Greater Grace: A Story of God, Redemption, and Steve McQueen

Greater Grace: A Story of God, Redemption, and Steve McQueen December 9, 2012
Steve McQueen PD mugshot
Wikimedia commons/public domain
[Editor’s note: As I write, it’s been about 4.5 years since I first published this piece, having no clue that it would go viral. Needless to say, this is young work, and I’ve written far better since then, but of all my articles this seems to be the one that struck a chord with the most people. A couple years of reflection and reading the comments people have left inspired me to add this postscript in a comment of my own below, which I’d like to quote here:

“I think a lot of people have understandably found [this piece] because there’s still a lingering sense of hero-worship there for McQueen himself as an actor. Just his name still has a kind of magnetic force for people. But what I learned as I researched this piece, and even more after writing it in flipping through his first wife’s well-written memoirs, is that McQueen was no hero. That’s putting it mildly. In fact, if we’re being brutally honest, he was a scumbag. He did some truly despicable things. But this merely underwrites the overwhelming power of the cross. It throws the absolute necessity of Jesus’ death into sharp relief—that one innocent sacrifice, which takes that whole litany of wrongs and wipes it out for all time.”

If you’re just passing through, and thanks for reading!]

They said he could act with the back of his head. No dialogue or frills required—his mere presence loomed larger than life in every shot. Put him next to some of the finest actors in the business, and he would undercut every one of them simply by being in the frame. His piercingly distinctive blue eyes were set in a rough-hewn, unconventionally handsome face that rarely betrayed strong emotion. His smallest physical gesture was precisely calculated and gracefully executed. You couldn’t best him, you couldn’t buy him, you couldn’t touch him. He was the King of Cool. He was Steve McQueen.

He was the definition of a self-made man, working his way up from a horrific childhood of neglect, paternal abuse and a tough life on the streets to the gold-plated life of a Hollywood icon. He once said that he often had nightmares of everything he had gained being suddenly taken away from him. A man of many paradoxes, he was both humble and defiant, stingy and generous, gentle and violent, self-assured and insecure. Perhaps it was director Norman Jewison (Fiddler On the Roof) who summed him up best: “He was a loner, and he was troubled, and he was looking for a father.”

Everyone had a Steve McQueen story.  His superior officers in the Marines could have told you how he spent 41 days in the brig for resisting arrest when caught AWOL. The young men at the Boys’ Republic where Steve had spent some of his teenage years could tell you how he regularly came back and visited the school after becoming famous, personally responding to every boy’s letters and financially supporting the school until his death. Magnificent Seven co-star Yul Brynner could tell you how McQueen stole scene after scene by deliberately throwing in extra, distracting bits of business. Bruce Lee could have told you about a hair-raising ride in Steve’s Porsche that had Lee cowering in the foot-well (and threatening to kill Steve when they stopped, causing a fearful McQueen to hit the gas again and refuse to slow down until Lee promised not to hurt him).

He was known to say that he lived for himself and answered to no one. Asked once if he believed in God, the actor brazenly replied, “I believe in me. God will be number one as long as I’m number one.” That philosophy informed much of his life. All the money, cars, alcohol, drugs and women that a man could ever want were at his fingertips, and it was only a matter of time before he became addicted in every way. Professional successes only inflated his ego. Wild experimentation with substance abuse drove him to the edge of mental stability. Though he tried to be a good father to the son and daughter of his first wife, his addictions, serial womanizing, jealousy and violence burned through two marriages.

By the late 1970s, his star was fading. The washed-up, aging characters he portrayed reflected where he himself was in his life and career.  He felt empty and unsatisfied. He began turning down huge offers and retreating into his own private shell. He was also developing health problems with his lungs. Doctors told him he should move, so in the spring of 1979, he left Malibu for the small, quiet town of Santa Paula, where he ultimately married his third wife Barbara Minty. For a period of time, they lived in an airport hangar which he had filled with his entire motorcycle collection. He bought a yellow Stearman bi-plane and learned to fly it, quickly mastering the craft as he had mastered motor racing before.

The pilot who taught him was a man in his early 60s by the name of Sammy Mason. Self-described as cranky and difficult to get along with, he became fast friends with McQueen. As they shared long hours in the air, talking together about the meaning of life, Steve sensed that there was something different about him. The more time they spent together, the more he wanted to know what Mason’s secret was. One day he asked him outright. Mason sat down with the aging actor and explained what, or rather who, had made the difference in his life. The answer, he said, was Jesus Christ.

