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 masculinityWhat made Steve McQueen so cool?The movie archetype that McQueen createdMcQueen’s code on and off screenMcQueen’s hard childhood and its influence on the rest of his lifeHow a stint in reform school influenced McQueen’s lifeWas McQueen a good Marine?How a military punishment sowed the seeds of the cancer that killed McQueen at age 50How did McQueen find his way into acting?The competitiveness and drive of Steve McQueenMcQueen’s interest in race car drivingWhat was it that made McQueen so attractive to women?What role did McQueen’s three wives play in his life?The private generosity of McQueenWhy 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 McQueenWhat Marshall has taken away from McQueen’s life

Resources/Articles/People Mentioned in Podcast

Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood IconWhy Men Love The Great Escape100 Must-See Movies for Men (a few McQueen movies make the list)Style Inspiration: How Steve McQueen Rocked His KhakisFamous Men and Their MotorcyclesBoys RepublicSanford MeisnerWanted Dead or AliveThe Magnificent SevenBest Western MoviesThe BlobThe Great EscapeCincinnati KidBullittLe MansThomas Crown AffairYul BrynnerPodcast interview with Matthew Polly about Bruce LeeNeile AdamsAli McGrawBarbara MintyJunior BonnerThe Towering InfernoThe Old PlaceBud Ekins

Connect With Marshall

Marshall on Twitter

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