Released: 2nd January
Seen: 2nd January
In the 1960s, one of the coolest movie stars on the planet was Steve McQueen. Star of classics like The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven, he was an icon who combined his love of acting with his other passion, F1 Racing. One of the things he was most known for was that love of driving, often doing his own stunt driving in any film he was permitted to. His love of driving was so great that he pushed to make one of the biggest racing movies of all time, a film that would become one of the most legendary unfinished films in history.
See, films get canned during production for a lot of reasons. Sometimes certain important cast or crew members die and thus it’s impossible to continue, sometimes there just isn’t enough money to complete a shoot and the studio decides to eat the loss, sometimes scheduling conflicts can cause enough problems that eventually everyone has to move onto other work and some films end up being lost to the sands of time.
One such film is Day of the Champion, an F1 Racing movie that was a passion project of Steve McQueen and this documentary details the behind the scenes story that would eventually result in this film getting out of the cinematic race to be released, a race it was running against Grand Prix (which would end up being released and even winning several Oscars)
Through a combination of recovered lost footage, talking-head interviews with critics and experts, archival interviews with the director and other studio bigwigs and a whole lot of photos of the legendary Steve McQueen this film pulls a little bit of double duty. The title promises you the juicy behind the scenes story of this film and it delivers on that but it also explores the rise of Steve McQueen and how he turned into a name that was so big that a film could be greenlit by his attachment and could also be cancelled by him being too ill to be part of it.
The parts of this film that stand out at those moments of lost footage, Day of the Champion was meant to be filmed in glorious colourful widescreen and if the shots we’ve seen are any indication it would’ve been a huge leap forward for cinema as a whole. Not only are the shots that we get to see some of the most gorgeous racing shots captured on film (up there with stuff we saw not long ago with Ford v Ferrari) but learning about how they got some of those shots and the technology they had to invent to do the film is fascinating behind the scenes info that any cinephile will enjoy learning about.
There are also the small moments of recreating the script, using sound-alikes and some simplistic animation which gives you an idea of what could’ve been. The full story of why this film didn’t get made is engaging and makes you feel bad for McQueen who clearly wanted this to happen and never got it made, something that would even drive a wedge between him and Grand Prix star James Garner that would last for well over a year.
If you want a movie that’ll give you a glimpse into one of the true icons of 60s cinema, Steve McQueen: The Lost Movie will give you one of the best views of his career that’s out there. While it might be focussed principally on one film that never got finished, it’s also an in-depth look into the life and talent of someone who will forever be one of cinema’s biggest stars.