McQueen was intrigued. He had so much respect for Mason and his family that he began regularly attending Ventura Missionary Church with them. The pastor was Leonard Dewitt. DeWitt later recalled that the famous icon had sat quietly in the balcony without even introducing himself for several months. When he finally requested a meeting with the pastor, he began firing off questions about life and faith, one after another. After a couple of hours, he leaned back and said, “Well, that about covers it for me.” Dewitt said, “Steve, I just have one question for you.” McQueen flashed his signature grin. “You want to know if I’ve become a born-again Christian,” he preempted. Then “still smiling, but very serious,” he told DeWitt that one morning when the pastor had given the invitation, he felt convicted by the Spirit and came forward. “When you invited people to pray with you to receive Christ, I prayed. So yes, I’m a born-again Christian.”

Everybody around him could tell that he was changed. In Sammy Mason’s words, it was “dramatic.” He said, “I doubt that I have ever seen a man flourish with more spiritual reality in such a short time.” Another close Christian friend, John Daly, said that the star’s conversion had stunned him. But when Steve talked about his new-found faith, there was no denying the seriousness of his commitment. In Daly’s words, “I think I had more faith that my saw and hammer would have gotten converted before Steve, but I was hearing it from the horse’s mouth.  I was blown away.” Under the discipleship of Mason and DeWitt, McQueen could often be found praying or poring over his Bible. Around that time, he heard Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me, Lord” and embraced the lyrics as his own testimony. He also shared his testimony with friend and former personal assistant Mario Iscovich, who a decade earlier had been forced to stand by and watch as the actor “lost himself” down the “dark, ugly road” of his sin. As Iscovich puts it, McQueen “felt he had hurt a lot of people” but had finally “made peace with God.”

Shortly afterwards, McQueen traveled to Chicago to shoot his last film, The Hunter. Although his health was continuing to deteriorate, he was actively reaching out to various people in need. (He had always been generous, especially to kids, but now it sprang from a desire to serve God instead of trying to “cancel out” wrongdoings only Christ crucified could pay for.) One of the film’s extras was a feisty 15-year-old girl named Karen Wilson, who had no money to attend school and was working to provide for her family and dying mother. Immediately after visiting the family’s squalorous ghetto home, McQueen asked if he and Barbara could take the girl back to California with them and send her to school there. Eventually the mother agreed, and the couple went on to become Karen’s legal guardians. Her mother succumbed to cancer almost a year later. Today, Karen is happily married with a family of her own.

Also on the set of The Hunter, he gave his last interview to a highschool student named Richard Kraus, who had initially been turned away by McQueen’s stuntman and told that he never gave interviews. The stubborn teen wouldn’t take no for an answer and found a way to approach the legend himself, who readily agreed. Both the interview and the whole story in Kraus’s own words can be found here.

In December of that year, he was officially diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma, a fast-spreading and incurable form of cancer. The news was crushing because McQueen had expected God to use him in some great way now that he was converted. But he told Pastor DeWitt that he was able to endure it because at least he knew where he would spend eternity. Still, he was ready to try anything for the sake of his children—too ready, unfortunately. It led him down an almost year-long road of “unconventional” remedies where he was essentially taken advantage of by quack doctors (including a faith healer), all to no avail. We have a tape-recorded conversation from this time period where McQueen is talking about his illness, his faith, and the change in his life. “My body is broken,” he says, “but my spirit isn’t broken. My heart isn’t broken.” You can hear his voice crack when he shares dreams of “changing some people’s lives with what I know of the Lord, and what I have to offer with what’s happened to me.” He hoped to move to his wife’s ranch in Idaho and impact the community there. Sadly, he never got his wish.

One of the last people Steve talked to was none other than Billy Graham, whom the actor had long wanted to meet. DeWitt informed his contacts in the Graham organization that McQueen didn’t have much time left and wanted to see the evangelist if it could at all be arranged. Graham came right before McQueen was flown to a hospital for surgery to remove his tumors. Bed-ridden and on oxygen, McQueen was still, in Graham’s words, “a fighter.” Graham recalls, “Under that oxygen, he would talk. His eyes were just as bright, but he looked emaciated and old.” He poured out his life’s story to the evangelist, telling him about his friend Sammy Mason, telling him how God had made him a new man. McQueen had misplaced his Bible, so Graham personally inscribed his own Bible and gave it to the dying actor.  He stayed by McQueen’s side and prayed with him until they reached the airport, then saw him off on the plane.

McQueen would not survive the operation. Four days after his meeting with Graham, he died of a heart attack with the evangelist’s Bible resting on his chest. It was opened to his favorite verse, that old, familiar promise so simple a child could grasp it, yet so profound the angels cannot comprehend it: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Today, he is still idolized and remembered for what he left behind in his films. But as remarkable as that legacy is, it will  fade away like a forgotten dream at the dawning of eternity’s day. For when the grass has withered, and the young men have utterly fallen, and time like an ever-rolling stream has borne all its sons away, we shall be left with two wonders only: our own worthlessness and God’s redeeming love. May we all so pass through things temporal that we finally lose not the things eternal.

