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Incredible never-before-seen footage shows Steve McQueen behind the scenes on The Great Escape

Incredible never-before-seen behind the scenes footage from the filming of the 1963 film The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen has been unearthed – after more than 50 years hidden away in a drawer. 

The footage, shot in 1962 during filming near Fussen, Germany, and owned by stuntman Tim Gibbes, now 85, shows the famous motorcycle escape by Hilts (Steve McQueen) from a German prisoner of war camp.

And now MailOnline can reveal that footage for the first time, which also includes camera crews setting up prior to the jaw-dropping stunt, ahead of it being shown at a screening of the film on Sunday, 75 years since the actual Great Escape took place.    

The footage, shot in 1962 during filming near Fussen, Germany, and owned by stuntman Tim Gibbes, now 85, shows the famous motorcycle escape by Hilts (Steve McQueen) from a German prisoner of war camp

Stuntmen Tim Gibbes (left) and Bud Ekins (right) worked together on the set of The Great Escape. Both helped plan the famous fence jump stunt, with Mr Ekins eventually performing the jaw-dropping manoeuvre

Stuntmen Tim Gibbes (left) and Bud Ekins (right) worked together on the set of The Great Escape. Both helped plan the famous fence jump stunt, with Mr Ekins eventually performing the jaw-dropping manoeuvre

Bud Ekins, a renowned American stuntman who died aged 77, is seen performing the famous fence jump stunt in behind-the-scenes footage from 1963 film The Great Escape

Bud Ekins, a renowned American stuntman who died aged 77, is seen performing the famous fence jump stunt in behind-the-scenes footage from 1963 film The Great Escape

Mr Gibbes, 85, (pictured with Dick Shepherd, 63, who now owns the bike used in the film) was this week reunited with the famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle, ridden by Steve McQueen, in the film

Mr Gibbes, 85, (pictured with Dick Shepherd, 63, who now owns the bike used in the film) was this week reunited with the famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle, ridden by Steve McQueen, in the film

The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen (pictured in the film) is based on the real-life story of a mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan - now Żagań, Poland

American actor Steve McQueen on the set of The Great Escape, based on the book by Paul Brickhill, and directed by John Sturges

The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen (pictured in the film) is based on the real-life story of a mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan – now Żagań, Poland

The Great Escape with Dan Snow, taking place at the Hammersmith Apollo and broadcast live in cinemas across the country, will feature a stage discussion before the screening. Among those due to speak and perform are Dan Snow, The D-Day Darlings, Paul Beaver (centre), and Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE (right)

The Great Escape with Dan Snow, taking place at the Hammersmith Apollo and broadcast live in cinemas across the country, will feature a stage discussion before the screening. Among those due to speak and perform are Dan Snow, The D-Day Darlings, Paul Beaver (centre), and Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE (right)

The Great Escape with Dan Snow, taking place at the Hammersmith Apollo and broadcast live in cinemas across the country, will feature an interview with Mr Gibbes, the last-surviving stuntman from the film – and will even include a rare appearance on stage of the famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle, ridden by Steve McQueen.

Mr Gibbes, who lives in Australia, spoke to MailOnline ahead the commemorative screening to reveal the secrets behind the shooting of the hit film – which is based on the real-life story of a mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from German POW camp Stalag Luft III in Sagan – now Żagań, Poland. 

RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived the plan for the major escape in the spring of 1943. 

With the escape planned for the night of March 24, 1944, the PoWs built three 30ft deep tunnels, named Tom, Dick and Harry, so that if one was discovered by the German guards, they would not suspect that work was underway on two more.

Bushell intended to get more than 200 men through the tunnels, each wearing civilian clothes and possessing a complete range of forged papers and escape equipment.

In total, 76 men crawled through to initial freedom, but the 77th was spotted by a guard. In the hunt for the entrance one guard Charlie Pilz crawled through the tunnel but after becoming trapped at the other end called for help. 

The prisoners opened the entrance, revealing the location.

