Terrence Steven “Steve” McQueen was a popular American movie actor. He was nicknamed “The King of Cool.” His “anti-hero” persona, which he developed at the height of the Vietnam counterculture, made him one of the top box-office draws of the 1960s and 1970s. McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for his role in ‘The Sand Pebbles‘. His other popular films include The Magnificent Seven, ‘The Great Escape‘, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, ‘Papillon‘, and The Towering Inferno. In 1974, he became the highest-paid movie star in the world. Although McQueen was combative with directors and producers, his popularity put him in high demand and enabled him to command large salaries.
He was an avid racer of both motorcycles and cars. While he studied acting, he supported himself partly by competing in weekend motorcycle races and bought his first motorcycle with his winnings. He is recognized for performing many of his own stunts, especially the majority of the stunt driving during the high-speed chase scene in Bullitt. McQueen also designed and patented a bucket seat and transbrake for race cars.
McQueen was born Terrence McQueen in Beech Grove, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, in Marion County. His father, Terrence William McQueen, a stunt pilot for a barnstorming flying circus, abandoned McQueen and his mother when McQueen was six months old. McQueen was raised as a Roman Catholic. His mother, Julian, was a young, rebellious alcoholic. Unable to cope with bringing up a small child, she left him with her parents in Slater, Missouri, in 1933. Shortly thereafter, as the Great Depression set in, McQueen and his grandparents moved in with Lillian’s brother Claude on the latter’s farm in Slater.
McQueen had good memories of the time spent on his Great Uncle Claude’s farm. In recalling Claude, McQueen stated “He was a very good man, very strong, very fair. I learned a lot from him.” On McQueen’s fourth birthday, Claude gave him a red tricycle, which McQueen later claimed started his interest in racing. At age 8, he was taken back by his mother and lived with her and her new husband in Indianapolis. McQueen retained a special memory of leaving the farm: “The day I left the farm Uncle Claude gave me a personal going-away present; a gold pocket watch, with an inscription inside the case.” The inscription read: “To Steve– who has been a son to me.”