Le Mans in the making

Scott Murray

D ocumentary film The Man and Le Mans has debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in July, which depicts the world behind the cameras in the Steve McQueen classic, Le Mans (1971).

Archive director Richard Wiseman discovered two documentaries in 2012-2013 previously thought to be lost, which involved the original film’s making. With consultation and approval from McQueen’s son Chad, and film company Content Media in support, production began in 2014.

One film was a Swiss-made doco called The Songs of Le Mans which was never released, but found in a Paris vault; and the other was super 8mm video shot by driver Paul Blancpain during the same race actually filmed by McQueen’s company for the original movie.

Just after production began, directors Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna discovered the mother lode, yet more archival footage beneath an unused sound-stage. Among the rushes were two interviews, one with the original film’s initial director John Sturges (The Great Escape) who quit; and a compelling interview with McQueen himself, as he was suffering from cancer.

The archive footage was discovered from a tip-off by a CBS employee who’d worked for Cinema Media Studios, the original production company for Le Mans.

Director Gabriel Clarke says it was the ‘holy grail’ for a documentary film. “McQueen shot something like a million feet of rushes, which we called the ‘holy grail’ during preproduction.

We made a call to an editor in Los Angeles, and got an email back saying the time,” Clarke says.

While the archive footage was without sound, film-makers have made sure you’ll hear every suck, squeeze, bang and blow from the King of Cool’s Porsche 917 and everything else on wheels featured in the film slated for a late-2015 release.

“hidden beneath a sound stage, covered in dust, we found between 400 and 600 boxes of film”. ” The first box the directors opened, contained raw in-car footage. It had been said the footage had been destroyed by fire. “Some of the footage also came from private collections and an on-set documentary being made at