Of the escapees, three made it to safety, 73 were captured, and 50 of them executed.

The first job Mr Gibbes and McQueen did together, was the scene in which Hilts steals a motorcycle from a Nazi officer using a piece of wire strung across a road - sending the officer sliding along the ground (pictured in behind-the-scenes footage)

The first job Mr Gibbes and McQueen did together, was the scene in which Hilts steals a motorcycle from a Nazi officer using a piece of wire strung across a road – sending the officer sliding along the ground (pictured in behind-the-scenes footage) 

And the stuntman recalls how the first take didn't go quite to plan, leaving him terrified he was about to thrown off set and sacked from the job. Pictured is the second take, which was used in the film

And the stuntman recalls how the first take didn’t go quite to plan, leaving him terrified he was about to thrown off set and sacked from the job. Pictured is the second take, which was used in the film

Mr Gibbes, the now 85-year-old stuntman was just 29-years-of-age when he was approached by fellow stuntman Bud Ekins – the rider who performed the famous motorcycle jump – to help with shooting of the film.  

As he was touring in Europe anyway, participating in motorcycle sporting events, he agreed – without any idea of who Steve McQueen and how famous he and other actors James Garner and Richard Attenborough were.

Recalling his experiences of McQueen, Mr Gibbes said: ‘His job was showing off, you could tell that right away. I certainly wouldn’t describe him as a modest. But that’s what these actors are paid to do. 

‘When I arrived on set riding a motorcycle, I would just pull up and that would be it. But when Steve arrived on set it would be a big show, with lots of swerving about on the bike and swinging of handlebars. 

‘Even when he wasn’t on camera he’d be the centre of attention. He would always be making noise in the background.’  

Back then: Tim Gibbes is pictured meeting the Duchess of Gloucester at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show after his first gold medal as a motorcyclist

Pictured is Mr Gibbes this week with the motorcycle used in The Great Escape film

Aside from his work in films, Tim Gibbes was an accomplished competitive motorcycle rider. He is pictured left meeting the Duchess of Gloucester at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show after his first gold medal as a motorcyclist. Pictured right is Mr Gibbes this week with the motorcycle used in The Great Escape film

The International six days enduro is likened to motorcycling’s Olympic Games. Mr Gibbes (pictured) won six gold medals and one bronze between 1956 and 1963

The International six days enduro is likened to motorcycling’s Olympic Games. Mr Gibbes (pictured) won six gold medals and one bronze between 1956 and 1963

The first job Mr Gibbes and McQueen did together, was the scene in which Hilts steals a motorcycle from a Nazi officer using a piece of wire strung across a road – sending the officer sliding along the ground.  

And the stuntman recalls how the first take didn’t go quite to plan, leaving him terrified he was about to thrown off set and sacked from the job. 

He said: ‘During the first take I overcooked the slide and went straight into the cameraman filming the stunt. I thought he just had a bruise or something, but someone told me he’d broken his leg and so I decided to sneak off set before I got into trouble. 

‘But as I was walking away the director shouted my name and called me over. And he remarkably told me to do exactly the same thing again. He said the sight of a motorcycle coming straight towards the camera would thrill audiences. 

‘So we got another cameraman and did the whole thing all over again, but this time we made sure the bike was able to miss the poor chap filming.’

American actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980, left) wearing a German military uniform, sitting astride a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle in a publicity still issued for the film, 'The Great Escape', 1963. On the right is his stuntman Bud Ekins (1930 - 2007), who made the iconic jump over the barbed wire fence

American actor Steve McQueen (1930 – 1980, left) wearing a German military uniform, sitting astride a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle in a publicity still issued for the film, ‘The Great Escape’, 1963. On the right is his stuntman Bud Ekins (1930 – 2007), who made the iconic jump over the barbed wire fence

The prisoner of war drama, directed by John Sturges (1910-1992), starred McQueen (pictured) as 'Captain Virgil 'The Cooler King' Hilts'

