LeMans BluRay Edition Cover
Without question, one of the most influential racing films ever produced, Steve McQueen's LeMans, originally released in 1971, is slated for re-release on DVD and Bluray on May 24, in time for its 40th anniversary. Noted in particular for its highly realistic depiction of the racing of the day, much of the film was shot during the actual 24 Hours of LeMans race of 1970. Steve McQueen actually drove in that race. He also took his family to France to live during the filming. I recently had a conversation with McQueen's son Chad about that period in his life (he was 10 years old), and his memories of the work that went into shooting the film.
Chad McQueen with father Steve McQueen in 1970
Lyndon Conrad Bell: So, what was it like on the set of LeMans?
Chad McQueen: Looking back on it, I realize now how amazing it really was. I ate meals with guys like David Piper, Gerard Larrousse, Jonathan Williams, Derek Bell, Masten Gregory, and Herbert Linge. One day, my dad even drove me on the circuit sitting on his lap in the Porsche 917 he used in the film.
LCB: So what's up with the opening half hour of the film? Nobody speaks.
CMcQ: My dad was a wise man, with very clear vision. He was shooting it to feel more like a documentary. A lot of racing takes place in a driver's head. By opening the film the way he did, it helped put viewers in that perspective. More than anything else, he was after the authentic feelings he experienced when he ran there. He wanted to catch them on film, so other people could experience them too.
LCB: Wasn't he concerned about how that would play with film buffs though?
CMcQ: Well, actually he was making the film more for racing fans than moviegoers, if that makes sense? He wanted a pat on the back from the racers, and he got it. We're talking about a 40-year old movie, and still today, every kid coming up in racing has seen the film—it has a huge following among drivers.
Chad McQuen Driving Steve McQueen's Porsche SpeedsterEnlarge Photo
LCB: Have you seen anything lately that compares?
CMcQ: A film like this will never happen again in our lifetime—there's no effin' way. If you look at what my dad did with cars and motorcycles, like Bullitt for example, all of that stuff was shot at actual speed. You could never get clearance to do what they did today, not during an actual race. That stuff is done with computers now—or a stunt man pulls a handbrake to get the car sideways. Nobody's doing it real the way he did anymore. This film truly separates the men from the boys.
The 40th Anniversary Bluray and DVD editions of the classic racing film LeMans, releases on Tuesday, May 24. For more on Chad McQueen and his racing activities, visit McQueen-racing.com. On June 4, The Friends Of Steve McQueen car show will feature a LeMans theme to benefit Boy's Republic, the school Steve McQueen went to as a young boy and credits with turning his life around. A number of racing cars from the 1970's, including cars featured in the film will be present. Learn more about the event at The Friends Of Steve McQueen Website.
(Photos & Video Courtesy: Chad McQueen)