Terence Steven McQueen (March 24, 1930 – November 7, 1980) was an
He was called "The King of Cool", whose "anti-hero" persona developed
at the height of the counterculture of the 1960s and made him a top
box-office draw of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy
Award nomination for his role in The Sand Pebbles. His other popular
films include The Cincinnati Kid, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt,
The Getaway, and Papillon, as well as the all-star ensemble films The
Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, and The Towering Inferno. In
1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world, although he
did not act in films again for four years. McQueen was combative with
directors and producers, but his popularity placed him in high demand
and enabled him to command large salaries.
1 Early life
1.1 Military service
2.1 The 1950s
2.2 The 1960s
2.3 The 1970s
2.4 Missed roles
3 Stunts, motor racing and flying
4 Personal life
4.1 Relationships and friendships
4.3 Manson connection
4.4 Charitable causes
5 Illness and death
6.2 Ford commercials
8 Awards and honors
12 Further reading
13 External links
Terence Steven McQueen was born on March 24, 1930, at St. Francis
Hospital in Beech Grove, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis.
His father, William Terence McQueen, was a stunt pilot for a
barnstorming flying circus who left McQueen's mother, Julia Ann
(a.k.a. Julian; née Crawford),:9 six months after meeting
her. Several biographers have stated that Julia Ann was an
alcoholic.:72:7–8 Unable to cope with caring for a small
child, she left him with her parents (Victor and Lillian) in Slater,
Missouri, in 1933. As the
Great Depression set in shortly thereafter,
McQueen and his grandparents moved in with Lillian's brother Claude at
his farm in Slater. McQueen was raised Catholic.
McQueen expressed having good memories of living on the farm, noting
that his Uncle Claude "was a very good man, very strong, very fair. I
learned a lot from him." Claude gave Steve a red tricycle on his
fourth birthday, a gift that McQueen subsequently credited with
sparking his early interest in racing. At age eight, he was taken
Indianapolis by his mother, who lived there with her new husband.
McQueen's departure from his uncle's home was marked by a very special
memento given to him on that occasion. "The day I left the farm", he
recalled, "Uncle Claude gave me a personal going-away present—a gold
pocket watch, with an inscription inside the case." The inscription
read, "To Steve – who has been a son to me."
Dyslexic and partly deaf due to a childhood ear infection, Steve
did not adjust well to his new life. His new stepfather beat him to
such an extent that at age nine, he left home to live on the
streets. Soon he was running with a street gang and committing acts
of petty crime. Unable to control his behavior, his mother sent him
back to Slater. When he was 12, Julia wrote to Claude, asking that her
son be returned to her again to live in her new home in Los Angeles,
California. Julia's second marriage had ended in divorce, and she had
married a third time.
By McQueen's own account, he and his new stepfather "locked horns
immediately." McQueen recalls him being "a prime son of a #####"
who was not averse to using his fists on McQueen and his mother. As
McQueen began to rebel again he was sent back to live with Claude a
final time. At age 14 he left Claude's farm without saying goodbye
and joined a circus for a short time, then drifted back to his
mother and stepfather in Los Angeles, resuming his life as a gang
member and petty criminal. McQueen was caught stealing hubcaps by
police, who handed him over to his stepfather, who beat him severely,
ending the fight by throwing McQueen down a flight of stairs. McQueen
looked up at his stepfather and said, "You lay your stinkin' hands on
me again and I swear, I'll kill ya."
After the incident McQueen's stepfather persuaded his mother to sign a
court order stating that McQueen was incorrigible, remanding him to
Boys Republic in Chino. Here, McQueen began
to change and mature. He was not popular with the other boys at first:
"Say the boys had a chance once a month to load into a bus and go into
town to see a movie. And they lost out because one guy in the bungalow
didn't get his work done right. Well, you can pretty well guess
they're gonna have something to say about that. I paid my dues with
the other fellows quite a few times. I got my lumps, no doubt about
it. The other guys in the bungalow had ways of paying you back for
interfering with their well-being." Ultimately McQueen became a
role model when he was elected to the Boys Council, a group who set
the rules and regulations governing the boys' lives. He eventually
Boys Republic at age 16. When he later became famous he
regularly returned to talk to the boys and retained a lifelong
At 16 McQueen left Chino Hills and returned to his mother, now living
in Greenwich Village, New York. He then met two sailors from the
Merchant Marine and volunteered to serve on a ship bound for the
Dominican Republic. Once there he abandoned his new post,
eventually being employed in a brothel. Afterwards McQueen made his
Texas and drifted from job to job. He worked as a roughneck, a
carnival barker and a lumberjack.
