How Steve McQueen Went from Daredevil to Jesus-Follower
By Allyson Vannatta, Senior Writer
*Editor’s Note: This article is part of our Miracles in Hollywood series
Hollywood icon Steve McQueen was known as the “King of Cool” to people all over the world. At the end of his life, he met the King of Kings after he accepted Jesus in the late 70s.
McQueen was the son of a stunt pilot, who left when he was young. His mother was an alcoholic who ran around with many men and left the young McQueen to be raised by his grandparents.
It was while he lived with his grandparents that he fell in love with racing.
McQueen served in the Marine Corps before moving to Hollywood to study acting at New York Sanford Meisner’s Neighborhood Playhouse and at HB Studio under Uta Hagen.
Steve had many breakthroughs on stage and in movies, including THE BLOB (1958), directed by MOVIEGUIDE® friend Irwin “Shorty” Yeaworth. Shorty was a brilliant composer, conductor, producer, director, who always put Jesus Christ first and witnessed to everyone who worked with him, even starting a movie company to make Christian films, such as THE GOSPEL BLIMP. (Shorty and Dr. Ted Baehr designed and created the most popular 3D interactive exhibit at the 1982 Knoxville World Fair, entitled THE POWER.)
After McQueen’s career took off, he became the highest paid actor in the business.
With the success came several marriages, affairs and drug and alcohol abuse.
Eventually, THE GREAT ESCAPE actor developed lung problems in the 70s. His health issues led him to move to the small town of Santa Paula with his wife Barbara Minty.
They lived in an airplane hangar, and while there, he enlisted pilot Sammy Mason to teach him how to fly.
Mason told McQueen about Jesus during their flying lessons, and his comments resonated so much with McQueen that he started attending Mason’s church.
Finally, after months of quietly attending services, McQueen asked to meet the pastor, Leonard De Witt.
McQueen told Pastor De Witt that “When you invited people to pray with you to receive Christ, I prayed. So yes, I’m a born-again Christian.”
As McQueen’s health got worse and he was diagnosed with cancer, he knew he wanted to meet evangelist Billy Graham
He met Graham, who ended up being one of the last people who spoke to the star. During their meeting, Graham gave McQueen his personal Bible for his trip to Mexico for a surgery. Shortly thereafter Graham saw Steve at the hospital and had Steve confirm his commitment to Jesus Christ.
It was on that trip McQueen went home to the Lord in November of 1980. McQueen was seen clutching Graham’s Bible when he died.
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.