The prisoner of war drama, directed by John Sturges (1910-1992), starred McQueen (pictured) as ‘Captain Virgil ‘The Cooler King’ Hilts’

McQueen did a number of his own stunts, and as Mr Gibbes, who worked with the actor on set, recalls he enjoyed showing off while at work

The fency jump was one 'never-before-seen' on the screen and required meticulous planning before fellow stuntman Bud Ekins (pictured), who has now passed, was happy enough to do it

McQueen did a number of his own stunts, and as Mr Gibbes, who worked with the actor on set, recalls he enjoyed showing off while at work. Although Mr Gibbes did credit the actor with being an ‘above average’ rider

This was the first of two major stunts Mr Gibbes was involved in filming, the second of which was the now famous motorcycle jump over barbed wire – which takes place right before Hilts is recaptured by Nazi German soldiers.    

Mr Gibbes explains how this meticulous stunt was one ‘never-before-seen’ on the screen and required meticulous planning before fellow stuntman Bud Ekins, who has now passed away, was happy enough to do it.  

He said: ‘We spent a long time finding the perfect dip in the ground to launch the motorcycle over the barbed wire. Bud and I had a few practice runs at riding up from the dip, and it wasn’t an easy stunt.

‘The Triumph wasn’t really the right bike to be doing it in, it made things a lot more difficult. It was just an ordinary street bike with fancy tyres, one that you’d use to go to the shops. 

‘It wasn’t a stunt Steve McQueen could have attempted, and the film crew wouldn’t have let him do it anyway as they had to ensure a big star like him didn’t get injured. 

‘Even Bud, who eventually did the stunt, said he was only going to try it once and then I would have had to try and do it myself. He said before he did it that he didn’t want to do it. But he managed to get it done.’

Steve McQueen is seen in behind-the-scenes footage of The Great Escape. Here is hides next to a barn as a Nazi patrol rides by, before changing out of the uniform he has stolen

Steve McQueen is seen in behind-the-scenes footage of The Great Escape. Here is hides next to a barn as a Nazi patrol rides by, before changing out of the uniform he has stolen 

The behind-the-scenes footage offers a never-before-seen glimpse of how filming was carried out on set

The behind-the-scenes footage offers a never-before-seen glimpse of how filming was carried out on set

Camera crews can be seen setting up ahead of the fence stunt, considered to be one of the most famous motorcycle stunts ever performed in a movie

Camera crews can be seen setting up ahead of the fence stunt, considered to be one of the most famous motorcycle stunts ever performed in a movie

Footage of the dramatic stunt, now unearthed by Mr Gibbs, was filmed by his wife alongside some clips of the stuntmen on set and camera crews setting up for filming. 

Including a shot of Mr Gibbs and Mr Ekins dressed in Nazi uniform, which Mr Gibbs recalled he was ‘ashamed’ to be seen wearing – given the still ongoing sensitivity that remained in the area following WWII.   

Describing the footage, he said: ‘I had no idea at the time that the film would grow to be such a huge hit, I didn’t properly understand it until just recently when I was asked to speak at this event. 

‘I’ve only seen the film a couple of times, and in the years after the film I took a code of silence not to talk about it, to stop people asking too many questions. And so the behind-the-scenes footage was also put away.’  

Mr Gibbs will talk through the footage live on stage with Dan Snow during the commemorative event at Eventim Apollo Hammersmith on Sunday – which is also due to be broadcast live in around 350 UK cinemas. 

This two minute film will form a central part of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund’s national commemorative event – which will pay tribute to Great Escape veterans Dick Churchill and Jack Lyon who have both died in the last month.    