In 1947, McQueen joined the
United States Marine Corps
United States Marine Corps and was
promoted to private first class and assigned to an armored unit.
Initially he reverted to his prior rebelliousness and was demoted to
private seven times. He took an unauthorized absence by failing to
return after a weekend pass expired, staying with a girlfriend for two
weeks until the shore patrol caught him. He resisted arrest and spent
41 days in the brig. After this he resolved to focus his energies
on self-improvement and embraced the Marines' discipline. He saved the
lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them
from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea. He was
assigned to the honor guard, responsible for guarding the yacht of US
President Harry Truman. McQueen served until 1950, when he was
honorably discharged. He later said he had enjoyed his time in the
Steve McQueen (age 29) in
The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery
The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959).
In 1952, with financial assistance provided by the G.I. Bill, McQueen
began studying acting in New York at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood
Playhouse. Reportedly, he delivered his first dialogue on a theatre
stage in a 1952 play produced by
Yiddish theatre star Molly Picon.
McQueen's character spoke one brief line: "Alts iz farloyrn." ("All is
lost."). During this time, he also studied acting with Stella
Adler in whose class he met Gia Scala.
McQueen began to earn money by competing in weekend motorcycle races
at Long Island City Raceway and purchased the first of many
Harley-Davidson and Triumph. He soon became an
excellent racer, and went home each weekend with about $100 in
winnings (equivalent to $900 in 2017). He appeared as a musical
judge in an episode of ABC's Jukebox Jury, that aired in the
McQueen had minor roles in productions including Peg o' My Heart, The
Member of the Wedding, and Two Fingers of Pride. He made his Broadway
debut in 1955 in the play A Hatful of Rain, starring Ben Gazzara.
In late 1955, at the age of 25, McQueen left New York and headed for
California, where he moved into a house on Vestal Avenue in the Echo
Park area, seeking acting jobs in Hollywood. When McQueen appeared
in a two-part television
Westinghouse Studio One
Westinghouse Studio One presentation entitled
The Defenders, Hollywood manager Hilly Elkins (who managed McQueen's
first wife, Neile) took note of him and decided that B-movies
would be a good place for the young actor to make his mark. He landed
his first film role in a bit part in Somebody Up There Likes Me,
Robert Wise and starring Paul Newman. McQueen was
subsequently hired for the films Never Love a Stranger,
The Blob (his
first leading role) which depicts a flesh eating amoeba-like space
creature, and The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.
McQueen's first breakout role came on television. He appeared on Dale
NBC western series, Tales of Wells Fargo. Elkins, then
McQueen's manager, successfully lobbied Vincent M. Fennelly, producer
of the western series Trackdown, to have McQueen read for the part of
bounty hunter Josh Randall in a Trackdown episode. McQueen appeared as
Randall in the episode, cast opposite series lead and old New York
motorcycle racing buddy Robert Culp. McQueen then filmed the pilot
episode, which became the series titled Wanted: Dead or Alive, which
CBS in September 1958.
Virginia Gregg with McQueen in Wanted: Dead or Alive, 1959
In the interviews in the DVD release of Wanted, Trackdown's star
Robert Culp claims credit for bringing McQueen to Hollywood and
landing him the part of Randall. He said he taught McQueen the "art of
the fast-draw", adding that, on the second day of filming, McQueen
beat him. McQueen became a household name as a result of this
series. Randall's special holster held a sawed-off .44-40
Winchester rifle nicknamed the "Mare's Leg" instead of the six-gun
carried by the typical Western character, although the cartridges in
the gunbelt were dummy .45-70, chosen because they "looked tougher".
Coupled with the generally negative image of the bounty hunter (noted
in the three-part DVD special on the background of the series) this
added to the anti-hero image infused with mystery and detachment that
made this show stand out from the typical TV Western. The 94 episodes
that ran from 1958 until early 1961 kept McQueen steadily employed,
and he became a fixture at the renowned
Iverson Movie Ranch
Iverson Movie Ranch in
Chatsworth, Los Angeles, California, where much of the outdoor action
for Wanted: Dead or Alive was shot.
At 29, McQueen got a significant break when
Frank Sinatra removed
Sammy Davis, Jr., from the film
Never So Few
Never So Few after Davis supposedly
made some mildly negative remarks about Sinatra in a radio interview,
and Davis' role went to McQueen. Sinatra saw something special in
McQueen and ensured that the young actor got plenty of closeups in a
role that earned McQueen favorable reviews. McQueen's character, Bill
Ringa, was never more comfortable than when driving at high speed—in
this case in a jeep—or handling a switchblade or a tommy gun.
