William Claxton (1927–2008)
Gelatin silver print, 1962
Nicknamed the “King of Cool,” Steve McQueen was an avid motorcycle and sports car racer who performed many of his own stunts in a series of action thrillers, including The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and Bullitt (1968). In William Claxton’s 1962 portrait, the actor drives his Jaguar convertible down Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. As one of the period’s highest-paid actors, McQueen often played the reluctant rebel. Beyond the camera, he maintained a distant relationship with Hollywood, avoiding the press and demanding an unrivaled degree of autonomy in his films. His tough loner persona had its roots in a difficult childhood. After stints in reform school and the Marines, he broke into the acting profession and came to exemplify the self-confident man of action who conceals his emotions under a steely, calm exterior.