Although Steve McQueen was credited with the driving during the chase sequence, it was actually shared by McQueen and Bud Ekins, one of Hollywood's best stunt drivers. From the interior shots looking forward inside the Mustang, it's easy to see which one is driving. When McQueen is driving, the rear view mirror is down reflecting his face. When Ekins is driving it is up, so his face is hidden.
Bullitt's reverse burnout during the chase scene actually wasn't in the script; Steve McQueen had mistakenly missed the turn. The footage was still kept, though.
Two Mustangs and two Dodge Chargers were used for the famous chase scene. Both Mustangs were owned by the Ford Motor Company and part of a promotional loan agreement with Warner Brothers. The cars were modified for the high-speed chase by veteran auto racer Max Balchowsky. Stunt coordinator Carey Loftin got Bud Ekins to drive the Mustang for the bulk of the stunts. Both of the Dodges were junked after the filming, as was one of the Mustangs. The other less banged-up Mustang was purchased by a Warner Brothers employee after all production and post-production was completed. The car ended up in New Jersey a few years later, where Steve McQueen attempted to buy it. The owner refused to sell, and the car now sits in a barn, and has not been driven until recently when it was used by Ford to promote the 2018 "Bullitt" Mustang when revealed at the Detroit international auto show.
Several items of clothing worn by Steve McQueen received a boost in popularity thanks to the film: desert boots, a trench coat, a blue turtleneck sweater and, most famously, a brown tweed jacket with elbow patches.
The safe house scenes were filmed in and around the Kennedy Hotel at 226 The Embarcadero near Howard Street. That building, along with the two-level freeway behind it, was torn down as part of a major development of the waterfront after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
At the time, San Francisco was not a big filmmaking mecca, and Mayor Joseph L. Alioto was very keen to promote it as such. Consequently, this movie enjoyed a freedom of movement around the city that would be hard to come by today, including giving up an entire hospital wing for filming, closing down multiple streets for three weeks for a car chase scene, and taking over San Francisco International Airport at night.
While filming the scene where the giant airliner taxis just above Steve McQueen, observers were shocked that no double was used. Asked if the producers couldn't have found a dummy, McQueen wryly replied, "They did."
Robert Vaughn (politician Walter Chalmers) received the script and didn't like it. He felt that there was no plot, nor a sensible story line. Steve McQueen insisted Vaughn do the film, but he refused, until the studio finally offered him so much money, he finally said yes.
Bud Ekins, who drove the Mustang, also did the motorcycle jump for Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape (1963)."
In the restaurant scene, the live band playing in the background is Meridian West, a jazz quartet that Steve McQueen had seen performing at the famous Sausalito restaurant, The Trident.
Steve McQueen 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.
According to Peter Yates, Steve McQueen made a point to keep his head near the open car window during the famous chase scene so that audiences would be reassured that it was he, not a stunt man, who was driving,
Director Peter Yates called for speeds of about 75 to 80 miles (120 to 129 kilometers) per hour, but the cars (including the ones containing the cameras) reached speeds of over 110 miles (177 kilometers) per hour. Filming of the chase scene took three weeks, resulting in nine minutes and forty-two seconds of footage. They were denied permission to film on the Golden Gate Bridge.
The cops that Steve 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.
Bill Hickman, the backup hit man and driver of the Charger, was highly experienced in driving stunts and in racing. Thirteen years before this film, being a good friend of actor and budding race driver James Dean, he was accompanying Dean to a race in Salinas, California, driving Dean's station wagon and car trailer while Dean drove ahead in his Porsche Spyder. Dean died in an accident on the way and it was Bill Hickman who extricated Dean's body from the wreck.
After Steve McQueen lost control of his car and smashed into a parked vehicle, his then-wife Neile Adams begged Peter Yates to use stuntmen. So when McQueen reported for duty to find stuntman Bud Ekins sitting in his car, dressed as McQueen, he was furious.
The late Robert Vaughn repeatedly said that his performance in this film was his best, and contains the work of which he was most proud.
Initially the car chase was supposed to be scored, but Lalo Schifrin suggested that no music be added to that sequence, pointing out that the soundtrack was powerful enough as it was.
The film's famous chase scene wasn't originally in the script. In the first draft of this movie, adapted from Robert L. Fish's novel "Mute Witness", Detective Frank Bullitt was a Boston policeman who ate a lot of ice cream and never solved a case. The book had originally been bought with Spencer Tracy in mind; but with Tracy's death, the property fell into the hands of Steve McQueen and producer Philip D'Antoni. D'Antoni added the chase, and changed the location to San Francisco.
