How Steve McQueen’s ‘Uncontrollable’ Jealousy Affected His Role Opposite Paul Newman

Actor Steve McQueen became an icon in the 1960s and 1970s. Beyond his acting skills, fans know him for his behavior off-camera. For instance, he reportedly peed on a wall or curtain during an awards show with another celebrity.

However, McQueen has more notoriety for his attitude while making movies. One of the most notable examples is his jealousy of a fellow actor in The Towering Inferno. In fact, changes occurred to McQueen’s role as a result of his demands.

Steve McQueen was hard to work with during filming

People who have worked with Steve McQueen have recalled how the actor would sometimes behave on film sets. According to the New York Post, he was part of the supporting cast for The Magnificent Seven in the 1960s. He would attempt to steal scenes, and the crew needed to separate him from the central star.

McQueen was willing to leave the production for The Great Escape in 1963. He did not think he had the primary role and demanded that the writers rewrite his part. The studio heads had to step in to resolve the issue.

The director for The Thomas Crown Affair also had problems with McQueen on set. The actor ruined two days of shooting by leaving until it was dark outside. Nevertheless, the director managed to remain patient despite McQueen’s behavior.

Several people might have found McQueen challenging to work with occasionally. Some of his actions are due to his competitive nature. Still, his jealousy toward co-stars would get out of hand.

McQueen was extremely jealous of Paul Newman

Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in 'The Towering Inferno'
Paul Newman and Steve McQueen in ‘The Towering Inferno’ | Warner Bros./Courtesy of Getty Images

Steve McQueen had a few contract demands while filming for The Towering Inferno. For example, he wanted an equal number of lines as his co-star, Paul Newman, due to his competitiveness. He demanded the filmmakers add 12 more lines to the script and that he get the movie’s last line.

While McQueen idolized Newman, he also had “uncontrollable” jealousy toward his co-star. The actor did not want to join the cast if he was to have second billing. As a result, the movie poster put the two actors’ names side by side. McQueen’s name was slightly lower than Newman’s, but the positioning gave them equal weight.

Furthermore, McQueen insisted on doing a dangerous stunt himself. According to IMDb, he wanted to jump into a burning building from a helicopter. He probably wished to do it since Newman preferred to do most of his stunts.

Additionally, McQueen got paid the same amount of money as Newman for his role. Both of them earned a $1 million paycheck. Additionally, they each received 10% of the box office revenue.

How Paul Newman felt about Steve McQueen in ‘The Towering Inferno’

The Towering Inferno features Paul Newman as an architect who designs the tallest glass building. Steve McQueen is the fire chief who appears over 40 minutes into the movie after an electrical issue causes a fire. The film became a massive hit at the box office.

Despite the movie’s success, Newman did have some regrets about co-starring alongside McQueen. For instance, he had to deal with the rivalry that the latter created during production. Not to mention, it felt as though McQueen’s character dominated Newman’s role.

Since McQueen insisted on the same number of lines, it seems like Newman says less when they appear together. After all, the latter has already spoken almost half his lines by the time McQueen arrives onscreen.

Nevertheless, there were a couple of times when the pair hung out together after filming for the day. McQueen and Newman enjoyed a few drinks in one of their trailers after an exceptionally busy day.

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