Steve McQueen was born Terence Steven McQueen on March 24, 1930 in Beech Grove, Indiana.
His father, William, a stunt pilot for a barnstorming flying circus, abandoned Steve and his mother when Steve was six months old. His mother, Julia, was an alcoholic. Unable to cope with bringing up a small child, she left him with her parents (Victor and Lillian) in Slater, Missouri, in 1933. After the Great Depression began, Steve and his grandparents moved to his Great Uncle Claude's farm.
Steve spent his childhood and teenager years being shuffled back and forth between his Great Uncle's farm and his mothers.
Steve did not adjust well to this constant change and as a teenager he was running with a street gang and committing acts of petty crime. At age 14, Steve ran away and joined a circus for a period of time. He returned to his mother and latest step father in Los Angeles and resumed his life as a gang member and petty criminal.
Steve was eventually remanded to the California Junior Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California. Here, Steve McQueen slowly began to change and mature.
When Steve McQueen became a successful actor, he had an unusual reputation for demanding free items in bulk from studios when agreeing to do a film, such as electric razors, jeans and several other products. It was later found out that McQueen requested these things because he was donating them to the California Junior Boys Republic in Chino Hills.
After Steve McQueen left Chino, he met two sailors from the Merchant Marine and volunteered to serve on a ship bound for the Dominican Republic. Once there, he abandoned his new post, eventually making his way to Texas, and drifted from job to job. He worked as a towel boy in a brothel, on an oil rigger, as a trinket salesman in a carnival and as a lumberjack.
In 1947, Steve McQueen joined the United States Marine Corps and was quickly promoted to Private First Class and assigned to an armored unit. Initially, he reverted to his prior rebelliousness, and as a result was demoted to Private on seven different occasions. He even went AWOL once and spent 41 days in the brig when captured by the shore patrol.
After his stint in the brig, Steve McQueen showed improved and embraced the Marines' discipline. He once saved the lives of five other Marines during an Arctic exercise, pulling them from a tank before it broke through ice into the sea. Steve McQueen served until 1950 when he was honorably discharged.
In 1952, with financial assistance provided by the G.I. Bill, Steve McQueen began studying acting at Sanford Meisner's Neighborhood Playhouse. In 1955, he auditioned along with 2000 performers for Lee Strasberg's exclusive Actors' Studio. Only two were accepted: Martin Landau and Steve McQueen.
In 1955, he appeared in his one and only Broadway production in the play A Hatful of Rain, starring Ben Gazzara.
Steve McQueen made his film debut as an uncredited extra in Girl on the Run (1953). His next film would be playing Fidel in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1955)starring Paul Newman.
After appearing in several television shows like Studio One, West Point, Tales of Wells Fargo and Climax, he was cast as Martin Cabell in Never Love a Stranger (1958).
In 1958, he landed his first starring role in the cult classic The Blob.
In 1958, Steve McQueen got his big break when he was cast as Josh Randall in the television series Wanted, Dead or Alive. The show would last for three seasons and make Steve McQueen a household name. His character became famous for the holster that held a sawed-off Winchester rifle nicknamed the "Mare's Leg" instead of the standard six-gun carried by the typical Western character.
In 1959, he was cast as Bill Ringa in Never So Few directed by John Sturges. John Sturges would remember Steve McQueen when casting The Magnificent Seven (1960. Steve McQueen would be cast as Vin, one of The Magnificent Seven. Steve McQueen was now a movie star.
From 1961 to 1963, Steve McQueen appeared in The Honeymoon Machine (1961), Hell is for Heroes (1962) and The War Lover (1962).
In 1963, Steve McQueen once again teamed with director John Struges in The Great Escape.
During the 1960s, Steve McQueen starred in such movies as Love with a Proper Stranger (1965), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), Nevada Smith (1966), The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), and The Reviers (1969).
During the 1970s, Steve McQueen's films included Le Mans (1971), Junior Bonner (1972), The Getaway (1972), Papillon (1973), The Towering Inferno (1976), and An Enemy of the People (1978).
Steve McQueen's final film was The Hunter (1980).
Steve McQueen received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Sand Pebbles (1966).
Steve McQueen received four Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor for Love with the Proper Stranger(1964), The Sand Pebbles (1967), The Reivers (1970) and Papillon (1974).
Steve McQueen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures.
Steve McQueen 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.
Steve McQueen performed many of his own stunts, most notably the high speed chase scene through the streets of San Fransico in Bullitt. With the exception of the Chestnut Street flying jumps (with Bud Ekins doubling McQueen) and the gas-station crash gag (Carey Loftin doubling him for that).
In The Great Escape, the actual jump over the fence in was performed by Bud Ekins for insurance purposes. However, Steve McQueen did have a considerable amount of screen time riding his 650cc Triumph TR6 Trophy motorcycle in the chase scences. At one point, due to clever editing, McQueen is seen in a German uniform chasing himself on another bike.
Additionally, McQueen designed and patented a bucket seat and transbrake for race cars.
Steve McQueen collected classic motorcycles. By the time of his death, his collection included over 100 and was valued in the millions of dollars.
He owned several exotic sports cars, including: Porsche 917, Porsche 908 and Ferrari 512 race cars from the Le Mans film; 1963 Ferrari 250 Lusso Berlinetta; Jaguar D-Type XKSS (Right-Hand Drive); and Porsche 356 Speedster. To his dismay, Steve McQueen was never able to own the legendary Ford Mustang GT 390 that he drove in Bullitt.
In 1999, Steve McQueen was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
Steve McQueen was married three times: to Neile Adams, Ali MacGraw, and Barbara Minty. He had two children with Neile Adams: Terry (born 1959, died 1998) and Chad (born 1960 and one illegitimate child, Fred McQueen (born 1957.)
Steve McQueen's son Chad is also an actor and played Dutch in The Karate Kid (1984).
Steve McQueen's grandson, Steven R. McQueen is also an actor. He played Jeremy Gilbert in The Vampire Diaries and Kyle Hunter on Everwood.
In December 1979, Steve McQueen was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He passed away at the age of 50 on November 6, 1980. His ashes were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.
Although Steve McQueen has been gone for 29 years his legacy lives on. In 2005, Ford used Steve McQueen's likeness in a commercial for the 2005 Bullitt Mustang. The Town of Slater, Missouri hosts a Steve McQueen Festival each September.
The blue tinted sunglasses worn by Steve McQueen in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair sold $70,200 in 2006.
One of his motorcycles, a 1937 Crocker, sold for a world-record price of $276,500 in 2006.
Steve McQueen's 1963 metallic-brown Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Lusso sold for $2.31 million at auction on August 16, 2007.