Steve McQueen's Interesting Facts

1 McQueen was born on March 24 (1930), the same day when 76 Allied prisoners of war begin breaking out of the German camp Stalag Luft III in 1944, during World War II, which later on became the basis of The Great Escape (1963) where McQueen plays the group leader who planned the breakout.
2 McQueen was cremated and a memorial service was held at his home with a bi-plane flyover by his flying buddies. There were so many flowers and cards from his fans put on his likeness at the Hollywoo Wax Museum, the wax statue had to be put in storage to prevent damage from the tributes.
3 McQueen died from mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. It is assumed he was exposed to race driver suits that used asbestos for protection from car fires and movie soundstage insulation.
4 During the filming in "Bullit" where the giant airliner taxis just above McQueen, observers were shocked that no double was used. Asked if the producers couldn't have found a dummy, the actor wryly replied, "They did.".
5 Acting teacher Sanford Meisner said of fledgling actor McQueen: He was an original - both tough and childlike, as if he'd been through everything, but he had preserved a basic innocence.".
6 Although McQueen had problems with authority in the strict MarineCorps and served a tough 41 days in the brig for a 21 day AWOL incident, he was discharged honorably.
7 In 1966 Steve McQueen appeared on the TV show "What's My Line?".
8 After his first meeting with director Robert Wise for his first film role in "Somebody Up There Likes Me,"The director referred to him as "just a kook in a beanie.".
9 He was a rebellious teenager, didn't get along with his stepfather, and had several thefts on his record. In 1944 his parents placed him in the California Junior Republic for Boys at Chino. In later years he referred to his stay at Chino as 'the best thing that ever happened to me' and 'they straightened me out there.'.
10 Dick Powell, head of Four Star Productions that gave the green light to Steve's western series: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958), was originally concerned about Steve continuing in the lead after the pilot sold because the actor was not big or tall enough to be believable as a roughhewn bounty hunter and did not know how to ride a horse. Powell changed his mind when he saw McQueen's charismatic performance in the early rushes of the westerns's first episode.
11 Steve McQueen appeared at least three times on the big screen with his good friend, Don Gordon: "Bullitt"(1968), "Papillon" (1973) and "The Towering Inferno" (1974).
12 He ran away from home and worked on ships, as an oil field labourer and fairground barker.
13 A troublesome teenager, he spent 5 years in a Californian reformatory.
14 He was brought up by his grandparents.
15 Had a younger paternal half sister, Terri McQueen, whom he never met.
16 Cousin of Janice McQueen Ward.
17 Turned down a role in A Bridge Too Far (1977) because he only wanted top billing roles, not all-star assembled projects.
18 Former longtime girlfriend, Barbara Leigh, wrote about their relationship in her book "The King, McQueen, and the Love Machine.".
19 On 21 March 1967, three days before his 37th birthday, he became the 153rd star to put his hand prints and footprints on the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater.
20 Turned down Ocean's 11 (1960) on the advice of his friend Hedda Hopper, who told him to be his own man rather than Frank Sinatra's "flunky".
21 Turned down lead roles in The Victors (1963) and King Rat (1965) because he didn't want to become typecast in war movies.
22 Turned down Marlon Brando's role in The Missouri Breaks (1976) and George C. Scott's role in Islands in the Stream (1977) because he claimed to be completely retired from acting.
23 He had expressed interest in starring in Return of the Seven (1966), but Yul Brynner vetoed the idea.
24 Was originally supposed to star in The Gauntlet (1977), but left the project during pre-production because he didn't want to work with Barbra Streisand, the first choice for the female lead. The roles eventually went to Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke.
25 Actors Colin Farrell, Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan and Bruce Willis have all listed McQueen as their hero and inspiration for being an actor.
26 Was considered, but ultimately rejected, for the role of Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby (1974).
27 Made headlines when accepting the lead in Tai-Pan (1986) for an unheard of $10 million, for which he was given a $1 million fee up front. His health declined, however, and he died before the producers were able to raise the necessary capital for production. It was eventually released six years after McQueen's death, with Bryan Brown in the lead.
28 Quigley Down Under (1990) was written for McQueen in the 1970s.
29 Turned down Gene Hackman's Oscar winning role as drug-busting cop Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle in The French Connection (1971) because he thought the movie was too similar to Bullitt (1968).
30 Kevin Costner has named McQueen as his favorite actor, and his main influence as an actor.
31 Profiled in "Back in the Saddle: Essays on Western Film and Television Actors", Gary Yoggy, ed. (McFarland, 1998).
32 He later regretted turning down Roy Scheider's role in Sorcerer (1977).
33 British band Prefab Sprout used his name for the title of their second album, released in 1985. Due to objections from the late actor's estate, the album was issued with the alternative title of "Two Wheels Good" in the United States.
