Steve McQueen's secret to playing a believable hero

His approach to acting led him to such great heights.

Much has been written about the Stanislavski method of acting and its influence in Hollywood. The "method" has become shorthand for any acting approach that immerses its practitioner within the world of the character. As the actor loses themself within the scene, supposedly, their portrayal becomes more authentic. 

While there are plenty of actors who use a "method" in their work, Marlon Brando is typically held as the poster boy for the Stanislavski brand of training. While Brando stewed and brooded and internalized everything about each character he played, one of his contemporaries, in particular, chose a different method. 

Steve McQueen could be just as intense onscreen as his more celebrated peers, but he remained a bit more aloof when the cameras were off. 

That's because, to McQueen, all he had to do was be human.

"People are people," said Steve McQueen in a 1959 interview with the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

"And that's the way I play my parts. Heroes get scared. I try to use as much authenticity as I can. If four big guys in a bar tell me to go, I go!"

It's no surprise, given his background and training, that Steve McQueen treated acting very seriously. "I work very hard at my craft," he said, citing his work ethic as one of the reasons for his success in movies.

But a fundamental difference between McQueen and his contemporaries was the way he spent his time while he wasn't on set.

"I can really relax inside when I am driving my sports cars," he said. "It's an emotional outlet for me." Ultimately, this allowed McQueen to better mine the depths of his feelings when it was time to bring something special to a day of shooting. He was only able to get as close to his feelings as he was able to get away from them when they weren't being used. 

"Everyone needs an emotional outlet."

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4 Comments

Marc1943 4 months ago
Steve McQueen was at his best in Bullitt!!!!!!
BrittReid Marc1943 4 months ago
'You work your side of the street and I'll work mine'.
Runeshaper 4 months ago
"Everyone needs an emotional outlet." Agreed!
Andybandit 4 months ago
WDOA is one of favorite Westernns
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