In 2008, Motor Trend Magazine did an article promoting the 40th anniversary edition Bullitt Mustang. Because Dodge had also brought back the Charger, the article featured a promotional gimmick of photographing the 2008 Mustang and 2008 Charger simulating the famous chase scene with the writers breaking down the chase, moment by moment, to explain each car's strengths and weaknesses.
Several years later, Robert Vaughn actively considered going into politics. To his dismay, he discovered that people couldn't take him seriously, or found him untrustworthy, as they remembered his oily performance in this film.
Frank Bullitt's (Steve McQueen's) car is a 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. The bad guys drive a 1968 Dodge Charger 440 Magnum. The Charger is just barely faster than the Mustang, with a 13.6-second quarter-mile compared to the Mustang's 13.8-second.
Director Peter Yates was personally selected for this movie by Steve McQueen, because Yates had filmed a realistic car chase through the streets of London in "Robbery (1967)."
In the first scenes, when the guy is leaving the garage, one might notice, just as the credits are running, Steve McQueen's green Jaguar D-type parked in the garage.
Traditionally, car chases are filmed by second units, but Peter Yates insisted on doing it himself. This was partly because he knew that Steve McQueen would be performing a lot of the stunts himself.
Bill Hickman (Phil), who drives the Dodge Charger, actually did drive the Charger in the movie. The driving scenes netted him additional stunt work, which included yet another classic car chase for "The French Connection (1971)." In 1973, he drove the Pontiac Bonneville as "Bo", in the chase of Roy Scheider's character "Buddy", driving the Pontiac Ventura Sprint coupe in "The Seven-Ups (1973)."
Cathy (Jacqueline Bisset) is shown working in an architectural studio with a model of a modernistic and angular fountain her character has designed. This is an actual model of a sculpture titled "Quebec libre!" by Canadian sculptor Armand Vaillancourt. The monumental fountain was being studied at the time the film was being made. The fountain was built and completed three years later in 1971, not in black as the model shows, but in natural gray concrete. It may be seen today at the Embarcadero Center in downtown San Francisco, across the street from the Ferry Building.
Although Bonnie and Clyde (1967) had popularized the use of squibs to simulate gunshot wounds a year earlier, this was one of the first films to incorporate them with blood packets.
Much was made at the time, and over the years since, of Lieutenant Bullitt's stylish "casual" attire of a turtleneck worn with a sport coat, slacks, and suede-like shoes. Since the major portion of the story in the film takes place over a Saturday and Sunday, this was actually in keeping with some police departments' traditions of a more relaxed dress code on weekends for plainclothes officers. Bullitt is first seen at work when meeting Chalmers on a Friday morning, wearing a traditionally conservative navy suit under his trench coat, with a white shirt, dark tie and dress shoes. These clothes were actually supplied by a menswear shoppe in London, England, Dougie Heywood's, Peter Yates' tailors.
The editing of the famous chase scene was not without difficulties; Ralph Rosenblum wrote in 1979 that "those who care about such things may know that during the filming of the climactic chase scene in Bullitt, an out-of-control car filled with dummies tripped a wire which prematurely sent a costly set up in flames, and that editor Frank Keller salvaged the near-catastrophe with a clever and unusual juxtaposition of images that made the explosion appear to go off on time." This is why a careful view of the footage during the final explosion shows the Dodge Charger visible behind the flames.
Peter Yates hired a local trucking company for some background shots (most notably the scene where the Dodge Charger crashes into the gas station), but sent back the initial truck, because it was red. He didn't want any red vehicles in the movie, because it would detract from the blood. A blue truck was dispatched in its place.
There were two Ford Mustangs used in the movie, one which was used in the majority of the heroic jump shots and ultimately ended up crashing into a ravine, and another which wasn't wrecked during filming. The crashed car turned up in a junk yard in Mexico but is literally a pile of rust. The other one was repaired after filming and sold, passing through two owners before it was purchased by a Robert Kiernan in 1974 for $6000. Mustangs were cheap and plentiful back then so it was used as a daily driver until it was parked up with mechanical issues in 1980. Robert and son Sean began putting it back together in early 2000s, before life took over and the restoration stalled. Robert passed away in 2014 and left the car to Sean. He contacted Ford around that time and the mystery of the original movie car was solved.
One of the first things Peter Yates did when he got the job was persuade Warner Brothers to buy him a lightweight Arriflex camera that he could use for all of his hand-held footage.
The holster worn by Steve McQueen was later put into production by Safariland leather company and is still in the line. It is known as the Klipspringer Shoulder holster.
