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Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films is the latest of several high quality McQueen themed books to hit the market, and this one, due to hit the bookshops|
in November, looks very promising indeed.
In this interview McQueenOnline talks with the authors, Andrew Antoniades and Mike Siegel.
Andrew has previously edited Marshall Terrill's Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon and Mike is a film maker/writer whose previous work includes the highly successful documentary Passion and Poetry: The Ballad of Sam Peckinpah.
MO: Andrew and Mike, congratulations on the new book. Can you tell me how you both came together on this project?
Andrew: Thank you. For me good fortune and friendship were the key ingredients. In 2010 I edited Marshall Terrill’s excellent new biography of McQueen. It was a very rewarding experience, and six months later, Marshall called to say he had a great idea for a new book and had a publisher lined-up. The idea was a book centering on McQueen’s films. Marshall passed the idea over to me as a thank you for helping him on his book.
The idea naturally played to my strengths and I teamed up with Mike who had been working on a similar idea, and who I knew from a mutual appreciation of McQueen and vintage film posters. Mike is a film maker but also has one of the world’s leading film memorabilia archives. The partnership made sense with my skillset lending itself to most of the writing and Mike’s to most of the image and design aspects. Together we thought we could produce the final word on McQueen’s films.
Mike: I was already in contact with our publisher regarding another book project. It was merely a lucky coincidence that he (the publisher) had published two of the best books on McQueen, who I have admired for over 30 years now. So I told him I was planning to make a big McQueen photo-book based on my archive sooner or later and he already knew that Andrew had thought about writing about McQueen's films. So it was it was a perfect match.
MO: So your mutual publisher suggested you both get together on this project?
Mike: Yes he did. He grabbed Andrew and they came over to Germany so we all could meet in person.
Andrew: The great thing was that right away it made sense. The benefit to the book and for the readers is that they get the work from two dedicated authors / fans. So we have many rare and unseen images coupled with text that offers new insights and analysis.
MO: You devote a chapter to each film. Had you both seen every McQueen film at the time you started the project?
Andrew: I saw everything that was available and the vast majority I had seen before. The exception was An Enemy of the People. I had to get that specially as this was never on television in Great Britain. But it is now available on DVD which is great for fans as this was a notoriously hard film to get hold of in the past . So seeing that for the first time was a nice surprise. I am first and foremost a fan and an author second, therefore writing about the films was second nature because I was so familiar with them and had watched most of them many times. Papillon, Bullitt, The Great Escape... all his major films are etched in my memory and like old friends.
|A heavily bearded McQueen with co-star Bibi Andersson in 'An Enemy of the People'|
Mike: Oh yes. I had seen all of his films in the 1980's already. The only exceptions were Soldier In The Rain and An Enemy Of The People which were not released in
Germany. Enemy I finally saw on German TV in the 90s and Soldier I bought on VHS once eBay started. In fact it was one of the very first items I ever bought on eBay,
back in 1998. |
MO: There was a similar project, The Complete Films of Steve McQueen, by Casey Charnez which was released in the late 80’s and updated in 1990. Have you read that and if so, what makes your book unique?
Mike: Yes, it was always a must-have. I lost track over what was published on McQueen during the last 20 years, I guess I added 10-15 volumes to the dozen I already had in the 80s, coming from many different countries. Charnez' book was very important when it came out but since nowadays film books very often are so beautifully done, I though it was about time to make a high - quality book, more content, more photos, artworks, color ... the works.
It bothered me a bit that nobody published such a book in the last decade. I enjoyed all the books about various aspects and periods of McQueen's life, but he was a film actor and I really missed a great volume about his films. So we did it ourselves. Andrew is younger than I am and his approach among other things was to look at the films and his performances from today’s perspective. That was perfect for the book, because being a film maker myself I have a rather hard time reviewing films in general, I experience them more on an emotional level and think the work as such usually speaks for itself. As a film historian I always enjoyed the research the most I guess: how the films got made, who contributed what and why certain productions came out better than others. Making this book was a lot of work. I don't think I would have done it for any other screen idol on such a scale. So I hope it is unique - at least unless somebody creates a volume on his films with 600 pages and 1500 photos (laughs).
MO: Can you tell me a little about your research process in writing the book?
Andrew: I wanted the approach to the text to be fresh and new. Having edited Marshall’s last biography on McQueen and having already read virtually every book on McQueen I felt very comfortable with what was already known on McQueen. So I unearthed additional resources too, particularly the memoirs and biographies of those who worked with McQueen, such as John Sturges. Having these accounts at my disposal was so helpful because it gave a fully rounded view. However, that is only half the story. I wanted to say something fresh, so a large proportion of the book is new analysis of McQueen’s performances and ability. I do not believe this has been dissected in such a way at all previously. We delve into what inspired him, how he experimented, the trial and error he underwent, how he built his career. His journey is so engaging and I’m pleased to have been able to try and tell this story.