Dan Snow is due to host the 75th anniversary commemorative screening of The Great Escape film on Sunday. He will hear from veterans of the daring escape and will explore the history and science behind the operation with renowned historian Paul Beaver and Dr Hugh Hunt of the University of Cambridge

Dan Snow is due to host the 75th anniversary commemorative screening of The Great Escape film on Sunday. He will hear from veterans of the daring escape and will explore the history and science behind the operation with renowned historian Paul Beaver and Dr Hugh Hunt of the University of Cambridge

The famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle (pictured with its now-owner Dick Shepherd), ridden by Steve McQueen in the dramatic fence-jump scene, will make a rare appearance on stage

The famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle (pictured with its now-owner Dick Shepherd), ridden by Steve McQueen in the dramatic fence-jump scene, will make a rare appearance on stage

Britain’s Got Talent finalists The D-Day Darlings will perform classics from their album I’ll Remember You, such as The White Cliffs of Dover and Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree

Britain’s Got Talent finalists The D-Day Darlings will perform classics from their album I’ll Remember You, such as The White Cliffs of Dover and Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree

In 1941 Jack Lyon's bomber plane was struck by flak near Dusseldorf in Germany, it was revealed earlier this year

Pictured, Jack Lyon as a young RAF officer

This two minute film will form a central part of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund’s national commemorative event – which will pay tribute to Great Escape veterans Dick Churchill and Jack Lyon (who is pictured left and right) who have both died in the last month

At the event, Britain’s Got Talent finalists The D-Day Darlings will perform classics from their album I’ll Remember You, such as The White Cliffs of Dover and Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree, plus a specially created arrangement of the film’s iconic theme tune. 

The famous Triumph TR6 motorcycle, ridden by Steve McQueen in the dramatic fence-jump scene, will make a rare appearance on stage.

Dan Snow will hear from veterans of the daring escape and will explore the history and science behind the operation with renowned historian Paul Beaver and Dr Hugh Hunt of the University of Cambridge.

Audiences will also discover how Squadron Leader Roger ‘Big X’ Bushell’s ingenious plan inspired one of the most famous war films of all time. 

Directed by John Sturges, the film will be screened in stunning 4K and tells a fictionalised version of the real-life prisoner-of-war story.  

Deadly toll of escapees executed… and how WWII’s greatest PoW story got a Hollywood makeover

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland.

With the escape planned for the night of March 24, 1944, the PoWs built three 30ft deep tunnels, named Tom, Dick and Harry, so that if one was discovered by the German guards, they would not suspect that work was underway on two more.

Bushell intended to get more than 200 men through the tunnels, each wearing civilian clothes and possessing a complete range of forged papers and escape equipment.

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland 

In the spring of 1943, RAF Squadron Leader Roger Bushell conceived a plan for a major escape from the German Stalag Luft III Camp near Sagan, now Żagań in Poland 

To hide the earth dug from the tunnels, the prisoners attached pouches of the sand inside their trousers so that as they walked around, it would scatter.

The prisoners wore greatcoats to conceal the bulges made by the sand and were referred to as ‘penguins’ because of their supposed resemblance to the animal.

When the attempt began, it was discovered that Harry had come up short and instead of reaching into a nearby forest, the first man in fact emerged just short of the tree line, close to a guard tower. 

Plans for one man to leave every minute was reduced to 10 per hour.

The Great Escape starred Steve McQueen (pictured above) as Captain Virgil Hilts

The Great Escape starred Steve McQueen (pictured above) as Captain Virgil Hilts

In total, 76 men crawled through to initial freedom, but the 77th was spotted by a guard. In the hunt for the entrance one guard Charlie Pilz crawled through the tunnel but after becoming trapped at the other end called for help. 

The prisoners opened the entrance, revealing the location.

Of the escapees, three made it to safety, 73 were captured, and 50 of them executed.

… and the Hollywood film

The 1963 film The Great Escape was based on real events and, although some characters were fictitious, many were based on real people, or amalgams of several of those involved.

The film starred Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts, James Garner as Flight Lieutenant Robert Hendley and Richard Attenborough as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett, and was based on a book of the same name by Paul Brickhill.

Contrary to the film, no American PoWs were involved in the escape attempt, and there were no escapes by motorcycle or aircraft.

Hilts’ dash for the border by motorcycle was added by request of McQueen, who did the stunt riding himself except for the final jump.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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