After Never So Few, the film's director
John Sturges cast McQueen in
his next movie, promising to "give him the camera". The Magnificent
Seven (1960), in which he played Vin Tanner and co-starred with Yul
Brynner, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn,
Charles Bronson and James Coburn,
became McQueen's first major hit and led to his withdrawal from
Wanted: Dead or Alive. McQueen's focused portrayal of the taciturn
second lead catapulted his career. His added touches in many of the
shots, such as shaking a shotgun round before loading it, repeatedly
checking his gun while in the background of a shot, and wiping his hat
rim, annoyed costar Brynner, who protested that McQueen was trying to
steal scenes. (In his autobiography,
Eli Wallach reports
struggling to conceal his amusement while watching the filming of the
funeral-procession scene where Brynner's and McQueen's characters
first meet: Brynner was furious at McQueen's shotgun-round-shake,
which effectively diverted the viewer's attention to McQueen.) Brynner
refused to draw his gun in the same scene with McQueen, not wanting
his character outdrawn.
McQueen played a lead role in the next big Sturges film, 1963's The
Great Escape, Hollywood's fictional depiction of the true story of a
historical mass escape from a World War II
POW camp, Stalag Luft III.
Insurance concerns prevented McQueen from performing the film's
notable motorcycle leap, which was done by his friend and fellow cycle
enthusiast Bud Ekins, who resembled McQueen from a distance. When
Johnny Carson later tried to congratulate McQueen for the jump during
a broadcast of The Tonight Show, McQueen said, "It wasn't me. That was
Bud Ekins." This film established McQueen's box-office clout and
secured his status as a superstar.
In 1963 McQueen starred in
Love with the Proper Stranger
Love with the Proper Stranger with Natalie
Wood. He later appeared as the titular Nevada Smith, a character from
Harold Robbins' novel, The Carpetbaggers, portrayed by
Alan Ladd two
years earlier in a movie version of that novel.
Nevada Smith was an
enormously successful Western action adventure film, that also
Karl Malden and Suzanne Pleshette. After starring in 1965's
The Cincinnati Kid as a poker player, McQueen earned his only Academy
Award nomination in 1966 for his role as an engine-room sailor in The
Sand Pebbles, in which he stars opposite
Candice Bergen and Richard
Attenborough (with whom he had previously worked in The Great
He followed his Oscar nomination with 1968's Bullitt, one of his
best-known films, which co-starred Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn,
and Don Gordon. It featured an unprecedented (and endlessly imitated)
auto chase through San Francisco. Although McQueen did do the driving
that appeared in closeup, this was about 10% of what is seen in the
film's car chase. The rest of the driving by McQueen's character was
done by stunt drivers
Bud Ekins and Loren Janes. The antagonist's
black Dodge Charger was driven by veteran stunt driver Bill Hickman;
McQueen, his stunt drivers and Hickman spent several days before the
scene was shot practicing high-speed, close quarters driving.
Bullitt went so far over budget that
Warner Brothers cancelled the
contract on the rest of his films, seven in all.
Bullitt became a huge box-office success,
Warner Brothers tried
to woo him back, but he refused, and his next film was made with an
independent studio and released by United Artists. For this film,
McQueen went for a change of image, playing a debonair role as a
wealthy executive in The Thomas Crown Affair with
Faye Dunaway in
1968. The following year, he made the Southern period piece The
In 1971 McQueen starred in the poorly received auto-racing drama Le
Mans. Then came
Junior Bonner in 1972, a story of an aging rodeo
rider. He worked for director
Sam Peckinpah again with the leading
role in The Getaway, where he met future wife Ali MacGraw. He followed
this with a physically demanding role as a
Devil's Island prisoner in
1973's Papillon, featuring
Dustin Hoffman as his character's tragic
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones referred to McQueen in the song "Star Star"
from the album
Goats Head Soup
Goats Head Soup for which an amused McQueen reportedly
gave personal permission. The lines were "Star ######, star
######, star ######, star ###### star/ Yes you are, yes you are, yes
Ali MacGraw got mad with you/For givin' head to Steve
By the time of The Getaway, McQueen was the world's highest-paid
actor, but after 1974's The Towering Inferno, co-starring with his
long-time professional rival
Paul Newman and reuniting him with
Dunaway, became a tremendous box-office success, McQueen all but
disappeared from the public eye, to focus on motorcycle racing and
traveling around the country in a motor home and on his vintage Indian
motorcycles. He did not return to acting until 1978 with An Enemy of
the People, playing against type as a bearded, bespectacled
19th-century doctor in this adaptation of a
Henrik Ibsen play. The
film was never properly released theatrically.
