Monday, November 7, 2011

Q & A with McQueen author Andrew Antoniades

Interviewer: You have just released a new book called “Steve McQueen: The Actor and his Films”. Why is McQueen so popular even today?

Andrew: In essence it is because what Steve McQueen stood for in his lifetime is still as relevant, if not more so, today. He was a no-nonsense person who was essentially an underdog and that story is always appealing. He was a rebel but he could also act, so his films remain relevant and well-loved today. For example, Bullitt is still influencing modern cinema through its cinematography and its car chase. Aside form the films there is McQueen fashion sense and his love of fast cars and motorbikes. So for every person there is nearly always something they can relate to and admire. In an age where cinema really has no tough guys like McQueen, people have to look back and appreciated him for the maverick he was, since there is no one that comes close these days. He died just over 30 years ago but remains as relevant and as big as ever.
Interviewer: How did you come to write a book on Steve McQueen?

Andrew: I had just edited Marshall Terrill’s latest biography Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon. That was a great experience for me as I had read Marshall’s first biography on McQueen from 1993 when I was just in my late teens. Marshall always felt, having written the definitive biography on McQueen that the story of his films needed to be told. Marshall graciously suggested that I be the one to tell this story and put in contact with his publisher. From there I teamed up with Mike Siegel who has one of Europe’s leading film memorabilia archives with so many great images and film posters. We teamed up with the idea being that I did most of the writing and Mike providing most of the images. In a sense, the book now has the best of both worlds and benefits from two very big McQueen fans to ensure that the text and imagery are of the highest caliber. The partnership worked well and, with Marshall and the publisher’s support, the end product exceeded all our hopes.

Interviewer: Why did you focus on Steve McQueen’s films?

Andrew: McQueen’s life was a miracle in its own way. He was born into poverty and managed to somehow work his way from a teenage delinquent to a Hollywood megastar, defying the odds. His life story is completely interwoven with his films. The reason being two-fold. Firstly, being an actor was his way to a better life, a way of achieving success. Without films he could have easily drifted from job to job, just as he had as a young man. Secondly, McQueen used acting as a means of developing himself. He used all his hardships and life experiences to create some of cinema’s richest and most subtle characterizations.

However, McQueen also managed to do the reverse too, in the latter half of his career, his movies became his confessional of sorts. He would invest in scenes to achieve catharsis and to understand his own personal anxieties and fears. For example, in Junior Bonner there is the scene between McQueen’s character and his father, Ace, in which the two have a very strained relationship, but a deep respect. McQueen himself grew up never knowing his father and this scene allowed McQueen to examine his own feelings of abandonment and being denied a conventional father-son relationship. It is an incredibly poignant scene, but really highlights just how important McQueen’s films are.

Interviewer: Which part of the book are you most proud of?

Andrew: It is hard to pick one. The reason being is the book covers so much in text and in words. This was a conscious decision as we wanted to give fans everything we like ourselves. With the text of the book, I guess I’m most proud of the dissection of McQueen’s acting. I wanted to offer a unique and in-depth insight into McQueen’s technique, his subtleties and his motivations, to really get under his skin. This is something that has never been done in such detail.

Interviewer: Visually, what are the books strengths?

Andrew: We were adamant that the book should look impressive and possess great quality. As a collector myself, I always want things that look good and impress. The book is literally huge; at nearly 500 pages I don’t think there is another book on McQueen of this size. It is presented in hardback too with a wonderful gold embossed logo on the cover, underneath the dust jacket. When I got my own copy of the book I had no idea about this and was blown away. My publisher did a great job and I believe that little touches add to the overall presentation.

With the images, even the biggest McQueen fan will be blown away. With over a 1,000 images there are so many never-before-seen photos. So many books on McQueen have been released that simply repeat the same images. Steve McQueen: The Actor and his Films has something for casual and die-hard fans alike. Whether it’s an unseen image of McQueen taking a nap between takes on The Getaway or a rare Italian poster for Bullitt, there is something new and fresh.

Interviewer: What makes your book so different?

Andrew: The word I would use, and I use it with caution, is “definitive”. I do not say this lightly. I own practically every book published on McQueen over the years. I must say that, as an account of McQueen’s films, it really is definitive. Other books that try to cover his films either are outdated, not richly presented or omit key details. With this book every aspect is dealt with in great detail and new angles discovered. I clearly have a bias, but I believe that there is nothing on the market that comes close.

Interviewer: Thank you Andrew, this book sounds great, I wish you every success. Any closing comments?

Andrew: Yes, thank you too, this has been great. To close I’d just like to say that I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to put together a book on a subject that I am so passionate about. It has really been a labor of love. At the end of the day, I am a McQueen fan so I wanted to put something together that would really do him justice. I hope that I have achieved that.

Q: Tell us something you've never revealed to anyone else?

Andrew: I love Tiny Tim's "Tiptoe Through The Tulips."

Steve McQueen: The Actor and his Films, by Andrew Antoniades and Mike Siegel

Is available from Dalton Watson Fine books

ISBN 978-1-85443-253-7

Hard cover with dust jacket

Publication Date November 2011

Page Size: 300mm x 230mm. 492 pages.

Illustrations: 1,020 illustrations: 790 photos incl. 44 full page photos. 230 artwork reproductions incl. 48 full page poster reproductions & 10 full page lobby card reproductions

Price: US$69/£39

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