Leather clad and driving fast, Steve McQueen became an icon of the car racing and motorcycle genres in such classic films at “The Great Escape” and “Bullitt”.
This weekend, McQueen’s contributions to Hollywood and the automobile industry will be recognized when the intersection of two historic highways is named in his honor. The intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard — formerly US route 66 — and Highland Avenue — formerly state route 170 — will henceforth be known as “Steve McQueen Square”.
This year would have seen McQueen’s 80th birthday, but instead Sunday will mark the 30th anniversary of his death from mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer, in 1980.
“A variety of intersections throughout the city are named for political hereos or engineers of social change,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, who sponsored the motion in city council to name the intersection after McQueen. “I felt Steve McQueen fell into that category. He was a hardworking, iconic, great American actor. I’m a personal fan.”
The dedication of Steve McQueen Square is only part of a commemoration of the actor’s life. The Jules Verne Festival is also hosting an event called “The King of Cool Returns to Hollywood”, which will kick off on Sunday with a motor parade led by McQueen’s son Chad. The parade, which is open to Jaguar, Mustang and Porsche owners, will leave from Cole Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard at 11 a.m. and wind through Hollywood to Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue for the dedication of the square.
In addition, next Thursday, the Jules Verne Fest will screen “Bullitt” at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood, where Chad McQueen will accept an award on his father’s behalf.
Frederic Dieudonne, who co-founded the Jules Verne Fest in Paris in 1992, said his group decided to honor McQueen because he was an actor who helped marry science and fiction, and who could have been a character in a Jules Verne novel.
McQueen rose from a troubled youth, spent in reform schools, to become one of the most widely recognized actors of the 1960s.
“His biography, the way he started, he was not meant to be a movie star,” Dieudonne said. “In the end, he remains one of the greatest, even thirty years later. This type of destiny is very inspiring. It gives us the strength and energy to move forward.”
For more information, visit www.julesverne.org.