34 His friend and co-star Richard Attenborough said that if McQueen had lived for longer he would have been regarded as the greatest film actor since Spencer Tracy.
35 Inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
36 Turned down Clint Eastwood's role in Dirty Harry (1971).
37 After Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn, McQueen was the celebrity most sought out by the press at the premiere of My Fair Lady (1964).
38 Inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1978.
39 Intended to retire after filming The Towering Inferno (1974).
40 At one point he approached playwright Samuel Beckett with an idea for filming the play "Waiting for Godot", but Becket had never heard of him.
41 Was considered for the role of Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now (1979). The part eventually went to Marlon Brando.
42 He did not like gratuitous violence, swearing or nudity in movies.
43 Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers in April 2007.
44 Turned down Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). McQueen told director Steven Spielberg he couldn't play a character who was too emotionally oriented.
45 Turned down a role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969).
46 In 1973 McQueen flew to England to meet Oliver Reed and discuss a possible film collaboration. "Reed showed me his country mansion and we got on well," recalled McQueen. "He then suggested he take me to his favorite London nightclub." The drinking, which started at Reed's home, Broome Hall, continued into the night until Reed could hardly stand. Suddenly, and with no apparent warning, he vomited over McQueen's shirt and trousers. "The staff rushed around and found me some new clothes, but they couldn't get me any shoes," said McQueen. "I had to spend the rest of the night smelling of Oliver Reed's sick.".
47 Was offered the co-starring role in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). However, he was still under contract for his TV series Wanted: Dead or Alive (1958), which prevented him from appearing. The role eventually went to George Peppard.
48 Homer Simpson named McQueen as his personal hero in The Simpsons (1989) episode "Saturdays of Thunder (1991)".
49 Following the release of Bullitt (1968) McQueen found it hilarious how he was considered the coolest celebrity by teenagers, despite being nearly forty. In that same year he declared his support for the Vietnam War and voted for Richard Nixon in November's presidential election.
50 Felt ill during the filming of Tom Horn (1980), and assumed he had pneumonia. However, towards the end of filming McQueen had begun to cough up blood. On 22 December 1979, after filming had finished, he was diagnosed with cancer.
51 Died of the same cause (lung cancer) as his The Magnificent Seven (1960) co-star Yul Brynner, though McQueen's cancer was brought on by exposure to asbestos and Brynner's was due to smoking.
52 Turned down a role for the sequel to The Towering Inferno (1974) in 1977.
53 After The Towering Inferno (1974) he was offered several multi-million-dollar roles but refused them all. He turned down the chance to star in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Superman (1978), Raise the Titanic (1980) and the opportunity to star in and direct a film called "Deajum's Wife".
54 Some of the few movie stars he admired were Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, Spencer Tracy and John Wayne.
55 Before his death, McQueen optioned two screenplays from Walter Hill: The Driver (1978) and "The Last Gun". The Driver (1978) got made later, with 'Ryan O'Neal (I)' playing the lead part, and "The Last Gun" remains unproduced.
56 Was William Friedkin's first choice for the Jackie Scanlon character in Sorcerer (1977). McQueen accepted the part, but on one condition. He wanted a co-starring role for his then wife, Ali MacGraw. Friedkin would not accept his conditions, and McQueen dropped out of the film. Freidkin later went on record has having regretted not accepting McQueen's conditions.
57 McQueen's name somehow appeared on President Richard Nixon's "List of Enemies" in 1972. In reality, McQueen was conservative in his political beliefs, with a strong belief in self-help. In 1963, he had declined to participate in the March on Washington for civil rights and, in 1968, he refused to join many of his Hollywood peers in supporting Senator Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. An incredulous Ali MacGraw asked McQueen how he could have been considered a threat by Nixon, adding, "You are the most patriotic person I know!" McQueen responded to the whole affair by flying an enormous American flag outside his house.
58 Grandfather of Steven R. McQueen and Molly McQueen.
59 Former father-in-law of Stacey Toten.
60 Shortly before filming began on Tom Horn (1980), he had quit smoking cigarettes. His somewhat "squashed" appearance in the movie was due to a crash diet.
