Steve McQueen Intentionally Crashed His Car to Star in This Western: Here’s Why

by Matthew Wilson
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Steve McQueen wins the award for how badly do you want a movie role. He intentionally crashed his car to get a part in “The Magnificent Seven.”

At the time, McQueen starred as bounty hunter Josh Randall on the TV western “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the late 1950s and early 60s. But what the actor really wanted to do was leave TV for the realm of film. In 1960, he came across the script for “The Magnificent Seven” and knew he had to star in the film. It had a $65,000 payday, a large sum back then. The movie was an adaptation of the Japanese film “The Seven Samurai.” It followed a group of hired gunmen fighting against bandits to protect a Mexican village.

The only problem was Four Star Productions behind his TV western refused to let him go film. The show operated on a strict filming schedule. And “The Magnificent Seven” was filming down in Cuernavaca, Mexico. McQueen’s manager Hilly Elkins tried to convince them to let him make a movie.

“Tom McDermott, may he rest in peace, was out of New York and was a tough guy, a tough Irishman, and knew what I was coming into his office for,” Elkins said in “Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Holywood Icon.” But McDermott, one of the producers, refused to let him go.

McQueen would need a little accident.

Steve McQueen Wrecks His Car

McQueen was an expert driver and loved racing cars. Elkins knew he had what it took to make a convincing car crash.

“I felt comfortable advising Steve on that level because of his racing and driving skills, and I knew he’d be careful but convincing. But I had no idea he would take it to the level that he did,” Elkins said.

McQueen took his flair for the dramatics straight off the road and into the the Bank of Boston. McQueen’s wife was in the car when he decided to make the convincing crash. The actor almost hit a police officer during the wreck. But he accomplished his goal, making all the papers. He returned to his TV series producers in a neck brace.

“Hey, look. It was an accident, he’s got a neck problem and he can’t do the show, he can’t do the movie. We’ve got a problem,” Elkins said. McDermott relented and finally let the actor do the movie. “Okay, look. This isn’t what we like to do, but you get this round. We’ll let him out early to do the picture.”

Elkins pulled one more trick, sensing his position of power, and even got McQueen a raise on the show when he returned.

Outsider.com