I’ll close with a fitting song, a beautiful marriage of lyrics and music by Marc Cohn. This is called “Old Soldier.” I created this video to go with it.

Listen, old soldier, wherever you are
The hills or the valleys, come near or come far
They say youth is a treasure we waste when we’re young
So come down from the place where your medals are hung
You’re forever returning and learning to fight
And you feel just like an old soldier tonight…

Steve McQueen, Tom Horn

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  • Great story with an even greater ending.

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  • Thank you! I feel like the ending isn’t told often enough.

  • Tim

    I am reminded of the words of John Donne’s sermon from 1624:
    God made sun and moon to distinguish seasons, and day and night, and we cannot have the fruits of the earth but in their seasons; but God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies; in Paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute, and in heaven it is always autumn, His mercies are ever in their maturity. We ask our daily bread, and God never says, you should have come yesterday, He never says, you must again to-morrow; but to-day if you will hear His voice, to-day He will hear you. God … brought light out of darkness, not out of a lesser light. He can bring thy summer out of winter, though thou have no spring. Though in the ways of fortune, or understanding, or conscience, thou have been benighted till now, wintred and frozen, clouded and eclipsed, damped and benumbed, smothered and stupified till now, now God comes to thee; not as in the dawning of the day, not as in the bud of the spring, but as the sun at noon, to illustrate all shadows, as the sheaves in harvest, to fill all penuries. All occasions invite His mercies, and all times are His seasons. …
    God goes forward in His own ways, proceeds as He begun, in mercy; … One of the most convenient hieroglyphics of God is a circle, and a circle is endless. Whom God loves, He loves to the end; and not only to their own end, to their death, but to His end; and His end is, that He might love them still.

  • Thank you Tim, a very apt and beautiful quote. The song I embedded says something very similar in a few words:
    Listen, old soldier, ‘cuz time doesn’t wait
    The moon’s on your shoulder, and the hour is late…
    You’re not getting no younger
    That much is true now
    But you still got that hunger
    Burning in you now
    So what do you do now?

  • What a beautiful picture of God’s grace! Thanks so much for writing this.

  • You’re most welcome Larry! I loved writing it. You might call me an old-fashioned humanist. I love to write about man’s place at the intersection of things earthly and divine. Thanks for the comment and the follow.

  • Michael

    I really enjoyed your piece. It was very nice.
    My dad cultivated an early appreciation in his sons for “The Great Escape.” There was nothing cooler for a couple of young baseball loving boys than seeing McQueen throw that ball against his prison cell wall.
    The thought of getting a chance to play catch with him in heaven makes me smile.
    I couldn’t help but notice though how conspicuously absent the gospel was in the story. True, Jesus’ name was mentioned. There was even talk of inviting and receiving Christ which would suggest that there was a back story to that moment.
    Then, in the wake of his conversion, he spoke of dreams of “changing some people’s lives with what I know of the Lord, and what I have to offer with what’s happened to me.” Perhaps “what I know of the Lord” is candidly referencing the atoning work of Christ. And there is no denying the incredible joy it is to share God’s particular work in an individual’s life. It makes me think of each time a new companion joined Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress and the enjoyable conversation of conversion that followed.
    Those stories don’t change lives though, at least not directly. Only one story does that. Hopefully that story was the back story to all of this. The story of Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection as the only hope for sinners giving birth to the Spirit wrought gifts of repentance and faith.
    Maybe I’m nitpicking. Or maybe not. It seems that more and more God’s story, is being replaced by our story. Our stories are significant and always beautiful with their own particular nuances. Seen so clearly when grace is so evident.
    But the true beauty of the story of Christ, the one where the sinless dies for sinners, the faithful for the faithless, now raised and seated at the right hand of God; the beauty is that it is mysteriously life giving when it is told.
    My story can’t do that.
    So while I really enjoyed your piece, and sincerely hope to play catch with Steven McQueen, I left wondering if the true saving gospel of Jesus Christ was involved in this story. It may very well have been.
    From your story though, I couldn’t be sure.

  • One glorious day I will get to cast my crown before the Throne with the King of Cool. Sweet!