61 His only two appearances at the Academy Awards was as a presenter: (1964) Presented the Oscar for Best Sound. (1965) Holding hands with Claudia Cardinale presented the Oscar again for Best Sound
62 The last words he uttered on screen were "God bless you" in The Hunter (1980).
63 Of all the characters he ever played, he frequently cited Lt. Frank Bullitt from Bullitt (1968) as his favorite.
64 In 1960 with his growing success he formed his own production company called Scuderia Condor Enterprises, which he ran until 1963 when he and his family moved to 2419 Solar Drive and he renamed his company to Solar Productons, Inc and would produce many films under this banner until his death.
65 In the movie S.W.A.T. (2003), Colin Farrell's character of Jim Street has a poster of McQueen's Bullitt (1968) in his apartment. In real life, Farrell frequently cites McQueen as one of his idols and influences as an actor.
66 Like the coolest movie stars, was strongly connected to Triumph motorcycles, riding a 650cc TR6 Trophy in The Great Escape (1963) and competing on the same model in the 1964 International Six Days Trial held in East Germany. Photographs of his desert racing also show him upon this model. He also visited Triumph's Meriden factory in 1964 and 1965 for collection and preparation of his motorcycles.
67 Always resented the fact that Horst Buchholz was cast as Chico in The Magnificent Seven (1960), the role he had initially wanted.
68 When he briefly left The Great Escape (1963) during filming, due to the fact that his character did not play as large a part as he would have liked, it was James Coburn and James Garner that convinced him to return. Because of its huge success and continuing popularity, it has become his best known role.
69 Appeared in three different films with Robert Vaughn: The Magnificent Seven (1960); Bullitt (1968) and The Towering Inferno (1974).
70 Appeared with Eli Wallach in both his first major successful film, The Magnificent Seven (1960), and his final film, The Hunter (1980).
71 According to military records released by the Pentagon in 2005, Marine Private First Class Steve McQueen was confined to base for being absent without leave for 30 days and fined $90 after being AWOL from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. McQueen joined the Marines Corps at 17 and worked as a tank driver and mechanic, which probably spurred his lifelong interest in vehicles, especially motorcycles. He received a commendation for rescuing five Marines in a training accident, and later took advantage of military educational benefits to study at the Actors' Studio in New York City.
72 Appeared with Charles Bronson in three films directed by John Sturges: Never So Few (1959), The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963). Also, appeared with James Coburn in the latter two Sturges films cited above.
73 He was voted the 31st Greatest Movie Star of all time by Premiere Magazine.
74 After the huge success of The Towering Inferno (1974), McQueen announced that any producer wishing to acquire his services would have to send a check for $1.5 million along with the script. If he liked the script and wanted to make the movie, he'd cash the check; the producer then owed him another $1.5 million. He'd keep his half of his $3 million salary if the producer couldn't come up with the other half. McQueen likely used this then-unprecedented pay-or-play arrangement to guarantee the six-year semi-retirement he undertook after "The Towering Inferno", in which he appeared in only one picture, the vanity project An Enemy of the People (1978). When he did return to commercial filmmaking, his price was $3 million.
75 Upon meeting Martin Landau, McQueen told Landau he had already met him. Landau, who didn't remember McQueen, inquired as to where. McQueen told him that he -- Landau -- was on the back of James Dean's motorcycle when Dean brought it in for repairs at a NYC garage. The motorcycle mechanic at the garage was none other than McQueen.
76 In the 1960s, he publicly threatened to break Howard Hughes' nose if Hughes did not stop harassing Mamie Van Doren, a woman both men had had affairs with, but at different times. Needless to say, Hughes never bothered Van Doren again.
77 The "King of Cool" became a born-again Christian shortly before he died, due to the influence of his third wife Barbara Minty and his flying instructor Sammy Mason. He went through bible studies with the Reverend Billy Graham. It is interesting to note that this conversion happened before he was diagnosed with cancer, meaning it was probably genuine. McQueen's favorite Bible verse was John 3:16 which reads, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". That verse is written in the original King James Version Holy Bible.
78 He was voted the 56th Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
79 Appears, helmeted and uncredited, as a motorcyclist in the 1976 B-movie Dixie Dynamite (1976), starring Warren Oates and Christopher George. Legend has it that the call went out for dirt bike riders to take part in this low-budget action adventure, and among those who turned up was McQueen. Heavily bearded and overweight, he kept a low profile (this was during his reclusive period when he was turning down multi-million-dollar offers for such films as A Bridge Too Far (1977) and Apocalypse Now (1979)), and was only noticed when he queued up to accept his day's payment, about $120. The astonished production assistant handing out the cash saw his name on a list and said, "Is that THE Steve McQueen?". McQueen's riding style (standing on his foot pedals, leaning forward, head over the handlebars) makes him immediately identifiable to bike buffs.
