the lead actor couldn't replace a director, so that's when McQueen brought in William Wiard as “director,” who said, “cut/print.” But make no mistake, it was McQueen's movie.

Steve McQueen in 'Tom Horn' MT: About two-and-a-half years had passed between the filming of An Enemy of the People and Tom Horn. Was Steve nervous?

DF: He was nervous in the beginning, sure. It was obvious. It seemed a little foreign to him. It took him about a week or so to get back into the swing of things. And he certain got back into the swing of things in no time. He put a lot of time and a lot of effort into the picture and he did a helluva job. That was a damned good movie, and a lot of other people think so, too. I think as the years have passed, people realize what a good movie it was and what a great actor Steve was. He was fantastic.

MT: It's been said that McQueen was a stickler for authenticity.

DF: He absolutely was. I remember one time when we were shooting on Mescal Street and they had all of these horses saddled together. It was a wide shot with horses tied up on the railing in the background. Well, McQueen walked down the street to make sure all the horses had period saddles on, and there's no way that you'd know if a horse down the street in this shot was even wearing a saddle. But he went down there and made sure all the horses were wearing period saddles. He was a stickler for that sort of thing, and God bless him, he truly cared about his craft.

MT: How did McQueen interact with the cast and crew?

DF: Everybody loved him. He took care of everybody and looked after them. We had one of our camera assistants, Mike Chavez, break his leg on that picture and Steve made sure he was well taken care of. He made sure Mike got paid as well as best possible medical care. The whole nine yards. There's a joke in the movie industry that if a guy falls off a ladder, punch his time card off the clock before he hits the ground. Steve wasn't going to have any funny business going on. That's why everybody loved him. During the end of the film he printed up about 500 photos of himself - and he did this on The Hunter too – and signed pictures for all of the cast, crew and their family members, kids and everything else. He was a very thoughtful human being. Just one of the guys.

Steve McQueen in 'The Hunter'MT: Why did he want to take over as the director of the movie in your opinion?

DF: I think he knew so much about the story and identified with Tom Horn. He felt it was his movie and rightfully so. He probably would have done a good job directing it...hell, he did direct the movie!

MT: In your book you state that McQueen was an excellent horseman despite the fact he didn't care for horses.

DF: That's right, it's true. But he did have a great relationship with his horse, Buster. That's as close as a relationship as you can get between a horse and a man. He was as a good a rider as I've ever seen as far as actors go. I was surprised a little when the wranglers told me that he didn't care for horses that much.

MT: And what do you think about McQueen's acting?

DF: He's one of the great unsung actors of all-time. He never got his just due. I thought he was a natural actor and didn't seem to have to work at it very hard, but he did. He put a lot of time into his preparation for the role. He wasn't a method actor where he had to mentally get up for the role. He knew what he was supposed to do every time he stepped in front of the camera.

MT: In you opinion, what was the most unique thing about McQueen either as an actor or as a person?

DF: Definitely his relationship with the crew. He just endeared himself to everyone. He was the first actor I knew whoever gave me full control over my job. The studio never got to look at the pictures because they were all sent to me. I marked all the proofs and Steve wouldn't even look at that stuff. Because his eyesight wasn't the best, I ordered blow-up prints of all the the shots. He couldn't look at proof sheets because he couldn't see them. They were blown up to 11 x 14. So then I picked the best and he'd go through and approve them. He proofed about 98 percent of what I picked. I had the same sort of relationship with Sylvester Stallone, which really spoiled me because the studio didn't have anything to say about it. It was great because it wasn't some idiot in an office picking out the pictures for the movie.

MT: Tell me what you remember about the dramatic hanging scene in Tom Horn?

Steve McQueen in 'Tom Horn'DF: I remember it the whole place was as quiet as a mouse. It was like a real hanging. The actors and extras in the scene were deathly still. There was no movement, nobody talked, it was serious business. I don't think Steve liked being in that position. He even told me that he didn't like it because it was like “looking at death.” He didn't like that part at all.

MT: Some people have indicated that Steve was started getting ill on the set of Tom Horn. Did you get that sense?

DF: No, never. I never got a whiff that he was even sick on The Hunter. I mean, he looked good, he was short of breath, but we all knew smoked a lot in the past and that might have had something to do with it. Steve and I were planning on doing a book on his motorcycles at one point after The Hunter, and sadly that never happened. That would have really been a good book...but the first I knew of his illness was after the fact.

MT: In your book you state that Steve hated posing for pictures. That's interesting given that McQueen was an actor and that was his job?

DF: He hated going through the motions of posing. He wanted to act, not pose. He was so focused on his acting that everything else was a distraction. It is ironic, though.

My Life in the Movies, priced at $69, is a special limited run of 2,500 and includes a slipcase and is signed by Friedman. To order a limited edition copy, visit www.daltonwatson.com or call (847) 945-9603. Photographs from the book are also available to buy as limited edition prints at www.iconicphotos.com

This interview is copyrighted by Marshall Terrill.