His last two films were loosely based on true stories: Tom Horn, a
Western adventure about a former Army scout-turned professional gunman
who worked for the big cattle ranchers hunting down rustlers, and
later hanged for murder in the shooting death of a sheepherder, and
The Hunter, an urban action movie about a modern-day bounty hunter,
both released in 1980.
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McQueen was offered the lead male role in Breakfast at Tiffany's, but
was unable to accept due to his Wanted: Dead or Alive contract (the
role went to George Peppard). He turned down parts in Ocean's
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (his attorneys and agents
could not agree with Paul Newman's attorneys and agents on top
billing), The Driver, Apocalypse Now,:172 California
Split, Dirty Harry, A Bridge Too Far, The French Connection (he
did not want to do another cop film), and Close Encounters of
the Third Kind.
According to director
John Frankenheimer and actor
James Garner in
bonus interviews for the DVD of the film Grand Prix, McQueen was
Frankenheimer's first choice for the lead role of American Formula One
race car driver Pete Aron. Frankenheimer was unable to meet with
McQueen to offer him the role and sent Edward Lewis, his business
partner and the producer of Grand Prix. McQueen and Lewis instantly
clashed, the meeting was a disaster, and the role went to Garner.
Steven Spielberg said McQueen was his first choice for the
character of Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
According to Spielberg, in a documentary on the Close Encounters DVD,
Spielberg met him at a bar, where McQueen drank beer after beer.
Before leaving, McQueen told Spielberg that he could not accept the
role because he was unable to cry on cue. Spielberg offered to
take the crying scene out of the story, but McQueen demurred, saying
that it was the best scene in the script. The role eventually went to
William Friedkin wanted to cast McQueen as the lead in the
action/thriller film Sorcerer (1977). Sorcerer was to be filmed
primarily on location in the Dominican Republic, but McQueen did not
want to be separated from
Ali MacGraw for the duration of the shoot.
McQueen then asked Friedkin to let MacGraw act as a producer, so she
could be present during principal photography. Friedkin would not
agree to this condition, and cast
Roy Scheider instead of McQueen.
Friedkin later remarked that not casting McQueen hurt the film's
performance at the box office.
Jeremy Duns revealed that
Steve McQueen was considered
for the lead role in a film adaptation of The Diamond Smugglers,
James Bond creator Ian Fleming; McQueen would play John
Blaize, a secret agent gone undercover to infiltrate a
diamond-smuggling ring in South Africa. There were complications with
the project which was eventually shelved, although a 1964 screenplay
Barbra Streisand were tentatively cast in The Gauntlet,
but the two did not get along due to a clash of egos. Both withdrew
from the project, and the lead roles were filled in by Clint Eastwood
and Sondra Locke.
McQueen expressed interest in the Rambo character in
First Blood when
David Morrell's novel appeared in 1972, but the producers rejected him
because of his age. He was offered the title role in The
Bodyguard (with Diana Ross) when it was proposed in 1976, but the film
did not reach production until years after McQueen's death.
Quigley Down Under
Quigley Down Under was in development as early as 1974, with McQueen
in consideration for the lead, but by the time production began in
1980, McQueen was ill and the project was scrapped until a decade
Tom Selleck starred. McQueen was offered the lead in
Raise the Titanic, but felt that the script was flat. He was under
Irwin Allen after appearing in
The Towering Inferno and
offered a part in a sequel in 1980, which he turned down. The film was
scrapped and Newman was brought in by Allen to make When Time Ran Out,
which was a box office bomb. McQueen died shortly after passing on The
Towering Inferno 2.
Stunts, motor racing and flying
McQueen with two forms of transportation - his horse, Doc, and his
Jaguar XKSS (1960)
McQueen was an avid motorcycle and race car enthusiast. When he had
the opportunity to drive in a movie, he performed many of his own
stunts, including some of the car chases in
Bullitt and the motorcycle
chase in The Great Escape. Although the jump over the fence in The
Great Escape was done by
Bud Ekins for insurance purposes, McQueen did
have considerable screen time riding his 650 cc Triumph TR6
Trophy motorcycle. It was difficult to find riders as skilled as
McQueen. At one point, using editing, McQueen is seen in a German
uniform chasing himself on another bike. Around half of the driving in
Bullitt was performed by Loren Janes.
John Sturges planned to make Day of the Champion, a
Formula One racing, but McQueen was busy with the delayed
The Sand Pebbles. They had a contract with the German Nürburgring,
John Frankenheimer shot scenes there for Grand Prix, the
reels were turned over to Sturges. Frankenheimer was ahead in
schedule, and the McQueen-Sturges project was called off.
