New Book Details How Hollywood Star Steve McQueen Found Christ
By Cooper Dowd, Staff Writer
A new book reveals never-before-heard/seen/read interviews with Hollywood icon Steve McQueen detailing his life and faith.
In “Steve McQueen: In His Own Words” by Marshall Terrill, McQueen reveals he found Christ before dying of cancer on Nov. 7, 1980, at 50.
“Many of these interviews have never seen the light of day,” Terrill said. “I started this book in 2014 and it took years to compile everything together told by Steve McQueen himself. A lot of people have always written him off as just a blue-collar guy who liked motorcycles and cars. But if you read his words, the man has great wisdom to him. He’s got this rich life experience that I wanted to share with people.”
The new book commemorates the 40th anniversary of the actor’s death with interviews, personal letters, reflections from audiotapes, and over 500 photographs.
Terrill’s newest book is the seventh he has written about the actor, often hailed as the “King of Cool.”
Terrill said that McQueen planned to write an autobiography, including his conversion to Christianity. However, his health prevented him from finishing the project.
In “Steve McQueen: In His Own Words,” Terrill highlights McQueen’s journey to his faith, which came later in his life after many years of searching for his earthly father.
“In the search for his father, he was also looking for his heavenly father,” Terrill said. “At the end of his life, he met a pilot named Sammy Mason, who was probably 10-15 years older than Steve. However, Sammy had a special presence about him. One day, Steve finally said, ‘There’s something different about you. I can’t put my finger on it.’ Sammy said, ‘Well Steve, I’m a born-again Christian.’ And from that point on, Steve wanted to emulate him.”
The pilot’s testimony affected the Hollywood leading man, and McQueen asked if he could attend church with Mason. McQueen met pastor Leonard DeWitt and later “grilled him for two hours” about Christianity over lunch.
“Leonard said, ‘Well Steve, I only have one question for you,'” Terrill said. “[Steve] goes, ‘You want to know if I’m a born-again Christian?’ Leonard replied, ‘Yes, Steve, that’s all that really matters to me.’ And then Steve said, ‘Yes. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when you asked everyone to bow their heads and accept Jesus Christ? Well, I closed my eyes and did that.”
A columnist named Liz Smith first reported McQueen’s conversion in June 1979—nearly six months before the actor was officially diagnosed with usually fatal lung cancer.
“Steve McQueen knew he was dying,” Terrill said. “So he requested Billy Graham to come to see him. And so Billy did, right before Steve McQueen left to go to Mexico for his last operation. They were going to pray together when Steve said, ‘I don’t have my Bible.’
“Billy Graham instinctively gave him his Bible,” Terrill continued. “It became Steve’s prized possession. To Steve, like many people, Billy Graham was perhaps the closest thing that you could probably get to God on Earth. I think Steve wanted to tap on his knowledge. Steve wanted to share testimony with him and what Christ did for him.”
According to Terrill, McQueen died on what was Graham’s 62nd birthday, still clutching the Bible.
Terrill notes that McQueen’s outlook on life changed after his conversion.
“Before cancer, McQueen’s outlook on life was very cynical,” Terrill said. “I think Christianity gave him comfort. He was going to announce that he was a Christian but he never got that opportunity. But he did promise that if he got well, he was going to make that announcement. He revealed that his body is gone, it’s broken, but his spirit isn’t broken and his heart isn’t broken. I think that says it all.”
McQueen’s testimony was also featured in the Erwin Brothers’ movie STEVE MCQUEEN, AMERICAN ICON, featuring Harvest Crusade Founder Greg Laurie.
As Movieguide® previously reported:
As McQueen neared the end of his life, Pastor Greg Laurie detailed that McQueen said: “My only regret in life is that I was not able to tell people about what Christ did for me.’”
For more information on the Hollywood legend, Laurie’s documentary STEVE MCQUEEN: AMERICAN ICON, is available to rent on VOD today.