  • I love that image of playing catch with Steve McQueen in heaven. That’s an awesome movie.
    As I gathered research for this piece, I sensed that the gospel was definitely under-pinning this story even though I didn’t find conversations where a gospel presentation was directly spelled out and quoted. But it’s obvious that Pastor DeWitt preached the gospel in the church Steve attended. It sounds like a solid, Bible-grounded church. Most invitations at such churches are preceded by a clear description of the gospel. Then, when Steve met with DeWitt, he asked multiple questions about Scripture and about what it means to be a Christian. DeWitt couldn’t have failed to bring in the gospel in this conversation. Following his conversion, he asked his friends to give him a Bible reading program so he could focus his study efficiently. No doubt they gave him plenty from the gospels and Paul.
    He still struggled sometimes with doubts that someone like him could really enter the kingdom of heaven. He would ask his friends for reassurance on this point. But they always replied, “Yes Steve, you can.” They must have reminded him of the truth of the gospel many times over.
    If I had some other reason to be concerned about the soundness of Ventura Baptist, I would share your worries. As it is, the mere fact that nobody wrote down in so many words the exact way in which Pastor DeWitt presented the details of the gospel to Steve doesn’t bother me. We can be confident that it happened and that he was very well discipled by the men in his church.
    I see what you mean about not letting “my story” overshadow “God’s story,” but that wasn’t the feeling I had when reading about or writing this piece. I think there’s no reason for the two to be mutually exclusive. We are all familiar with the redemption story already. We’re less familiar with how it specifically interacts with individual lives. So when I find a story like McQueen’s, I want to tell it, not so that his story will seem more important than God’s, but so that people can see, “Ah! Here’s another lost sheep who was found!” We already know the good news he must have heard.

  • Isn’t it curious how quick people are to attach the label of “King” to our idols—McQueen, Elvis, Michael Jackson. For a while, I think McQueen really believed he was the King. You have a classic picture of idolatry in that early quote where he says God will be number one as long as he’s number one. But thankfully he came to realize who the true and only King was.

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    Steve McQueen an amazing talent

  • I was in college when his diagnosis became public news. And since I had been a fan from grade school age, I tried to follow his treatment saga via newspaper and TV reports. I knew that things were pretty desperate when he went chasing after laetrile, a supposed “magic bullet” for cancer treatment that was quite prominent in the news at the time.
    Looking back, you would think that I’d know better than to be surprised not to have heard or read a single word about his conversion in any of those reports. If I hadn’t come across this post, I probably never would have known. So, thanks for writing it. Much appreciated. Greater grace, indeed. Amen.

  • I knew Leonard Dewitt years ago when I pastored in the same denomination as Leonard. At that time, Leonard (a wonderful, humble man) was the President of the Missionary Church. He stayed in our home for several days when he was holding special meetings in our church. I heard Leonard share the story of Steve McQueen’s conversion, and I can assure you the Gospel of Jesus Christ was INDEED shared, and it was THAT Gospel that Steve McQueen responded to. When McQueen’s biography was written after his death, the author interviewed Leonard Dewitt about Steve’s conversion. However, when the book was released, Steve’s conversion was basically included as nothing more than a footnote. How sad! Leonard Dewitt was one of the kindest, gospel-loving men I have ever been privileged to know. While only God knows the heart, I can assure you that the Gospel message that Steve McQueen heard from the preaching and the counseling of Leonard Dewitt was truly the biblical Gospel!

  • Thank you so much for sharing that Pastor Rob! Leonard is indeed a God-fearing man. There was never any question in my mind that McQueen had heard and responded to the gospel. Just because not everything is exactly transcribed doesn’t mean that isn’t obvious in reading his story.
    I think the author you are referring to is Marshall Terrill, and if I’m not mistaken the book is _Portrait of an American Rebel_. I should say in fairness to Terrill that he’s a good journalist, and years later he came back and wrote a new, much lengthier bio of Steve that included a lot more detail on his last days. He included lots of interviews and specifics about his conversion. That bio is called _The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon_. The account of McQueen’s encounter with a female faith healer named Lydia is particularly sad—her organization wanted him to come to some kind of rally and announce publicly that he had been faith-healed. I think he figured out what they were up to and stopped short of the announcement, but temporarily he was convinced that he had been healed.

  • Thank you so much for this. Being of the generation that saw him in the theater when his films first came out, I have always known how COOL Steve McQueen was, but now I know how rich in grace he ended. As for “our story” vs. Jesus’s story, the Gospels and Acts are filled with the stories of women and men, embedded in and filling out the larger, grand metanarrative of the cross. It’s the context of the gospel, the story of man’s need of a Savior. Thank you for letting us know “the rest of the story.” It is a blessing to me today. I think many of us are greatly encouraged when we read these stories, encouraged to see that God’s grace really IS sufficient, For Steve McQueen, and even for me.

  • Thanks for your perspective and your comment! I agree whole-heartedly.

  • Thanks for your comment. Indeed, press goons have never been all that interested in redemption.

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  • Warmth in my heart after the senseless Connecticut tragedy… Awesome story of Faith and Redemption. I didn’t know this. May I share it all over the Web?

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  • Yes. 🙂

  • Oh, but make sure it’s clear I’m the author. Thanks!