McQueen considered being a professional race car driver. He had a
one-off outing in the
British Touring Car Championship
British Touring Car Championship in 1961,
driving a BMC
Mini at Brands Hatch, finishing third. In the 1970
12 Hours of Sebring
12 Hours of Sebring race,
Peter Revson and McQueen (driving with a
cast on his left foot from a motorcycle accident two weeks earlier)
won with a Porsche 908/02 in the three-litre class and missed winning
overall by 23 seconds to Mario Andretti/Ignazio Giunti/Nino Vaccarella
in a five-litre
Ferrari 512S.[not in citation given] This same
Porsche 908 was entered by his production company Solar Productions as
a camera car for Le Mans in the
1970 24 Hours of Le Mans
1970 24 Hours of Le Mans later that
year. McQueen wanted to drive a
Porsche 917 with
Jackie Stewart in
that race, but the film backers threatened to pull
their support if he did. Faced with the choice of driving for 24 hours
in the race or driving for the entire summer making the film, McQueen
opted for the latter.[not in citation given]
McQueen competed in off-road motorcycle racing, frequently running a
BSA Hornet. He was also set to co-drive in a
Triumph 2500 PI for
British Leyland team in the 1970 London-Mexico rally, but had to
turn it down due to movie commitments. His first off-road
motorcycle was a Triumph 500 cc, purchased from Ekins. McQueen raced
in many top off-road races on the West Coast, including the Baja 1000,
the Mint 400, and the Elsinore Grand Prix.
In 1964 McQueen and Ekins were part of a four-rider (plus one reserve)
first-ever official US team-entry into the Silver Vase category of the
International Six Days Trial, an Enduro-type off-road motorcycling
event held that year in Erfurt, East Germany. The 'A' team arrived
in England in late August to collect their mix of 649 cc and
490 cc twins from the Triumph factory before modifying them for
off-road use. Initially let down with transport arrangements by a
long-established English motorcycle dealer, Triumph dealer H&L
Motors stepped-in to provide a suitable vehicle. On arrival in
Germany, the team, with their English temporary manager, were
surprised to find a Vase 'B' team, comprising expat Americans living
in Europe, had entered themselves privately to ride European-sourced
McQueen's ISDT competition number was 278, which was based on the
trials starting order. Both teams crashed repeatedly.
McQueen retired due to irreparable crash damage, and Ekins
withdrew with a broken leg, both on day three (Wednesday). Only one
member of the 'B' team finished the six-day event. UK monthly
Motorcycle Sport commented: "Riding Triumph twins...[the
team] rode everywhere with great dash, if not in admirable style,
falling off frequently and obviously out for six days' sport without
too many worries about who was going to win (they knew it would not be
He was inducted in the
Off-road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1978. In
1971, McQueen's Solar Productions funded the classic motorcycle
documentary On Any Sunday, in which McQueen is featured, along with
Mert Lawwill and Malcolm Smith. The same year, he also
appeared on the cover of
Sports Illustrated magazine riding a
Husqvarna dirt bike.
McQueen designed a motorsports bucket seat, for which a patent was
issued in 1971.:93
In a segment filmed for The Ed Sullivan Show, McQueen drove Sullivan
around a desert area in a dune buggy at high speed. Afterward,
Sullivan said, "That was a 'helluva' ride!"
McQueen owned a number of classic motorcycles, as well as several
exotic sports cars, including:
Porsche 917, Porsche 908, and
Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans
Porsche 911S (used in the opening sequence of the Le Mans film)
Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso 
Ferrari 275GTB/4 
Jaguar XKSS (right-hand drive) (now on exhibit at the Petersen
Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California)
Porsche 356 Speedster
Porsche 356 Speedster 
Siata 208s (McQueen replaced the
Siata badges with
and called it his "little Ferrari") 
Mini Cooper-S (McQueen had the car customized by Lee Brown with
changes including a single foglight, a wood dash, a recessed antenna
and a custom brown paint job)
In spite of multiple attempts, McQueen was never able to purchase the
Ford Mustang GT 390 he drove in Bullitt, which featured a modified
drivetrain that suited McQueen's driving style. One of the two
Mustangs used in the film was badly damaged, judged beyond repair, and
believed to have been scrapped until it surfaced in Mexico in
2017, while the other one, which McQueen attempted to purchase in
1977, is hidden from the public eye. At the 2018 North American
International Auto Show the GT 390 was displayed in connection with
Ford Mustang "Bullitt" in its current non-restored
McQueen also flew and owned, among other aircraft, a 1945 Stearman,
tail number N3188, (his student number in reform school), a 1946 Piper
J-3 Cub, and an award-winning 1931 Pitcairn PA-8 bip, flown in the US
Mail Service by famed World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. They
were hangared at
Santa Paula Airport
Santa Paula Airport an hour northwest of Hollywood,
where he lived his final days.
