May 4, 2023

S3-E11 - Steve McQueen and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966)

S3-E11 - Steve McQueen and

"The Sand Pebbles," which tells the story of the USS San Pablo, a US Navy gunboat operating in China in the 1920s, was shot in northern Taiwan over the winter of '65-'66. The movie was directed by Robert Wise, of "The Sound of Music fame, and starred "the King of Cool" Steve McQueen. The film was the 4th highest-grossing movie of 1966 but the shoot was a less-than-inspiring experience for much of the cast and crew (to put it mildly). "Bad Boy" McQueen exhibited plenty of the behavior he was known for and – of course – the weather in northern Taiwan in the winter wasn't friendly to the moviemakers. Listen to this week's Formosa Files episode for the whole story.

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Cover images via 20th Century Fox, and right via:

This website, a tribute page to the 50th anniversary of The Sand Pebbles, was an important resource for this episode. 

Also used in this episode were quotes from Marc Eliot’s "Steve McQueen: A Biography."

Below left: The "King of Cool," Steve McQueen in a 1968 movie. McQueen died in 1980 at the age of 50 from a cancer associated with asbestos. Right: Neile Adams, a Filipino actress and dancer, was McQueen's wife from 1956-1972. She accompanied her husband to Taiwan for The Sand Pebbles shoot and later wrote about it in her  autobiography, My Husband, My Friend.

Below: Robert Wise (1914-2005), Oscar-winning director of The Sand Pebblesas well as  West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, and  Star Trek: The Motion Picture, to name just a few. (Note: All pics below via Wikimedia Commons)


1. McQueen on set with co-star Candice Bergen.

2. McQueen is followed by photographers as he rides a bike in northern Taiwan in the winter of 1965-66.

3. The cover of the 1962 novel The Sand Pebbles, by Richard McKenna which was later adapted into the hit film.

Below: The famous McQueen quote about the difficulties he faced while filming The Sand Pebbles.