  • John Situmbeko

    I saw this post when it was put up, but I did not read it because I had not the time, it is a long post. But now that I’ve read it, I must say it is without a doubt a great one, very inspirational. A lot of work was obviously put into it, thanks for the post.
    There is hope for vilest sinner, let us spread the glad news.
    McQueen had always been generous, but after God touched him, his generosity came from a desire to serve God and not to cancel the wrongs he had done. I think most people, like McQueen, have that desire to erase their wrongs but they just don’t know how. Oh that every child of God, like Sammy Mason, would share with all their reach the gospel, what a different place this world would be! The problem with most of the christians today is that they are not firmly planted on Christ the solid Rock. They are more easily influenced to fall in sin than they can influence others to follow Christ. Had McQueen not been influenced by Mason, what would be said of his story today?

  • I appreciate the comment and the time you took to read! It means a lot.
    Paul says that our righteousness is as filthy rags. Some of McQueen’s philanthropic acts were carried out during the blackest periods of his private life. We can’t fool God. He saw who McQueen truly was. Yet there was love and grace waiting for him just the same.

  • OF COURSE!!! LOL… Wouldn’t post it any other way!

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  • Thank You for this and enriching my testimony that God never gives up or stops trying until we shut the door.

  • You’re welcome!

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  • Jesus Freak!

    Great telling. Thanks for sharing. Mind if I share on FaceBook?

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  • Not at all! Share away!

  • Loved this post!
    I’ve always been a big S.McQ fan.
    Gonna have a beer with him and talk for a while if I get to Heaven.
    Thank you.

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  • Yes. For too many youth is wasted because we are seduced by all media and culture around us, to live for the moment – we think we have many years ahead. we forget that it all catches up to us and for some sooner than later. We need to realise that it’s all a satanic mirage which deceives as it’s meant to, but instead we should follow John’s advice to “love not the world neither the things that are in the world”

  • I would like to post this on my blog at God Reports. How should I attribute it?

  • You may say that it was written by yankeegospelgirl, or that you found it at the blog of Southern Gospel Yankee. Thanks for reading and sharing!

  • Thanks! If you are doing more testimonies, I would like to feature them at Blessings!

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  • …Ive shared this to Facebook…Its just a brilliant piece….My love and admiration for McQueen is probably yet another case of me just diggin a character that is so complex and so flawed!..If he were still here he could still act the arse off the Hollywood good boys we have today!…FACT!

  • Thanks for sharing! You make a point, I’m hard-pressed to find a really good actor these days who isn’t British or Aussie. Most times when I think I’ve found a good American candidate, it turns out that it was really some Irish or Aussie dude faking me out. I hear they’re doing a biopic on McQueen with Jeremy Renner—he’s not too bad and kind of has the right look.

  • What an amazing story! I never knew all that. Thanks for sharing! God bless!

  • You’re welcome! I owe it to Youtube’s new “Recommended for You” feature, actually. I had been listening to some music from _The Magnificent Seven_, and from there I was led to some documentary clips about McQueen. His son talked about this new interest in church and the Bible that he showed towards the end of his life. So I poked around more and found confirmation that this is how it happened, and eventually tracked down DeWitt himself.

  • frencholdman

    Dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ
    The french german tv arte showed a program on the life of Steve Mc Queen last night. I watched this program and was curious to understand more of the actoŕs end. they said in the film that he made peace with God. I am glad to read your article. God saved me in His sovereign grace in 1972 at a time where Steve Mc Queen was kind of my idol as you say.
    Jesus is Lord and sovereignly reigns on this earth, nothing is to great for Him
    God bless ya’ll down South
    Pete from South of France

  • Merci beaucoup Pete!

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  • Awesome example of Jesus love and restoration of a man to God the Father’s family. How can anyone that sees Jesus reject God’s Savior and not love God? Forget religion in the sense of tradition, just read about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and see the perfect picture of God. God is so good but He has provided His Son as our Savior, so we can’t be saved except through Him. Yet we do not know how God saved people from all countries but this we know, when a person dies and meets Jesus he/she will run from God and hide like Adam and Eve did or they will run to God and embrace the Son. Jesus said, “No man goes to the Father (God the Father) except through the Son (Jesus Himself).” — God gives us knowledge of Himself in all cultures and all religions we either are running to God or away from Him or playing religious games to try to earn our way to Heaven. He loves us, accepts us where we are and reaches out to us. We need to embrace the knowledge of the Creator that we have and pursue God – we will find the Way (to God), the Truth (about God), and the Light (that will lead the way) and we will embrace and accept Jesus even before leaving this earth. One clue, it is what we do with the knowledge that God gives us that leads us to or away from God. Don’t be afraid and hide and miss out on the Savior/Creator of all things Jesus!

  • Geno

    I think Steve McQueens life can be summed up by Ephesians 2: 8,9 For by Grace you are saved through Faith and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God not of works, lest any man should boast.

