Sunday, August 31, 2014

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed
by Frederic Brun
Hardcover - 192 pages
ISBN: 9780760342480
October 2011

Barnes and Noble
IndieBound (Your local bookstore)

"McQueen will be remembered as one of the finest exponents of speed to ever grace the big screen." - Brun

Steve McQueen: A Passion for Speed is a coffee table book for McQueen fans and car enthusiasts alike. In its 192 pages you'll find beautiful black-and-white and color photographs depicting the actor's passion for racing cars and motorcycles and his enthusiasm for physical sport.

In text written by French journalist Frederic Brun and translated into English by Flo Brutton, we learn about how McQueen's passion for speed influenced all parts of his life including his career as a film actor. The book is divided into six sections with an introduction providing much of the background of McQueen's life, the history of racing and some key figures including John Newton Cooper and Peter Revson. It's followed by 5 chapters each with a different theme: Speed, Physique, Film, Life and Collection. Each chapter starts off with a few pages of text and then continues with single and (almost) double-page spread photographs. These include photos of McQueen in action, candids of him at home, advertisements, movie posters, publicity photos, magazine covers and behind-the-scenes shots. The fun part of reading the book is looking through all the photographs and wishing you could be as cool as Steve McQueen.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter devoted to McQueen's physique, which he kept in tip-top shape with regular exercise. It includes some photos of him exercising at home and some of them are quite revealing of McQueen's physique and unmentionables (oh my!).

Although McQueen was known for having abused his body with cigarettes, alcohol and drugs, I admire his dedication to fitness because it's something that is very important in my life as well. McQueen had a home gym and a personal trainer, in a time when it was very rare to train if you were not a professional athlete. McQueen loved swimming, boxing and martial arts and all of his fitness efforts were ultimately to make him stronger and better suited to his greatest passion: racing.

So if Steve McQueen loved racing so much why didn't he become a professional race car driver instead of an actor? Brun explores this in the book. McQueen was a talent on the race track and kept himself in good shape but even he knew that even that wasn't enough for him make it professionally. He needed to be more fine-tuned in his driving skills and lacked some of the finesse of other more talented drivers. Besides, McQueen's career as an actor allowed him time and money to devote to collecting high performance cars and motorcycles and to influence Hollywood to add more racing and luxury vehicles into their movies.

McQueen's passion for speed was one major aspect of his personality that made him so charismatic and cool. Author Brun says:
"speed has the taste of forbidden fruit; the effect of a powerful stimulant, an unstable force set to destroy whoever consumes it. It is this that makes Steve McQueen so dangerously irresistible."
Steve McQueen glamorized racing and luxury cars on screen. The films discussed at length in the book include The Great Escape (1963), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968),  Le Mans (1971) and On Any Sunday (1971). And of course in this book you'll find photos of the famous green Ford Mustang he drives in Bullitt as well as the Porsche from Le Mans.

I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about cars because I don't. I relied on my car enthusiast husband Carlos to translate some of the language in this book for me. You can still enjoy the book even if you're not into cars but knowing the lingo helps, especially when it comes to makes and models.

This book was published by MotorBooks, a company that seems devoted to putting out coffee table books about Steve McQueen. They have five in total! The others include Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool, Steve McQueen: The Last Mile... Revisited (written by his third wife Barbara McQueen),  Steve McQueen: The Actor and His Films and McQueen's Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Icon.

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