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The 6 Roles That Defined Steve McQueen's Career

By    |   Monday, 13 Apr 2015 04:59 PM

In one of the roles that defined his career, Steve McQueen puts his head through the meal slot of a prison door, looks left, then right where a menacing warden stands. McQueen’s usual blonde hair is gray, his famous blue eyes are watery and rimmed in red.

“Who gave you the food?” the warden of the French penal colony at Devil’s Island demands.

McQueen’s response is a stuttering rendition of near insanity caused by his character’s years spent in solitary confinement. But it’s all an act to protect a fellow inmate played by Dustin Hoffman. The performance convinces the warden that McQueen’s character in the 1973 film “Papillon” has lost his mind.

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The scene is one of many delivered by McQueen in the film that convinced audiences and critics of the star’s versatile acting ability. It won McQueen a Golden Screen award in 1974 along with a Golden Globes nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor in Drama.

"McQueen was an obvious choice for the part of Papillon, a complicated individual with an almost supernatural sense of power and leadership,” said the film’s director Franklin J. Schnaffer, according to Blu-ray.com.

“Steve succeeded in combining Papi's qualities of fitful revenge, obsessive daring, and passion for freedom. It's perhaps the best and most challenging role of Steve's career."

McQueen’s acting career began in television in 1958, but his charisma soon led to roles on the big screen. The arc of his highly successful, highly paid career was paved with blockbuster films in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether a cop, debonair thief, Nazi-defying prisoner of war, or escaped convict, McQueen appealed to men and women alike.

Here are five other top roles that defined his career.

1. Vin Tanner, "The Magnificent Seven" (1960)

The Oscar-winning film was McQueen’s first blockbuster. The ensemble film featured Yul Brynner, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, and other established actors.

2. Capt. Virgil Hilts, "The Great Escape" (1963)

Directed by John Sturges, the film was McQueen’s second major film. The star power was again an ensemble performance, including James Coburn, David McCallum, Richard Attenborough, and Charles Bronson.

The movie depicted an escape by British and American prisoners of war from a Nazi prison camp. McQueen’s character is nicknamed the “Cooler King.”

His attempted motorcycle ride to freedom is famous.

3. Jake Holman, "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)

The war epic co-starred Richard Attenborough, Candice Bergen, and Richard Crenna, and was the only film McQueen ever received an Academy Award nomination for acting. The film was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.

4. Frank Bullitt, "Bullitt" (1968)

Directed by Peter Yates, Bullitt is McQueen’s perhaps most memorable role to modern-day audiences. As Frank Bullitt, McQueen displays the casual cool and gritty toughness that defines the star’s appeal.

5. Doc McCoy, "The Getaway" (1972)

Another chase film, this time starring McQueen’s second wife Ali McGraw. The movie is directed by Sam Peckinpah, and mostly remembered for the sizzling chemistry between McQueen and McGraw.

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Steve McQueen’s acting career began in TV in 1958, but his charisma soon led to roles on the big screen. The arc of his career was paved with blockbuster films in the 1960s and 1970s. Whether a cop, debonair thief, Nazi-defying POW, or escaped convict, McQueen appealed to men and women alike.
steve mcqueen, roles, defined, career
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Monday, 13 Apr 2015 04:59 PM
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