Director Steve McQueen

(1) “I don’t believe in that phony hero stuff.”

(2) “My influences come from real life. I’m not interested in cinema for cinema’s sake. I’m interested in life—what one does and how one interacts.”

(3) “I went to Hollywood for the first time and, my God, I was thrilled, you know, seeing the big letters: HOLLYWOOD. But after a few dinners with people and drinks parties, you realize it’s all about rolling up your sleeves. I got on the Paramount lot for the first time and, yes, I saw gladiators walking by and elephants and then you see the scaffolding and the trucks and it is all just work.”

(4) “I’m certainly not who people think I am. I always do whatever I want to do, and my films are personal to me.”

(5) “I recently met some people who I looked up to and admired and I found out they were just normal – there are no gods out there.”

(6) “Film is important; it can be more than reportage or a novel – it creates images people have never seen before, never imagined they’d see, maybe because they needed someone else to imagine them.”

(7) “I’m about challenging people. Like, properly challenging them and their assumptions.”

Actor Steve McQueen

(8) “I scrounged around for the next couple of years, trying to get the scam on the human race and just where the hell I fitted in—I discovered there were no openings.”

(9) “I live for myself and I answer to nobody.”

(10) “I believe in me.  I’m screwed up, but I’m beautiful.”

(11) “Art can’t fix anything. It can just observe and portray. What’s important is that it becomes an object, a thing you can see and talk about and refer to. A film is an object around which you can have a debate, more so than the incident itself. It’s someone’s view of an incident, an advanced starting point.”

(12) “Often the best way to relax is just to go back to work.”

(13) “I love creating images, of course, because I’m an artist.”

(14) “Take a chance. Take loads of chances, experiment. Fall down and pick yourself up again.”

(15) “I have spent too much of my life feeling insecure.  I still have nightmares about being poor, of everything I own just vanishing away.”

(16) “Sometimes you have to say goodbye to the things you know, and hello to the things you don’t.”

(17) “I’m only interested in the work. So all this chat, all this, you know, selling your soul, that’s of no interest. To me, it’s all about the work. It’s the only thing one can do.”

(18) “School was painful because I just think that loads of people, so many beautiful people, didn’t achieve what they could achieve because no one believed in them, or gave them a chance, or invested any time in them. A lot of beautiful boys, talented people, were put by the wayside. School was scary for me because no one cared, and I wasn’t good at it because no one cared. At 13 years old, you are marked, you are dead, that’s your future.”

(19) “My work just takes up a lot. I mean, I don’t ‘go to work.’ It’s just happening all the time, at the kitchen table, hovering, in bed. I wouldn’t call it my work. I’d call it my life.”

(20) “When a horse learns to buy martinis, I’ll learn to like horses.”


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  • Kevin Sessums is the author of two New York Times bestselling memoirs, Mississippi Sissy and I Left It on the Mountain.

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