The device used to transmit the photos of the Renick couple over the telephone line was one of the original facsimile machines, and in fact the device from which the generic word "fax" was derived. It is the Xerox Magnafax Telecopier, introduced by Xerox in 1966 and considered a revolutionary technical breakthrough. Until this device appeared, facsimile machines were large, heavy, and difficult to operate.
In January 2018, the original green Mustang GT from the film was brought out into the spotlight (after being in hiding for decades by the NJ owners) on stage at the Detroit Motor Show with Ford to introduce the new 2019 'Bullitt' Mustang. The original typed letter on Steve McQueen's Solar Production Company's letter head asking to buy back 'his' car in 1977 was also on hand.
The script had originally been set in Los Angeles. Producer Philip D'Antoni was keen to get out of Los Angeles, as he felt his production would be subject to less scrutiny if filmed elsewhere.
This film is edited entirely by cuts except in two instances. The first occurs when the jazz club scene dissolves to a shot of Steve McQueen lying in bed. The second occurs after the Dodge crashes into the gas station and burns, when the shot of the two dead villains dissolves to a scene at the police station.
Incorrectly named by some sources as the first major film to use the word "bullshit". In fact that distinction belongs to In Cold Blood (1967).
"Bullitt" was originally rated M, but was later re-released in theaters and on DVD & Blu-Ray with a PG-rating. Thus, this is one of the earliest films to be rated by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America).
Steve McQueen was very keen to do as many of his own stunts as possible. He had been hugely embarrassed to admit that it was not him performing the celebrated motorbike stunt in The Great Escape (1963).
During the famous car chase scene, the Dodge and Mustang pass the same dark-colored Volkswagen Beetle at least three times, and a white Pontiac Firebird is seen at least twice.
Robert Vaughn said in an interview that this movie set the tone for dramatic car chases. He said that many people came to the movie just to see the chase scenes.
The new mumps vaccine Delgetti (Don Gordon) is talking about when he reads the newspaper was the Jeryl Lynn vaccine, developed in 1967.
After Lieutenant Frank Bullitt breaks the glass door of the hospital basement to try to catch the killer, across from the parked ambulance, the black 1968 Dodge Charger can be seen parked on the left where presumably (unknown to Bullitt) the killer, and Phil the driver, are hiding.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
The remaining Mustang used in the movie sold at auction on January 9th 2020 for $3.74 million.
Pay close attention during the car chase at Steve McQueen's reflection in the mirror. If you look at his mouth, you'll see that he's indulging in popular habit among race car drivers: he's chewing gum.
When on the way back from the hotel, Bullitt and Cathy stop and talk by the bay, in the background the silhouette of the USS Coral Sea CVA 43 can be seen in the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard (Hunters Point), where it was undergoing a massive modernization.
Many of the actors, credited and uncredited, were fixtures on broadcast television in the 60s and 70s. Among them - Suzanne Somers (Three's Company), who has a uncredited bit part.
During the chase, after Bullitt misses a turn and does a reverse burnout, only the right rear tire "burns rubber" as he drives away from camera. This indicates that the Mustang was not equipped with a limited-slip differential (the gears that transfer power from the driveshaft to the rear axle half-shafts). Both "open" and "limited-slip" diffs allow the wheels to rotate at different speeds in corners for efficiency and comfort. An open diff will allow the wheel with less grip to spin under high load (or on low friction surfaces). But a limited-slip diff balances the power between left and right wheels when traction is lost on one or both sides. The Mustang would have done a two-wheel burnout if it were equipped with a limited-slip differential.
In the scene at Grace Cathedral where Chalmers is talking with Captain Bennett (Simon Oakland), there is a more completed Bank of America building in the background than the filmed scenes at the Mark Hopkins where the B of A structure is only a shell.
That is "folk singer" & sister of famed Joan Baez, Mimi Farina (in an uncredited role), as the lunch guest of Eddy (Lt. Frank Bullitt's confidential informant) when they meet at Enrico's in North Beach.
Bullit meets his informant Eddie (Justin Tarr, who played Tully in TV's The Rat Patrol) in North Beach. The restaurant Swiss Louis still exists, but moved to Pier 39 in the 70's. The Condor Club, where exotic entertainer Carol Doda performed (seen in the photos behind McQueen) is still operating, having gone through several incarnations over the decades.
The precursor to the modern day fax machine, the Xerox Magnafax Telecopier, transmits the passport application to police hq. Although it may seem archaic technology now, at the time of the film, it was considered cutting edge.