  • Amen!

  • Tom

    Some time ago I listened, online, to what I believe must be a recording of Steve, barely understandable, speaking of his life, and his conversion. Does anyone know where this can be heard? I can no longer find it, though a link brought to this site because it said “we have a recording…” etc. Thanks

  • Hi Tom, great question! I heard portions of that interview on a documentary which had been posted on Youtube entitled “Steve McQueen: The Essence of Cool,” though to my knowledge the entire interview is not publicly available. The documentary can be purchased as part of a special two-disc edition of Bullitt. Click here for the full thing. The interview clips can be heard in the last few minutes, which discuss his sickness and death. (For other readers, keep in mind of course that the documentary wasn’t written from a Christian perspective, so much of the time is spent discussing his sexual magnetism, early career, etc. However, I personally enjoyed watching it.)

  • I would love to know your sources for the article! I had heard that McQueen had become a Christian before his death, but never any details like you shared. Thank you! McQueen has long been one of my favorite actors!

  • Hi Amanda! My two biggest sources were a documentary called The Essence of Cool and Marshall Terrill’s exhaustive biography Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon. There were also a lot of other little sources, like a clip of Pat Johnston his karate coach sharing the Bruce Lee story. Like you, I also read an article or two that mentioned McQueen’s conversion to Christianity, but like you said they didn’t provide details. I also corresponded a little with Leonard DeWitt himself, who clarified for me exactly how McQueen came to meet Billy Graham (since details varied in the other articles I read).

  • Dale Dorsett

    Amen! What a God we serve – the True Eternal God.

  • Janice

    Being a huge fan of Steve McQueen since the days of “Wanted Dead or Alive” when I was 9, I am stunned that I never knew this! I have always hoped he became born again before he died, but never read anything about it until now! I am THRILLED! Thank you so much for this information!! Is there any way to hear the recording of Steve that was mentioned? Also, does anyone know if his daughter Terry was born again before she died at age 38?

  • Hi Janice, thanks for reading! You’re very welcome. Unfortunately, the entire recording of that interview has not been made available to the public, as far as I know, but short snippets of it can be heard in the documentary about which I gave some information to another commentator. It is no longer available on Youtube, but you can still buy it as part of a special edition of Bullitt. As for his daughter, I don’t know but sadly I believe she may not have been. I’ve read some of his first wife’s memoir, and my impression was that the rest of Steve’s family viewed his faith as a harmless but insubstantial “nice thing” that he became fond of toward the end of his life. It didn’t help that some of his friends were oddball charismatics who believed in faith healing and such (for example, the female faith healer who came and did this ritual over him freaked his family out, understandably enough).

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  • Reblogged this on 31 Croft Road and commented:
    I so admired McQeen as an actor. When I read this, it was so perfect!

  • Ken Hiebert

    What a wonderful and spiritually moving tribute to a phenomenal actor who chose wisely and chose The Lord. Beautiful words and a moving video that was truly ‘Steve’. I had no tears left.

  • That’s very kind of you, thanks a lot!
    If I may add a kind of postscript to this piece in retrospect, I think a lot of people have understandably found it because there’s still a lingering sense of hero-worship there for McQueen himself as an actor. Just his name still has a kind of magnetic force for people. But what I learned as I researched this piece, and even more after writing it in flipping through his first wife’s well-written memoirs, is that McQueen was no hero. That’s putting it mildly. In fact, if we’re being brutally honest, he was a scumbag. He did some truly despicable things. But this merely underwrites the overwhelming power of the cross. It throws the absolute necessity of Jesus’ death into sharp relief—that one innocent sacrifice, which takes that whole litany of wrongs and wipes it out for all time.

  • #48HalfHours

    True. 2Tim 2:11-13
    2Ti 2:11 It is a faithful saying:
    For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
    2Ti 2:12 If we suffer, we shall also live with him:
    if we deny him, he also will deny us:
    2Ti 2:13 If we are faithless, yet he abideth faithful:
    (Because) he cannot deny himself.

  • #48HalfHours

    Thank you so so much for your beautiful and encouraging story about Brother Steve McQueen.
    I have never been one to have much interest on any actor/actress; however, as recent as just last month I was so moved to do an online research about McQueen.
    I read a gamut of stories. Then all of a sudden, I cried in my heart. I asked God whether McQueen encountered Jesus and if He believed Him to be the Son of God and Abba’s plan of salvation. I poured many hours researching. Finally, the love story of Jesus and Bro. Steve was found. I needed to find out if someone else corroborated that piece I found. Thanks be to Abba – I was guided to your storytelling in the very oddest way.
    Today, I was watching a video documentary of how several superstars took oaths to earthly power that be as well as the dark power – some like Dylan directly claimed they sold their souls to the devil.
    This prompted me to research whether Bro. Steve had previously made a deal with the devil. Instead, I found your Love story. By the blood of Jesus, Bro. Steve was purchased and that point was born-again and became a New Man in Christ. Wow! “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” How awesome is our God.

