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How a private meeting with Billy Graham changed actor Steve McQueen's life

Tim Funk, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Religious News

In an 1980 interview with the Asheville Citizen not long after McQueen's death, Graham called his meeting with the actor "one of the most heartwarming stories of my ministry. I think it illustrates how lonely most well-known people are, how guarded they must live and how they really are searching for something. Steve McQueen found what he was searching for."

The film -- "Steve McQueen: American Icon" -- also features interviews with actor Mel Gibson, other actors who worked with McQueen, a renowned stuntman, pilots who taught McQueen how to fly, his pastor, his biographer and the last of his three wives, model Barbara Minty McQueen.

Steve McQueen became a movie star in the 1960s, establishing his image as the King of Cool in the roles of the motorcycle-riding POW in "The Great Escape" and the Ford Mustang-driving police detective in "Bullitt." Other McQueen hits in that decade and in the 1970s included: "The Magnificent Seven," "The Cincinnati Kid," "The Sand Pebbles," "The Thomas Crown Affair," "Towering Inferno," "The Reivers," "Le Mans," "The Getaway" and "Junior Bonner."

But toward the end of his life, McQueen disconnected from Hollywood, sought more privacy and meaning and started attending church.

"He wanted to meet with Billy Graham," Laurie recounts in the film. "And Billy at that time was really, in many ways, the visible representative of evangelical Christians."

Adds McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill in the film: "He felt that Billy Graham was the closest thing to God on earth. He could give (McQueen) either some sort of insight or ... some sort of wisdom."

 

Graham and McQueen finally met privately in California on Nov. 3, 1980. When the actor said he wished he had a Bible with him, the evangelist gave him his own weathered, marked-up copy.

On screen, viewers will see that Bible, with "Billy Graham" on the cover, and Graham's personal note to McQueen:

"To my friend Steve McQueen, May God bless you and keep you always. Billy Graham." The evangelist also wrote "Phil 1:6," a reference to a passage in Paul's Letter to the Philippians in the New Testament.

It reads: " ... being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

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