The iconic car chase between 1960s muscle cars actually features a third American classic - as the chase proper begins with the 1968 Dodge Charger breaking left and burning rubber, Bullitt in his 1968 Ford Mustang is briefly impeded from giving chase by a 1968 Pontiac Firebird. Earlier, when Bullitt tracks down the cab driver at the car wash, there is a brief view of a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro. Thus the marquee muscle cars of Chrysler, Ford, Chevrolet, and Pontiac are all represented.
About 50% of the film was shot silent, with background noise, sound effects and spoken dialogue looped in post production.
The film proved to be highly influential on many cop dramas for year to come. It's templates for scene set-ups, visual style and characterization influenced the look of future films such as Dirty Harry (1971), The French Connection (1971), and many others. It's influence can even be seen well into the 1990s with some key scenes being paid homage in The Fugitive (1993) and Heat (1995).
After Bullitt purchases his frozen TV dinners and heads up the stairs to his apartment seen on the wall are a group of posters. One is Wes Wilson's Grateful Dead and James Cotton Blues Band poster for a Fillmore West concert on Nov 18, 1966.
One of the two Mustangs was lost for decades only to be found in a 2016 in a junkyard in Baja California Sur, Mexico by a man named Hugo Sanchez. It was almost totally stripped for parts. Essentially nothing was left beyond the frame, body and passenger side door. It was identified by its VIN number and photographed. It was purchased and stored for many years by co-owners Ralph Garcia, Jr. and Hugo Sanchez, then rebuilt almost entirely from scratch and exhibited; eventually being sold at auction. During the rebuild they discovered a number of modifications made for the film, including strut tower reinforcements and holes drilled into the trunk for auxiliary power cables for a smoke bomb that was used in the "burning rubber" scene.
Many were surprised that Steve McQueen signed on to play a cop, having had many run-ins with the police as a youth.
The Bullitt Mustang colour was officially called Highland green. The cars were hotted up with chassis and engine mods to keep pace with the faster Charger in the chase scenes and hold up to the abuse. There was a hole in the boot where a smoke machine was said to have been installed to help enhance the cloud made from the rear tires in particular where Bullitt missed the turn reversed and shot off again.
In an interview about the film, Robert Vaughn admitted to not fully understanding the screenplay. However, he said his salary for "Bullitt" largely compensated.
Frank Bullitt's one use of the word "Bullshit" is one of the first uses of a strong profanity in a mainstream Hollywood studio production after the abandonment of the Hayes production code several years before.
McQueen walking up the stairs to his apartment after purchasing the frozen TV dinners seen on the wall is a group of Concert Posters. One of the more familiar during 1968 is the "Zig Zag" Big Brother Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger seen on the wall.
When Lt. Bullitt and his sergeant go through the suspect's luggage from the airport, he orders, "Fingerprints on this stuff". Of course they've already touched all the evidence without gloves.
The jazz band playing at the Coffee Cantata was known as Meridian West and the members were, on guitar: Larry Vogt; flute: Julie Iger Roseman; percussion: Al Pimental and bass: Nat Johnson. According to Julie Iger Roseman, Steve McQueen had discovered them playing in San Francisco, bought them a drink, and hired them for the movie, in which they were recorded at Francis Ford Coppola's local studio. But, according to guitarist Vogt, the actual music heard was by composer Lalo Schifrin, and was not them playing.
Frank Bullitt's gun is a Colt Diamondback .38 Special revolver with (Colt) Detective Special grips. Although it is stated elsewhere Steve McQueen had a holster made to duplicate San Francisco Police Department Detective Dave Toschi's "custom fast-draw shoulder holster," in fact Bullitt's holster is a commercial Safariland Model 19 shoulder holster.
Steve McQueen initially did not want to do this film. He was opposed to playing a cop because he had so many problems with police in his youth and he did not like them. It was his wife, Neile, who convinced him that he needed to play Frank Bullitt.
San Francisco General Hospital, on Portrero Hill, still exists albiet as Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Although the medical center has undergone huge amounts of new construction since the film was made, parts of the original brick buildings filmed are still standing. The classic interior paint scheme of off white and institutional green was a common feature of the era.
Chalmers tells Captain Baker that Bullitt has spirited Ross away, asserting that Bullitt did it for his own personal aggrandizement. The Captain agrees with that assessment. While the Bullitt character in the movie would not do such grandstanding, the SFPD inspector upon which the character is based, Dave Toschi, definitely would. During one 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, Steve McQueen was known to be a determined 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.
The copy of the San Faracisco Chronicle Delgetti picks up to read from Bullitt's armoir in the morning before they drive to Chalmer's house has the same front page ("Peace Talk Flurry") as the copy Bullitt takes out of the newspaper dispenser he pops open in front of the grocery store next day, when he returns to his apartment.