80 Was the first of the original The Magnificent Seven (1960) to pass away. Only Robert Vaughn is still alive (as of February 2015).
81 After being told his lung cancer was inoperable, he went to a health clinic in Mexico to undergo a controversial "apricot pit" therapy that is still banned in the United States.
82 Along with Martin Sheen and James Dean, is mentioned in R.E.M.'s song "Electrolite".
83 The band Drive-By Truckers have the tribute song "Steve McQueen" featured on their 1998 album "Gangstabilly".
84 He was very interested in playing John Rambo in the adaptation of the novel "First Blood". He was actually slated to star, but did not due to his death. Sylvester Stallone got the role instead in First Blood (1982).
85 Was originally slated to star with Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969); however, due to a disagreement over the billing, he left the project. Ironically, the billing method was used several years later when he and Newman starred together in The Towering Inferno (1974).
86 The original script of The Towering Inferno (1974) called for McQueen's character to have more lines of dialogue than that of Paul Newman's. McQueen insisted that the script be changed so that he and Newman would have the same number of lines. He believed that his talent was superior to Newman's and he wanted the critical criteria to be as equal as possible.
87 Sheryl Crow made a song titled 'Steve McQueen' as a tribute to him. It is featured on the album "C'mon C'mon".
88 Died from two consecutive heart attacks at 3:45 am on November 7 1980, less than 24 hours after undergoing successful surgery to remove the malignant tumors in his stomach and lungs. According to the doctor present at the operation, his right lung was entirely cancerous.
89 His role in Never So Few (1959) was originally going to be played by Sammy Davis Jr.. A feud had broken out between Davis and Frank Sinatra after Davis had claimed in a radio interview that he was a greater singer than Sinatra. Sinatra demanded he be dropped from the cast, and thus McQueen received his breakthrough role.
90 He proposed the idea for a film The Bodyguard (1992) in 1976, but this was forgotten for 16 years until 1992, when Kevin Costner revived it.
91 Former stepfather of Josh Evans.
92 Dropped out of school in 9th grade.
93 Was a pallbearer at the funeral of actor Bruce Lee.
94 Chosen by Empire magazine as one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in film history (#19).
95 Was cremated and had his ashes scattered into the Pacific Ocean
96 Was diagnosed with mesothelioma, an often fatal form of cancer related to asbestos exposure, one which often afflicts workers in ship-building and construction industries. As in most cases, a tumor was discovered on the outside lining of a lung, and spread to other areas of the body. Although McQueen had been a heavy smoker as well, which may or may not have been a contributing factor, mesothelioma itself is not a smoking-related lung disease. While the source of his exposure has been debated, McQueen himself points to two likely sources, including the time when he took part in replacing asbestos-based insulation in the ship's engine room during his stint in the Marines. And that he could also have been exposed in his years as a film star, since sound stage insulation had also been made of asbestos. Some have also suggested other things as possible sources, like automotive brake pads, and the cloth used to bandage his broken foot during the 12 hours of Sebring race in '71.
97 Served in the United States Marine Corps.
98 Trained in Tang Soo Do with 9th degree blackbelt Pat E. Johnson (NOT Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris as is popularly believed.) His son was trained in karate by Norris. Lee trained him in Jeet Kune Do.
99 Father of actor Chad McQueen and Terry McQueen.
100 Issued a private pilot's license by the FAA in 1979 after learning to fly in a Stearman bi-plane, which he purchased for that purpose. After his death it was sold at auction, along with his large collection of vehicles, in 1982.
101 Although he was the highest paid star of the 1960s, McQueen had a reputation for being tight-fisted. On some films he would demand ten electric razors and dozens of pairs of jeans. It was later found that he gave this stuff to Boys Republic, a private school and treatment community for troubled youngsters, where he spent a few years himself.
102 A week before the Woodstock Music Festival kicked off in Bethel, New York, McQueen had been invited for dinner at the Roman Polanski-Sharon Tate home in the Hollywood hills by mutual friend and hairdresser-to the-stars, Jay Sebring. An unexpected rendezvous with a mystery woman prompted him to cancel his appointment. In the wake of the Manson Family Tate-LaBianca murders at, respectively, 10050 Cielo Drive and 3301 Waverly Drive, McQueen would later learn that he was accorded the kind of priority billing for which he was unprepared: he topped Charles Manson's celebrity death list. Thereafter he carried a concealed weapon. (see also: Jerzy Kosinski and Jeremy Lloyd.) [August 1969]
103 Ranked #30 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
104 Of the 2000 performers that auditioned for Lee Strasberg's exclusive Actors' Studio in 1955, only two were accepted: Martin Landau and McQueen.
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