The Man. The Legend. “The King of Cool.” For decades, Steve McQueen has captured our hearts and imaginations. On screen the actor possessed a steely determination and willfulness. Behind the scenes, he was perhaps the world’s most insecure and contradictory hero.
In my new book, "Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon." I unearthed many never-before-told stories about the acting legend. Here are 10 facts I unearthed.
1. That his childhood was even more horrific than I had suspected. McQueen’s childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood could easily pose as an American copy of a Charles Dickens story.
2. His father William McQueen was not a barnstorming pilot but a low level grunt in the Merchant Marines. Steve was on the cusp of stardom with "Wanted: Dead or Alive" when William died of cirrhosis of the liver in November 1958. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Long Beach, California.
3. The actor has a 70-year-old half-sister living in the Midwest named Teri McQueen. She is the result of a relationship between William McQueen and Alma Doris Moody. Teri attempted to contact her famous half-brother on the set of "Bullitt," but was rebuffed.
4. His affair with famed burlesque dancer Candy Barr was one of hundreds of flings he had despite a successful 15-year marriage to Broadway dancer Neile Adams. McQueen’s go-go lifestyle also included sexual trysts with actresses, groupies, professional party dolls, housewives, hitchhikers and fans, who were all fair game.
5. McQueen narrowly avoided death the night the night of Aug.t 8, 1969, when Charles Manson and his band of hippie followers murdered five people, including friends Sharon Tate and hairstylist Jay Sebring. According to accused murderer Susan Atkins, the Family had planned on continuing their killing spree and kept a celebrity hit list. McQueen received star billing along with Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
6. His movies ("The Magnificent Seven," "The Great Escape," "The Cincinnati Kid," "The Sand Pebbles," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Bullitt, "The Getaway," "Papillon" and "The Towering Inferno") grossed approximately half a billion dollars during his reign as cinema’s "King of Cool"
7. The box-office champ also turned down several other successful movies that went on to become cinema classics. The list includes "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," "Ocean’s Eleven," "In Cold Blood," "Butch Cassidy" and the Sundance Kid," "Dirty Harry," "Play Misty for Me," "The French Connection," "First Blood," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," "The Bodyguard," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Apocalypse Now."
8. Pit-bull attorney Arthur Crowley compiled a 12-inch thick dossier of career-ending information on McQueen for producer Robert Evans when McQueen wanted to adopt Evans and Ali MacGraw’s son, Joshua. Evans has remained mum on the subject for four decades.
9. McQueen found peace, love and contentment near the end of his life when he became a born-again Christian and married Barbara Jo Minty, a model nearly half his age.
10. Thirty years after his death, Steve McQueen is the most emulated actor in Hollywood today.