To prepare for the car chase Steve and other members of the company spent a day at Coati race Track near San Francisco hitting speeds of 140 mph.
Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn, and Don Gordon appeared in The Towering Inferno (1974), also set in San Francisco.
In the Spanish dubbed over voice, the insult "bullshit" said by Bullitt (Steve McQueen), talking with Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), was censored. It can be seen by Steve McQueen moving his lips, but not saying it.
Included among the American Film Institute's 2001 list of the top 100 Most Heart-Pounding American Movies.
In addition to a plethora of Swanson frozen dinners in the corner bodega, you can also make out a stack of Jiffy Pop popcorn in its unique package. Both items were mid-century staples for easy eats.
John Aprea was originally cast as Johnny Ross but was replaced by Pat Renella, who had a greater resemblance to Felice Orlandi. Although credited as "Killer" in the credits, Aprea only appears briefly in the opening credits sequence, shooting at Ross's car during his escape.
At the 19 - 20 minute mark in the restaurant. Steve Mcqueen appears to break character when he jokes with the waiter who may have struck him in the head with a menu.
Steve McQueen and Robert Vaughn had previously co-starred as members of the Magnificent Seven in the 1960 film of that name.
The film was released in 1968. But restaurant advertisements, just before strangled woman is found in the hotel room, shows Mother's Day as 11 May, which does not happen until 1969.
In the Hospital basement while Bullit is chasing the Killer he comes to a security door. On the wall prior to the door is a very tarnished vintage Soda-Acid Fire Extinguisher - Copper & Brass Empire Co.; most likely manufactured in the earlier part of the 20th century.
According to an aviation filming expert who worked with the film, in the famous scene where Bullitt is passed over by a Pan Am jet, the plane was actually being towed for that footage. The sound effects of screaming aircraft engines were dubbed in afterwards.
The V-shaped object on the trunk lid of Chalmers' limo was a state of the art (for the time) telecommunications antennae, indicating the vehicle had a car telephone.
Carl Reindel, who plays the young detective with Steve McQueen and Don Gordon, has the first name Carl as spoken by McQueen's Bullitt. In the credits it's only 'Stanton'.
Airplanes of Pan Am and PSA airlines are seen in the climactic airport scene. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) was a major hub for both airlines at the time of production. Pan Am (Pan American World Airways) became the USA's largest and most widely recognized international air carrier during its existence from 1927 to 1991. The contraction of worldwide air travel following the Gulf War forced Pan Am into bankruptcy, resulting in its routes and assets being purchased by Delta Air Lines. PSA (Pacific Southwest Airlines) was the USA's first large discount air carrier, billing itself as "The World's Friendliest Airline." It began operation in California in 1949, and through a series of mergers starting in 1986, eventually became a part of American Airlines. In 1995, the PSA name was given to a subsidiary of US Airways in order to preserve the name and logos as "PSA Airlines."
Robert Vaughn and Bill Hickman (the Mafia driver) appeared together in Vaughan's show The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Finny Foot Affair (1964).
During the early scenes of the car chase, a gas station is seen. Its name is Enco, presently known as Exxon. Outside of the U.S. it was known as Esso. Its mascot was a tiger, who encouraged drivers to put a tiger in their (gas) tank.
When Bullitt was first released in the UK in January 1969. (It was submitted to the BBFC British Board Of Film Censors in Autumn 1968) it was initially given a A certificate (the 1968 A rating stood for Adult No One Under 12 Admitted Without A Adult Parent/Guardian And May Not Be Suitable For Under 12s ) the 1970 version was the same but the age limit for a child to see a A rated film without a adult was reduced from 12 to 8. There were only three rating certificates for films in the UK in 1968. They were U ( Universal For All Ages), A (Adult No One Under 12 Admitted Without A Adult Parent/Guardian And May Not Be Suitable For Under 12s ) and X ( Adults Only No One Under 16 Admitted With Or Without A Adult). But in 1970 a new AA (No-One Under The Age Of 14 Admitted With Or Without a Adult) certificate was introduced as part of changes to the certification/classification system (which led to the minimum age of the X rating being raised from 16 to 18 and the minimum age for a child to see a A rated film unaccompanied by a adult was reduced from 12 to 8) was as a result of the changes in July 1970 re-rated by the BBFC from A to AA as Bullitt was a unsuitable film for the A under the 1970 rules .
A motorcycle skids and crashes during the car chase (kudos to the stunt driver!). Steve McQueen famously crashed a motorcycle a few years earlier in "The Great Escape."
As Bullitt interviews the hotel manager, a vintage SF Muni bus, green with a pale yellow roof, and trim, can be seen passing by through the window.