Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, Gabriel Clarke & John McKenna’s 2015 doc, states very plainly that Le Mans (‘71), the semi-legendary race-track pic, was the film that broke McQueen’s spirit as well as his legend to a significant extent, and that things were never quite the same after it.
In my mind McQueen had a great 14-year run from ‘60/‘62 (The Magnificent Seven, Hell Is For Heroes) to his last quality spurt (Junior Bonner, The Getaway and The Towering Inferno) that ended in ‘74. Call it 14 years. Okay, 15 or 16 if you count Wanted Dead or Alive.
But his Godly McQueen aura, that quietly measured and invincible thing that peaked with Bullitt, that Zen-like, supercool man-of-few-words + awesome motorcycle and Mustang-driving era was shorter — The Great Escape (’63) to Le Mans (‘17) or roughly an eight-year stretch. That’s all it was — eight years.