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Steve McQueen was an American actor. Called "The King of Cool", his "anti-hero" persona, developed at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s, made him a top box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular films include The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, and Papillon, as well as the all-star ensemble films The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world, although he did not act in films again for four years. McQueen was combative with directors and producers, but his popularity placed him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.
McQueen's first breakout role came on television. He appeared on Dale Robertson's NBC western series, Tales of Wells Fargo. Elkins, then McQueen's manager, successfully lobbied Vincent M. Fennelly, producer of the western series Trackdown, to have McQueen read for the part of bounty hunter Josh Randall in a Trackdown episode. McQueen appeared as Randall in the episode, cast opposite series lead and old New York motorcycle racing buddy Robert Culp. McQueen then filmed the pilot episode, which became the series titled Wanted: Dead or Alive, which aired on CBS in September 1958.
The Magnificent Seven (1960), in which he played Vin Tanner and co-starred with Yul Brynner, Robert Vaughn, Charles Bronson and James Coburn, became McQueen's first major hit and led to his withdrawal from Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen's focused portrayal of the taciturn second lead catapulted his career. His added touches in many of the shots, such as shaking a shotgun round before loading it, repeatedly checking his gun while in the background of a shot, and wiping his hat rim, annoyed costar Brynner, who protested that McQueen was trying to steal scenes.
McQueen played the lead in the next big Sturges film, 1963's The Great Escape, Hollywood's fictional depiction of the true story of a historical mass escape from a World War II POW camp, Stalag Luft III. Insurance concerns prevented McQueen from performing the film's notable motorcycle leap, which was done by his friend and fellow cycle enthusiast Bud Ekins, who resembled McQueen from a distance