  • Dale

    We can be good in the eyes of man and by comparing ourselves to others feel good about our goodness. It is like someone in the mud feeling they are less muddy than others and better than others. God see our ‘self righteousness’ as ‘filthy rags’. PS Filthy rags actually were menstrual cloths.
    None of us in and of ourselves is worthy of being in a perfect Heaven with our Perfect Creator. God knew that before he created Adam and then Eve, so that when they fell He promised them that He would send the Savior – for them and all of their children (Adam’s race). The agreement for God to send His Son (the Word of God Who spoke all creation into existence and hand’s on made Adam in His Image with God’s own Zoe Life) to earth was before the earth was even created. Why, despite the coming fall God could not deny Himself and He placed Himself into Adam to create His highest creation, mankind. You see, As Einstein said, time is a loop/a wheel, that started from eternity and ends in eternity. God looks down all the spokes of the wheel from the hub and sees all time as NOW. — This is how God could foresee the present earth from beginning to end. Yet laid out His plan to save mankind who would fall and be flawed and imperfect. Why waste time on mankind? It is not waste to have children. It is not waste to have some children turn out right and some to rebel. Those who learn from and obey their parents and are raised right turn into the best in society. The rebels can become the worst in society. The parent can do his/her best to try to produce good seed but the choice is in the individual. God never gives up on his children – good or bad. The prodigal son shows God’s love for a son who rejected family, took his wealth, went out on his own and wasted the money, ended up eating food fed pigs, decided that to be a slave for his dad was better than the mess he made of his life, repented-turned around and went home . Result, “give him a robe, feed him the best, rejoice my son has come home.” ———
    You see, God loves us sins and all, flaws and all, and sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins – go to jail for us – be crucified as a criminal on a cross for us ALL. It is not God’s love for us that is the issue, it is our accepting His love and salvation for us, growing up to be like Him and His Son, and loving others as we love ourselves – then be Home in Heaven with Him and our loved ones who also let God forgive them also.
    We can stand in the mud with everyone else and boast of our goodness or we can let God clean us up from our selfish and ego-centric ways. Also, God does not condemn us, we condemn ourselves, condemn others — because we hear the ‘condemner’ all the time when we do wrong – the condemner is Satan.. Satan is a masterful deceiver and manipulator of humanity. He gets people to sin and then when they sin he falsely acts like God and puts us down. — Falsely? God condemns our actions and wrong doing but loves US. We have to humble ourselves when He LOVINGLY points out our error, ask His forgiveness with a contrite heart that wants to do what is right, and humbly receive His forgiveness so He can clean us up quickly and flood His love on us. God does not put us down, He wants to correct us gently and lift us up and draw us closer to Him and His presence. In His presence we not only receive forgiveness, we get healing of our hurts and sicknesses, and we are flooded with His Goodness, Love, and Joy.
    The ability to choose our destiny is god like. God respects mankind and gives us free will to choose. He will not drag anyone to Heaven that does not want Him and does not desire to grow to be perfect. We may be imperfect, Adam and Eve by Satan’s temptations fell but they were saved when Jesus came, just as many other old testament saints who trusted in the Savior God would send. We know His Name and can look back to know our Savior – Who in all the days of Adam has tried to draw us to Father God so we could be with Him. We know Him as Jesus.
    An old hymn but so true – “WHAT A FRIEND WE HAVE IN JESUS, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!
    Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged— take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    As other verses point out in the song – we should Cast (throw as far as the east is from the west – infinity) all of our cares on Jesus – ALL not just a few. Even when we are forsaken and misunderstood or despised by others He won’t forsake us or leave us. We can run to Him in prayer, fall into His loving Arms and be shielded from hurt and find solace in His love and peace. – A wonderful, oldie but goodie song.

  • 48HalfHours

    Thank you for the references.

  • Ger.

    Here is Bob Dylan publicly proclaiming that Jesus is the only Lord.

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  • Yankee Girl, thank you so much for this post. I’m, going to reblog it on I heard Suzanne Pleshette years and years ago on a talk show telling about how Steve died with the Bible on his chest. She and Steve were good friends and both were believers. God love Steve McQueen!

  • Reblogged this on Exposing Modern Mugwumps.

  • Carol

    God rest his soul. Amen!