Relationships and friendships
McQueen (age 30) and then-wife
Neile Adams in the "Man from the South"
episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, 1960
McQueen's mug shot booking photographs for DWI in Alaska (1972, age
While still attending Stella Adler's school in New York, McQueen dated
Gia Scala. On November 2, 1956, he married actress Neile
Adams, with whom he had a daughter, Terry Leslie (June 5, 1959 –
March 19, 1998,) and a son, Chad (born December 28, 1960).
McQueen and Adams divorced in 1972. In her autobiography, My
Husband, My Friend, Adams stated that she had an abortion in 1971,
when their marriage was on the rocks.
On August 31, 1973, McQueen married actress Ali MacGraw, his co-star
in The Getaway, but this marriage ended in a divorce in 1978.
MacGraw suffered a miscarriage during their marriage. Friends
would later claim that MacGraw was the one true love of McQueen's
life: "He was madly in love with her until the day he died." On
January 16, 1980, less than a year before his death, McQueen married
model Barbara Minty. One of McQueen's four grandchildren is actor
Steven R. McQueen
Steven R. McQueen (who is best known for playing Jeremy Gilbert in The
In 1971–1972, while separated from Adams and prior to meeting
MacGraw, McQueen had a relationship with
Junior Bonner co-star Barbara
Leigh, which included her pregnancy and an abortion.
Lauren Hutton has said that she had an affair with
McQueen in the early 1960s.
Mamie Van Doren
Mamie Van Doren has also claimed
to have had an affair with McQueen and tried hallucinogens with
In 1973 McQueen was one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Bruce Lee
along with James Coburn, Bruce's brother, Robert Lee, Peter Chin,
Danny Inosanto, and Taky Kimura.
After discovering a mutual interest in racing, McQueen and Great
James Garner became good friends. Garner lived downhill
from McQueen, who recalled:
"I could see that Jim was neat around his place. Flowers trimmed, no
papers in the yard... grass always cut. So to piss him off, I'd start
lobbing empty beer cans down the hill into his driveway. He'd have his
drive all spic 'n' span when he left the house, then get home to find
all these empty cans. Took him a long time to figure out it was
McQueen's third wife,
Barbara Minty McQueen, in her book Steve
McQueen: The Last Mile, writes of McQueen's becoming an Evangelical
Christian toward the end of his life. This was due in part to the
influences of his flying instructor, Sammy Mason, Mason's son Pete,
and Barbara herself. McQueen attended his local church, Ventura
Missionary Church, and was visited by evangelist
Billy Graham shortly
before his death.
McQueen followed a daily two-hour exercise regimen, involving
weightlifting and, at one point, running 5 miles (8 km), seven
days a week. McQueen learned the martial art
Tang Soo Do from
ninth-degree black belt Pat E. Johnson.
According to William Claxton, McQueen smoked marijuana almost every
day; biographer Marc Eliot stated that McQueen used a large amount of
cocaine in the early 1970s. He was also a heavy cigarette smoker.
McQueen sometimes drank to excess, and was arrested for driving while
intoxicated in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1972.
Two months after
Charles Manson incited the murder of five people,
including McQueen's friends
Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, the media
reported police had found a hit list with McQueen's name on it, a
result of McQueen's company having rejected a Manson screenplay.
According to his first wife, McQueen began carrying a handgun at all
times in public, including at Sebring's funeral. Sebring had
invited McQueen to the party at Tate's house on the night of the
murders; according to McQueen, he invited a girlfriend to come along
but she instead suggested an intimate night at home.
McQueen had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk
from studios when agreeing to do a film, such as electric razors,
jeans, and other items. It was later discovered McQueen donated these
things to the
Boys Republic reformatory school, where he spent
time in his teen years. McQueen made occasional visits to the school
to spend time with the students, often to play pool and speak about
his experiences.
Illness and death
McQueen developed a persistent cough in 1978. He gave up cigarettes
and underwent antibiotic treatments without improvement. Shortness of
breath grew more pronounced and on December 22, 1979, after filming
The Hunter, a biopsy revealed pleural mesothelioma, a cancer
associated with asbestos exposure for which there is no known cure. A
few months later, McQueen gave a medical interview in which he blamed
his condition on asbestos exposure. McQueen believed that asbestos
used in movie sound stage insulation and race-drivers' protective
suits and helmets could have been involved, but he thought it more
likely that his illness was a direct result of massive exposure while
removing asbestos lagging from pipes aboard a troop ship while he was
in the Marines.
