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in: A Man's Life, Podcast

• Last updated: January 12, 2021

Podcast #673: The Complex Coolness of Steve McQueen

Performances by the actor Steve McQueen in classic films like The Great Escape and Bullitt earned him the nickname “The King of Cool.” But behind the scenes, McQueen‘s character was complex in nature: he could be both difficult and demanding and kind and generous; someone who could act aloof, but care about things deeply.

My guest has traced both sides of the coin of McQueen‘s coolness for decades. His name is Marshall Terrill, and he’s the author of multiple biographies on McQueen, including his latest, Steve McQueen: In His Own Words. Today on the show Marshall and I discuss McQueen‘s enduring influence on popular culture in terms of everything from style to motorcycles, the code he lived both on and off screen, and whether after years of studying McQueen‘s life Marshall has figured out what it was that made him so cool. We then talk about McQueen‘s deprived childhood, which left him ever craving affirmation, and his youthful stints in a reform school and the Marines. We get into how he found his way into acting and then to superstardom, despite the fact he could be difficult to work with. Marshall explains McQueen‘s relationships with women, and the role race car driving played in his life. We also discuss why McQueen had a hermit phase, and how, in a lesser-known aspect of his life, he had a literal come to Jesus moment in which he became a born-again Christian. We end our conversation with McQueen‘s untimely, tabloid-exploited death at age 50.

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Show Highlights

  • How big of a star Steve McQueen was and his influence on American culture and masculinity
  • What made Steve McQueen so cool?
  • The movie archetype that McQueen created
  • McQueen’s code on and off screen
  • McQueen’s hard childhood and its influence on the rest of his life
  • How a stint in reform school influenced McQueen’s life
  • Was McQueen a good Marine?
  • How a military punishment sowed the seeds of the cancer that killed McQueen at age 50
  • How did McQueen find his way into acting?
  • The competitiveness and drive of Steve McQueen
  • McQueen’s interest in race car driving
  • What was it that made McQueen so attractive to women?
  • What role did McQueen’s three wives play in his life?
  • The private generosity of McQueen
  • Why did McQueen step away from Hollywood for a time?
  • Why did McQueen become a born-again Christian?
  • The untimely and tabloid exploited death of Steve McQueen
  • What Marshall has taken away from McQueen’s life

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

Steve McQueen in his own words Marshall terrill book cover.

Connect With Marshall

Marshall on Twitter

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