According to the AFI Catalog, McQueen was already placing himself in harm’s way by doing his own stunts. During two weeks of shooting at the San Francisco International Airport, the star had to run under a taxiing Pan-Am 707 jet, which emitted exhaust temperatures of up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. “The vibration tweaked my neck a little,” said McQueen. “You’ve got to open your mouth and hold your ears.”
McQueen also did much of his own driving during the shoot. One scene required him to speed across the Golden Gate Bridge at 100 miles-per-hour. This was unnerving enough for the studio, so they hit their star with an insurance form that forbade him from racing cars or motorcycles throughout principal photography. McQueen told them precisely what they could do with that form. “There are some things that aren’t for sale,” he said. “And one of ’em is my soul.”
McQueen might’ve given WB a load of agita during the shoot, but the risk paid off big time. “Bullitt” grossed $42 million at the U.S. box office, making it the fourth highest grossing movie of 1968 (ahead of such classics as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Planet of the Apes”). McQueen was now the most in-demand actor alive, and no studio was about to run him off a project by prohibiting the pursuit of his other passion.