By February 1980, evidence of widespread metastasis was found. He
tried to keep the condition a secret, but on March 11, 1980, the
National Enquirer disclosed that he had "terminal cancer". In July
McQueen traveled to Rosarito Beach, Mexico, for unconventional
treatment after US doctors told him they could do nothing to prolong
his life. Controversy arose over the trip, because McQueen sought
treatment from William Donald Kelley, who was promoting a variation of
Gerson therapy that used coffee enemas, frequent washing with
shampoos, daily injections of fluid containing live cells from cattle
and sheep, massage, and laetrile, an anticancer drug available in
Mexico, but described as canonical quackery by mainstream
scientists. McQueen paid for Kelley's treatments by
himself in cash payments which were said to have been upwards of
$40,000 per month ($119,000 today) during his three-month stay in
Mexico. Kelley's only medical license (until revoked in 1976) had been
for orthodontics. Kelley's methods created a sensation in the
traditional and tabloid press when it became known that McQueen was a
While in Mexico
Steve McQueen met with Billy Graham. Graham gave him
his personal Bible (a Bible he was holding when he died).
McQueen returned to the US in early October. Despite metastasis of the
cancer throughout McQueen's body, Kelley publicly announced that
McQueen would be completely cured and return to normal life. McQueen's
condition soon worsened and "huge" tumors developed in his
In late October 1980, McQueen flew to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua,
Mexico, to have an abdominal tumor on his liver (weighing around five
pounds) removed, despite warnings from his U.S. doctors that the tumor
was inoperable and his heart could not withstand the
surgery.:212–213 McQueen checked into a small Juárez clinic
under the assumed name of "Sam Shepard", where the doctors and staff
were unaware of his actual identity.
On November 7, 1980, McQueen died of cardiac arrest at 3:45 a.m.
at the Juárez clinic, 12 hours after surgery to remove or reduce
numerous metastatic tumors in his neck and abdomen.:212–213 He
was 50 years old. According to the El Paso Times, McQueen died in
Leonard DeWitt of the Ventura Missionary Church presided over
McQueen's memorial service. McQueen was cremated and his ashes
were spread in the Pacific Ocean.
International Driver's License
McQueen remains a popular star, and his estate limits the licensing of
his image to avoid the commercial saturation experienced by other dead
celebrities. As of 2007, McQueen's estate entered the top 10 of
highest-earning dead celebrities.
McQueen was inducted into the
Hall of Great Western Performers in
April 2007, in a ceremony at the National Cowboy & Western
In November 1999, McQueen was inducted into the
Motorcycle Hall of
Fame. He was credited with contributions including financing the film
On Any Sunday, supporting a team of off-road riders, and enhancing the
public image of motorcycling overall.
A film based on unfinished storyboards and notes developed by McQueen
before his death was slated for production by McG's production company
Wonderland Sound and Vision. Yucatán is described as an "epic
adventure heist" film, scheduled for release in 2013 but still
unreleased in February 2016. Team Downey, the production
Robert Downey, Jr.
Robert Downey, Jr. and his wife Susan Downey, expressed an
interest in developing Yucatán for the screen.
The Beech Grove, Indiana, Public Library formally dedicated the Steve
McQueen Birthplace Collection on March 16, 2010 to commemorate the
80th anniversary of McQueen's birth on March 24, 1930.
TV Guide ranked McQueen 26th on its "50 Sexiest Stars of All
In 2012, McQueen was posthumously honored with the Warren Zevon
Tribute Award by the
Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO).
Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans, a 2015 documentary, examines the
actor's quest to create and star in the 1971 auto-racing film Le Mans.
Chad McQueen and former wife
Neile Adams are among those
On September 28, 2017, there was a selected showing in some theaters
of his life story and spiritual quest,
Steve McQueen - American
Icon. There was an encore presentation on October 10, 2017.
The film received mostly positive reviews. Kenneth R. Morefield
of Christianity Today said it "offers a timeless reminder that even
those among us living the most celebrated lives often long for the
peace and sense of purpose that only God can provide." Michael
Foust of Wordslingers called it "one of the most powerful and
inspiring documentaries I’ve ever seen."
The Academy Film Archive houses the Steve McQueen-Neile Adams
Collection, which consists of personal prints and home movies.
In 1998 director Paul Street created a commercial for the Ford Puma.
Footage was shot in modern-day San Francisco, set to the theme music
from Bullitt. Archive footage of McQueen was used to digitally
superimpose him driving and exiting the car in settings reminiscent of
the film. The Puma shares the same number plate of the classic
fastback Mustang used in Bullitt, and as he parks in the garage (next
to the Mustang), he pauses and looks meaningfully at a motorcycle
tucked in the corner, similar to that used in The Great Escape.
