Story of the scene: Bullitt (1968)

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The Independent Culture

Steve McQueen is in his 1968 GT Ford Mustang. The hit men are in their black 1968 Dodge Charger 440 R/T. What follows, through the streets of San Francisco, is the greatest car chase ever filmed.

McQueen plays Detective Frank Bullitt in this adaptation of Robert L Pike's novel Mute Witness. The car chase wasn't in the original script, written with Spencer Tracy in mind, before McQueen and producer Philip D'Antoni got hold of it. They changed the main character from a Boston-based, ice-cream eating policeman to McQueen's lean, mean detective. Then they hired the Brit Peter Yates to direct, on the basis of the car chase in his Robbery (1967).

McQueen, a speed-freak who raced semi-professionally, hired stuntman Bud Ekins (who also did the motorcycle jump in The Great Escape) for the most difficult bits, otherwise driving himself. Practice took place at the race track at Cotati, California, and the 10-minute sequence took two weeks to film. It might have been even more spectacular had the use of Golden Gate Bridge not been refused.

You can tell who's driving the Mustang by the position of the mirror – when it's visible, McQueen's behind the wheel; when not, Ekins.

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