  • I loved this man, and thank you Jesus for saving his soul, we will see him again! Wow, terrific, I reposted this great article on

  • It’s amazing how Steve McQueen’s conversion to Christianity has been kept so quiet! I think it would be good for as many Christians as possible to let the world know how he died IN CHRIST & is now in Heaven. I’m surprised that someone hasn’t written a tract or book about his conversion, as it’s an incredible story & so many people loved this guy! We have dedicated a tab on our website to Steve McQueen Every blessing John Davis (

  • Thanks! Marshall Terrill does devote space to it in his biography of McQueen, and I found one or two sites containing brief sketches of the story, but I think I might have popularized it by telling it in more detail here. I found the book by Gary Ragsdale that a couple people cited, as well as tracking down Leonard DeWitt myself to confirm a couple details.
    I also got more insight into his dark past by reading the memoirs of two of his wives. He actually may have had another child with his first wife, Neile, but he forced her to abort it because she had a one-night stand with another actor, so it wasn’t clear who the child’s father was. It gave me more perspective on conversations Ragsdale records where McQueen repeatedly expressed incredulity that he really could be redeemed. It’s only when you realize the depths of your sin that you’re in a proper place to receive grace.

  • I’ve just been in contact with Leonard DeWitt yesterday, & Judy Ragsdale (wife of the late Gary) is on our mailing list & has emailed me a number of times in regard to Steve McQueen! Judy said she was cut out of Steve McQueen’s will by Barbara Minty!!!???? No matter what, it is amazing how Steve got saved! I read the chapter in Barbara’s book, great news! I am thinking about creating a tract about his conversion for mass distribution, not sure yet! Every blessing, John (

  • Wow! I would be really interested in seeing some of that correspondence, but I understand if you feel you can’t violate privacy.

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  • So very glad to read this, he was one of my all time “favorites, will pass this on. Wonder how many others in ‘Hollywood’ like this, that we don’t even know about? Our God Is Truly Amazing. Bless you for publishing this.

  • John Davis

    Great news! Thanks for sharing!
    Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2015 05:04:01 +0000 To:

  • E. Beneke

    Watching Bullit. Heard he had become a Christian. This confirms it for me. Looking forward to seeing him, and Jesus, when I am go home.

  • I love that movie! Thanks for reading. This is probably my all-time most-read article.

  • Joe Buckley


  • Trudy White

    Is this movie available for me to purchase?

  • Which movie? I just made a music video with clips from various films and put it on YouTube for free.

  • Raf Lopez

    Indeed. I learned about his story with this amazing ending you shared from Pastor Greg Laurie tonight at #harvestsocal
    Thank you so much.

  • Wow! Did he mention this article?

  • Raf Lopez

    I can’t recall if he did. He did post about it again in FB. Here is the link

  • Yes, doesn’t matter if it’s the last minute, if you accept the King of Glory, Jesus, as your Savior, you are one of HIS…God be praised for leading Steve to HIM

  • One should rejoice when another is saved, even at the last minutes of their lives. But note that many play games with God – “I will become a Christian before I die”. The postulate that they can just choose when to be saved is full of error. God saves them not play with the world and at the last minute slick in.. Also apart from Jesus there is no salvation. Also, death can be very quick and who knows when they will die and who will reach out to God at the last minute if their lifestyle is an affront to God and destroys their soul.
    Now, is the day of salvation – when God is dealing with you and you recognize the need for God NOW, not later.
    Some do fight God and in their desperation as life is ending do find Him but MOST DO NOT because if they rebel and don’t repent there is no salvation because of their habit of rejecting God and His will to save them.
    It is like playing the odds on the top lotto where one in a million wins claiming you will eventually accept God’s salvation while playing with the world. God’s salvation is for all but there is only so much one can spurn and defy God and expect to be saved. God looks at the heart and those issues are between God and man only.

  • Allen Knutson

    What a beautiful testimony that should reinforce the fact that all who believe can have everlasting life no matter what they’ve done. And that truth was bought by the blood of Christ. John 3:16 just became my current favorite verse. I pray that everyone who reads this will be born again.

  • Gilbert Marv Graham-Jr

    I am so happy to hear that Steve came to know Jesus Christ as his Lord & Savior. He is with our Lord. Amen.

  • Frank Steven Smallwood

    Brought tears to my eyes.

  • Eric Williams

    You people who judge this man. The writer is ignorant, provided a half assed account as to the character of McQueen. You refer to him as a scumbag but provide no frame of reference. That’s because you are lazy and have no idea what you are writing about. Steve was driven by his childhood whether he knew it or not. You, not being a man, and more than likely a typical feminist, are the problem with why boys have no fathers. That’s another topic, but McQueen did so much good why do you focus on his imperfections? Because he was mean to people? Have you tried to become a movie star and run a production company? No, but you aren’t that competitive and I can say scumbag lazy. You people are pathetic in how your perceive this man. He did more good in one week than you have in your whole pathetic life. Think twice before judging someone such as this, as you only come off like a scumbag yourself.