In 2005, Ford used his likeness again, in a commercial for the 2005
Mustang. In the commercial, a farmer builds a winding racetrack, which
he circles in the 2005 Mustang. Out of the cornfield comes Steve
McQueen. The farmer tosses his keys to McQueen, who drives off in the
new Mustang. McQueen's likeness was created using a body double (Dan
Holsten) and digital editing. Ford secured the rights to McQueen's
likeness from the actor's estate licensing agent, GreenLight, for an
undisclosed sum.
At the Detroit Auto Show in January 2018, Ford unveiled the new 2019
Mustang Bullitt. The company called on McQueen's granddaughter,
actress Molly McQueen, to make the announcement. After a brief rundown
of the tribute car's particulars, a short film was shown in which
Molly was introduced to the actual
Bullitt Mustang, a 1968 Mustang
Fastback with a 390 cubic-inch engine and a four-speed manual gearbox.
That car has been in possession of the same family since 1974 and
hidden away from the public until now, when it was driven out from
under the press stand and up the center aisle of Ford's booth to much
The blue-tinted sunglasses (
Persol 714) worn by McQueen in the 1968
movie The Thomas Crown Affair sold at a Bonhams & Butterfields
Los Angeles for $70,200 in 2006. One of his
motorcycles, a 1937 Crocker, sold for a world-record price of $276,500
at the same auction. McQueen's 1963 metallic-brown
Ferrari 250 GT
Lusso Berlinetta sold for US$2.31 million at auction on August 16,
2007. Except for three motorcycles sold with other memorabilia in
2006, most of McQueen's collection of 130 motorcycles was sold
four years after his death. The 1970
Porsche 911S purchased
while making the film Le Mans and appearing in the opening sequence
was sold at auction in August 2011 for $1.375 million. The Rolex
Explorer II, Reference 1655, known as
Steve McQueen in the
horology collectors' world, the
Rolex Submariner, Reference 5512,
which McQueen was often photographed wearing in private moments, sold
for $234,000 at auction on June 11, 2009, a world-record price for the
reference. McQueen was left-handed and wore the watch on his
right wrist. From 1995 to 2011, McQueen's red 1957 Chevrolet
fuel-injected convertible was displayed at the Petersen Automotive
Los Angeles in a special Cars of
Steve McQueen exhibit. It
is now in the collection of actress
Ruth Buzzi and her husband Kent
McQueen was a sponsored ambassador for Heuer watches. In the 1970 film
Le Mans, he famously wore a blue-faced Monaco 1133B Caliber 11
Automatic, which led to its cult status among watch collectors. His
sold for $87,600 at auction on June 11, 2009. Tag Heuer continues
to promote its Monaco range with McQueen’s image.
From 2009, Triumph Motorcycles Ltd, licensed by his estate, marketed a
line of clothing inspired by McQueen's association with their brand,
particularly his 1964 ISDT participation.
British heritage clothing brand
J. Barbour and Sons
J. Barbour and Sons created a Steve
McQueen collection, based on his ownership of a Barbour International
Steve McQueen was the second album by English pop band Prefab Sprout,
which was released in June 1985. It was released in the United States
under the title Two Wheels Good due to a legal conflict with McQueen's
Steve McQueen filmography
Awards and honors
(1967) Nominated – Best Actor in a Leading Role in The Sand Pebbles
Golden Globe Awards
(1964) Nominated – Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama in Love with
the Proper Stranger
(1967) Nominated – Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama in The Sand
(1970) Nominated – Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
in The Reivers
(1974) Nominated – Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama in Papillon
Moscow International Film Festival
(1963) – Won - Best Actor in The Great Escape
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McQueen, Terrill. Steve McQueen: The Last Mile', (Dalton Watson, 2006)
Terrill, Marshall. Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool,
(Dalton Watson, 2010)
Terrill, Marshall. Steve McQueen: The Life and Legacy of a Hollywood
Icon, (Triumph Books, 2010)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Steve McQueen.
Steve McQueen on IMDb
Steve McQueen at the
Internet Broadway Database
Internet Broadway Database
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Steve McQueen discography at Discogs
Steve McQueen at Find a Grave
FBI Records: The Vault - Terrence Steven (Steve) McQueen at
Steve McQueen at Virtual History
Rare Photos of the King of Cool – slideshow at Life magazine
Bell System Film "A Family Affair", McQueen's debut, at The AT&T
The Great Escape - New publication with private photos of the shooting
& documents of 2nd unit cameraman Walter Riml
Photos of the filming The Great Escape,
Steve McQueen on the set
Photos and commentary on
Steve McQueen shooting an episode of Wanted:
Dead or Alive on the Iverson Movie Ranch
Iverson Movie Ranch: History, vintage photos.
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