Mike: Andrew let me write the chapters of five of my favorite McQueen films, being a Peckinpah expert and a fan of Norman Jewison's work I had a lot of knowledge on those already. I'm also a big fan of classic Sci-Fi films, so The Blob was a joy to research. I contacted the widow of the director and read everything I could. We could also fall back on interviews I made over the years, most of which I filmed. Between 1994 and 2005 I met people like Robert Wise, Richard Donner, James Coburn, Bo Hopkins, L. Q. Jones and Ali MacGraw and I had become friends when we first met at a Peckinpah retrospective I co-organized 11 years ago.
|McQueen as the legendary Tom Horn||
MO: What films did you have the most fun researching and why? |
Andrew: The blockbusters of McQueen's career from the mid-1960s to the last 1970s were great, but what I most enjoyed was the early films and the final few such as Tom Horn. It is here where we see the full range of McQueen’s talent from an emerging actor living in poverty, desperate for success, culminating at the end of his career as a fully accomplished actor and filmmaker. So in his early career we look at how McQueen developed his craft and tried new techniques, in such films as The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. In these early films he had varied success, but this is what makes them interesting, because even in failure he learned something new or discovered something different and all these experiences built up to create the actor he would one day become. By his late forties he had become so accomplished that he even unofficially directed Tom Horn, such was his understanding of his craft. It is this underlying passion and determination that makes McQueen’s cinematic story so compelling.
MO: What was the hardest film to research and write about? |
Andrew: Films such as Bullitt were hard because so much has already been said, so the challenge was to uncover new material and fresh angles. By contrast films like An Enemy of the People and Tom Horn really allowed me a chance to get under the skin of McQueen’s acting technique and the discoveries were fascinating. It sounds bizarre, but the less well known films were the most fertile. One of the most satisfying achievements was tracing how McQueen developed his technique and ability. His path to hone his skills had many routes and drew upon his life experience as much as trying different roles. I enjoyed tracing a development in three films he made back to back. Hell Is for Heroes, The War Lover and The Great Escape. These are films all set during WWII. What is fascinating is how McQueen went from psychotic loner to the rebellious anti-hero. In the process he was perfecting his craft but also winning fans around the world with great performances. It is this dissection that i found most engaging and i hope readers will too.
MO: What about the TV appearances? Did you give Wanted: Dead or Alive a chapter of it’s own?
Andrew: We felt that Wanted : Dead or Alive deserved a special place in the book even though it was a TV series and not a film. This is because we wanted to chart and trace McQueen’s acting ability through its formative years. WDOA was such an important time for McQueen, it allowed him to experiment and practice his acting craft. He practiced techniques and grew in confidence. The role of Josh Randall also allowed him to play an interest character, a bounty hunter as a form of anti-hero. As such it helped to lay the foundations for all the rebel characters he would go on to play. From WDOA he would go on to star in The Magnificent Seven, another Western set piece, and from there he never looked back. So in understanding McQueen’s acting ability and his rise to stardom, WDOA is essential.
MO: How much attention do you give to his other TV guest spots?
Andrew: McQueen’s other TV work is also covered in great detail. In the chapters themselves we make references to important TV milestones such as The Defender where they are important. Also, we have included a special bonus by detailing and commenting on every known TV role McQueen had, in the back of the book in an appendix. We wanted to make an extra special effort for fans so that they would have as much background on McQueen’s film and TV work as possible. So hopefully people will feel we have gone the extra mile.
MO: Can you tell me how you sourced the photographs?
Mike: I sort of grew up like 'Toto' in the movie Cinema Paradiso. They kicked me out of the projection rooms until they got tired of it. And with the love of film and
cinema came the love of memorabilia. I started collecting at the age of ten and McQueen was among the very first collections I started. So by now I have about 400
posters and 4000 stills on him. I have an even bigger collection on Sam Peckinpah, the German book I wrote on him, Passion & Poetry - Sam Peckinpah In Pictures is
also illustrated with more than 1000 images.|
About 5 to 10 percent in the McQueen book came from fellow collectors like Bill O'Hara, Jörg Beker and Donna Redden to fill in some gaps. A major goal of mine was to have behind the scenes photos of all McQueen's films in the book. Of certain films I have hundreds, of other earlier titles I had only a few or none at all, like The Blob, so I was very happy when The Blob expert Wes Shank provided some rare behind the scenes stills for the book.
|McQueen with co-star Aneta Corseaut in 'The Blob'|
MO: Mike, with only a fraction of your 4000 stills used, do you think a further McQueen book is likely? |
Mike: Never say never but I seriously doubt that. I do collect everything I can get about the films I'm interested in, so many photos show other actors or scenes without Steve in it. And another volume could only be second best since I wouldn't use images again and so many iconic and essential photos are already included in our book. I have about 1000 images on Peckinpah's McQueen - films Junior Bonner and The Getaway alone. That would be a nice book, but not commercial enough I'm afraid.
MO: Thanks for talking with me guys, this sounds like a fantastic project and I look forward to seeing it.
Andrew: Thanks Darren for your support. We have loved making the book and think it will be a must have for fellow fans of Steve, we give our thanks to all those who support us.
Mike: Thank you Darren! I guess I enjoy your website since the time you went online with it. Beside its obvious qualities it is a great meeting point indeed.
|You can also purchase Steve McQueen: The Actor and his films from www.DaltonWatson.com|