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Steve McQueen's Oscar Loss and Workout Win

Each year come awards season we see hundreds of frozen grins and hear hundreds of ever so slight variations on that autopilot soundbyte "I'm just so honored to be  ______." But how do the losing stars and snubbees really feel? One of my favorite things about celebrity biographies is that they have to dig a little deeper when it comes to the discussion of The Oscars; you can't fill whole books with soundbytes.

I was recently flipping through the new biography "Steve McQueen" by Marc Eliot and came across this passage on the Oscars. McQueen thought his sole nomination (The Sand Pebbles, 1966) was long overdue and eagerly participated in press events. He bought himself a burgundy Ferrari to reward himself for the nomination.

Yet on Oscar night, Paul Scofield won Best Actor...

The audience erupted in applause, even though Scofield was one of the many who did not show up. His co-star Wendy Hiller, accepted for him. She stepped to the microphone and said, "There is something very special in being recognized in a country other than one's own!"

And for Steve, there was something very unspecial about not being recognized in his own. After the ceremonies, Neile told a reporter that she was happy her husband had lost. "If he'd won, he'd have been impossible to live with," she chirped. "Not because of a big head but because he'd be worrying how to top himself next. I prayed he wouldn't win."

Steve McQueen in "The Sand Pebbles"

Steve said nothing to anybody that night. Several years later he was still bitter about the loss of the only Oscar nomination he would ever receive and took a jab at Marlon Brando, who won an Oscar in 1973 for his role in The Godfather; who not only didn't show up but had warned the Academy he wouldn't accept the award if he won it... Not long after Steve told Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky, "Perhaps if I had announced that I wouldn't accept the Oscar, I might have won."

Following Oscar night, still having trouble finding his Sand Pebbles follow-up, he spent his nights drinking and womanizing and his days on an extended workout regimen.

pictorial evidence of his workout success after the jump...

That's his first wife (to the right) who was glad he lost the Oscar ;)

In most pictures, actors have to take their shirts off, or even strip down to shorts. If you look like John Milquetoast, John Public says goodbye."
-Steve McQueen  

He makes it sound like he was shy about showing it off. LOL. 

Those photos aren't from the book (though the book has your standard multi-page gallery inset) but there's plenty of stripped down anecdotes. Just after that Oscar passage there's a juicy bit about Steve McQueen's intense rivalry with Paul Newman. He even turned down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid because he wouldn't share top billing with Newman; they even offered to split the world in two with each of them getting top billing in half of the Globe! Clearly, I need to read this whole book.

I wonder how that Jeremy Renner as Steve McQueen biopic is coming along? I suppose a lot rests on what happens with Renner's multiple frachise gigs: The Avengers, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

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Reader Comments (10)

I can't stand this man as a human being--he treated Ali McGraw like shit.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I've only seen McQueen in his Peckinpah pictures, Junior Bonner and The Getaway. But I'm currently losing a reading competition with a friend of mine -- we have until the end of the year to read at least one author for each letter of the alphabet -- and I'm in desperate need of an "E" (Marc Eliot). So I may pick this one up. Thanks for sharing!

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDusty

Semi-related question: Is "The Great Escape" held in as high regard in America as it is in England?

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Jack

In those grey pants he has a lovely piece.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMARK

Bia - Well, MacGraw *did* cuckold and leave her husband for a notorious womanizer, so it's not as if she's saintly (or very sensible for that matter).

Given McQueen's enmity for Newman, wonder what changed his mind about co-starring/-billing (besides the huge payday).

And don't forget Renner's got the new Bourne lined up, too!

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

McQueen was not the actor Newman was .. IMO, his best role was opposite Natalie Wood in Love with the Proper Stranger... he showed a comedic, passionate and compassionate side in a excellent role Wood was rightly nominated and steve should have.too.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterrick

I don´t know if McQueen was following the Vegas bets and odds in his favor or against him the year he lost. But I am positive that it must have been a neck-and-neck race between Scofield and Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf. It was Burton's fifth nomination and third in a row. Then there was Michael Caine in Alfie, Alan Arkin in the Russians Are Coming and McQueen. I'd bet McQueen came in fourth or fifth.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

From memory there was a lot of one-upmanship between McQueen and Newman on the set of 'The Towering Inferno' (1974).

rick: I agree that McQueen is great in 'Love with the Proper Stranger'. More interesting than his nominated role. Typical of Oscar only to notice him in a bombastic epic.

October 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

steve and rick -- i think he's really good in LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER too... though it is kind of the Natalie show.

marcos -- well the book does say that people didn't expect him to win at all but apparently he was still hoping/believing himself the dark horse.

October 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

He's a good actor, but never someone I would put in the same league as Newman. My fav is probably Papillon or The Getaway. He's kind of the Bruce Willis of his generation.

October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer
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