Thursday, May 24, 2012

Steve McQueen's Last Interview

Photo credit Richard Kraus via The First Steve McQueen Site
I recently tried to locate a 70s era TV interview with Steve McQueen--only to find out that he really didn't give interviews, particularly later in his career. There are no appearances of him during the 70s on The Tonight Show (he did appear on it twice in the 60s, in 1964 and again in 1966 to promote films) or with Dick Cavett, or Mike Douglas. That's when I discovered that remarkably, his very last interview wasn't given to a big-shot magazine reporter or television talk show host, but bestowed upon a high school student.

The student's name was Richard Kraus, and he approached McQueen on the set of his last film, The Hunter, to interview him for his high school's newspaper. What's amazing is that McQueen really took the time to give his full attention to Krauss, and even gave him some life advice out of earshot from the rest of the movie crew.

The interview got published in Kraus' high school newspaper, The Federalist, as well as in a McQueen biography called Portrait of an American Rebel. You can read it in its entirety here on The First Steve McQueen Site (the first known website ever to go live dedicated to the actor.) Here's what Richard Kraus remembers about the experience, as reprinted from the site:

"He made me his top priority at the moment. He showed me a lot of respect. I was only a high school student working on the school newspaper, jumping at the opportunity to interview a big star. I had a lot of nerve. I first approached his stuntman, Loren James, to ask if I could interview McQueen and take his picture. Loren said he never lets people take his picture, and he NEVER gives interviews.

 
I followed McQueen into the food truck (we were alone) and I asked him if I could interview him and take his picture. He said sure, and that I should come back that night when they were filming. Said I should come up with questions to ask him. I rushed home and sat with my family at the dinner table, writing down questions. Then went back to school.

I found him in the middle of shooting a scene. As soon as the scene ended he saw me in the crowd and told everyone he was taking a break from filming. We sat down by the stairs and I proceeded to ask him some questions. The wild part of this was, the crew formed a circle around us, watching the interview, because they knew he never gave interviews. It really did become a sort of historical "group interview."

When the interview was over and I was ready to leave, he asked if he could add more to it. I couldn't believe I was about to leave without asking him if he had anything more to say, and in every interview I've done since I've made sure to include that question at the end. He put his arm around me and walked me down the dark hallway, away from everyone else, and talked to me about the importance of living life and learning. It really was a very special moment I'll never forget. He could speak to any reporter in the world and get his word out to millions of people, but he chose to talk to a high school student."

Kraus got a photo of McQueen, pictured at the top of this post. He looks deceivingly healthy, considering he died later that year. But the fact that he gave a high school kid a break adds to his reputation as "The King of Cool."

5 comments:

Robin@DecoratingTennisGirl said...

That really is so Steve McQueen. Always giving the little guy a break. He was all about that. Great actor that we lost way too soon.

ApacheDug said...

Dang, this dude was about as cool as they come! I had no idea this (interview or the 'first' website) even existed, thanks for posting Pam. Hard to believe he's been gone for 32 years though, he really was a legend.

Pam@GoRetro said...

Thanks, Robin and Doug, for your comments. I read that he donated discretely to several charities, which no one knew about while he was alive. Steve McQueen has kind of become my new retro obsession, so expect quite a few more McQueen-related posts in the near future!

Anonymous said...

If you want to see yet another side of steve, rent or buy "on any sunday" Greatest bike documentary ever made. He actually funded it and is in alot of it.

Johnny Seagull said...

Great story. Just finished Christopher Sandford's bio of McQueen. Irritating and repetitive but it did highlight McQueen's generosity and that he never forgot where he came from. At the time of this story I think he already knew he was in trouble. In Sandford's book this is noted, in 1979: "Breaking a ten year press embargo, McQueen now granted a front page exclusive not to Time or Rolling Stone but to the Federalist, a local high school newspaper. He told his teenage interviewer, 'I think the press is full of s***, but I do have a certain respect for youth.'"

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