Bullitt (1968): McQueen’s Inspiration

McQueen’s Inspiration
Bullitt was the first film produced under McQueen’s production company, fittingly named Solar.

Many fans were surprised that McQueen signed on to play a cop, having had in real-life many run-ins with the police as a youth.

The actor based his character on San Francisco Homicide Inspector Dave Toschi, made famous for his work on the Zodiac killings. McQueen had a copy made of Toschi’s custom fast-draw shoulder holster.

The cops that McQueen rode around with wanted to test his mettle, so they took him to a morgue. They had to admit that the star was pretty cool when he showed up eating an apple.


Chalmers tells Captain Baker that Bullitt has spirited Ross away, and that he did it for his own personal aggrandizement, and the Captain seems to agree with that assessment.

While the movie’s Bullitt would not do such grandstanding, the SFPD inspector upon which the character is based, Dave Toschi, definitely would. During investigation Toschi sent a letter to the press using a false name, praising himself and his efforts, which resulted in Toschi being pulled off the case and which ruined his chances to become Chief of Police.

In real life, McQueen was known to be a scene-stealer, often seen in the background fiddling with a prop in order to draw attention to himself and away from what was happening in the foreground.