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Steve McQueen shadowed two San Francisco police officers to prepare for his role as Frank Bullitt. When visiting the morgue, McQueen chomped on an apple to show that they couldn’t scare him away. After all, he is the "King of Cool."
At first, McQueen had reservations about the part. He said, “I never expected to play a copy. As a kid, running the streets, I’d been hassled by a lot of the police, and I’d always figured that they were on one side of the fence with me on the other. I’d never felt easy around cops. But here in ‘Frisco, I saw the other side of police work, and it was a real eye-opener.”
McQueen wanted to shoot on location. He said, “Sure, we could shoot in the studio, but I think we’re getting into an era where pictures are more and more visual. And the audiences are more sophisticated. They’re not accepting substitutes.” In the end, they filmed on location, which added $500 thousand to the budget.
The car chase took three weeks to shoot. Bud Ekins performed the stunt, and he had previously served as McQueen’s double in The Great Escape for the dangerous motorcycle jump. Director Peter Yates said, “Bullitt did wonders for my career. I would get hired for a job and be told, ‘We want a car chase like Bullitt.’ I’d tell them, ‘If you’ve got the money, I’ve got the time.’”
Alan R. Trustman wrote the script. He also wrote the script for The Thomas Crown Affair which featured McQueen and Faye Dunaway. McQueen wasn’t a fan of Trustman’s work this time around though. “We had a crappy script, and we made something of it,” he said.
Many suspected that McQueen and Bissett had chemistry on and off the screen. However, Bissett cleared up the rumors. She stated, “He was handsome, friendly, and nice, and there was a little bit of teasing, but nothing happened.”