Posted on February 11, 2019
by Steve Janowick
He was the king of cool!
Epitomizing that rare fusion of rugged bad-ass(ness) with impeccable style and class. During an era when there was certainly no shortage of silver screen tough guys (Eastwood, Bronson) and matinee idol pretty boys (Newman, Beatty), McQueen reigned supreme with his ease at being both-on screen and off. His lust for women and booze was only equaled by his need for speed and living on the edge.
Yet, at the same time, another side of Steve battled for supremacy of his heart and soul. A very loving side. A sensitive side that cared deeply for family and loyal, lasting friendships. A side that was gracious and charitable. Yes, Steve McQueen was the epitome of the walking contradiction. He was as beautiful as he was brutal. And that chasm of complexity was a huge part of his allure. Part of his “coolness”.
So, why aren’t there any more like him around today in Hollywood? I guess it’s the old chicken and egg question. Was McQueen a bi-product of a time in Hollywood history when the line that separated the man from the role was quite blurred? Or was he (and the Dean’s and Brando’s) the catalyst that fueled that era of uninhibited, raw truth and realism? As with any question like this, the answer is always a little of both. But whatever it is, there’s no denying that his type is pretty much non-existent today. Without trying one ounce, he oozed equal parts vulnerability and bravado. It was simply who he was.
Today, there are many talented, complex, brooding and interesting leading men/action stars. Ryan Gosling, Denzel Washington, Mark Wahlberg to name a few. But their coolness comes from a manufactured place. It requires effort. Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just a different thing. Their bad-ass(ness) seems a little less organic and real. A little more contrived.
I discovered the greatness of Steve McQueen a little late in life. But he has totally changed my perspective of what it means to be a man. As flawed as he was, and he could be a real son-of-a-bitch, there’s never been another leading man (or any man for that fact) like him and there probably never will be. He came from the gutters and fought tooth and nail to become one of the greatest, most bad-ass, classic men of all time.
And there can never be enough of those around.
Stay classic, men!
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