Steve McQueen’s faith explored in powerful new documentary

He was the “king of cool,” the highest-paid actor in the world and the idol of moviegoers from coast to coast. Some even called him the next John Wayne.

But for Steve McQueen — who starred in more than 30 films and 20 TV series during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s — it wasn’t enough. Fame didn’t satisfy him. Neither did women, motorcycles or cars.

In fact, McQueen didn’t find inner peace until the final months of his life when he accepted Christ and had plans to tell the world about his newfound faith. But that public testimony never came, as McQueen died in 1980 at the age 50, having told only a handful of people how Jesus had saved him.

The rest of the story

A new documentary may change how we view McQueen. Called “Steve McQueen: American Icon,” it follows his journey from a troubled youth to Hollywood stardom and then tells us the rest of the story — that is, how McQueen converted to Christianity. It is hosted by Greg Laurie, a lifelong McQueen fan who serves as the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, California. Alabama’s Jon and Andrew Erwin (Erwin Brothers Entertainment — “Woodlawn,” “Mom’s Night Out” and “October Baby”), along with Ben Smallbone (“Priceless”), direct the film. Jon Erwin is a member of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham.

The documentary is scheduled to show in theaters only two nights (Sept. 28 and Oct. 10) and is one of the most powerful and inspiring documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s also one that churches easily can get behind. (There’s no language or sexuality.)

“The only time he was truly happy was when he became a born-again Christian,” Marshall Terrill, the author of “Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon,” tells Laurie in the film.

McQueen’s pastor agrees: “There was a peace. There was a calmness” in McQueen.

Laurie also interviews McQueen’s wife (model Barbara Minty McQueen), actor/director Mel Gibson, stuntman Stan Barrett and even the pilot who taught McQueen how to fly.

McQueen was known for such hits as “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Great Escape,” “Bullitt” and “The Towering Inferno.”

But toward the end of his life he dropped out of Hollywood and turned down major acting roles, sensing something was missing. He finally found it thanks to a series of providential encounters: one with a Christian on the set of a film and the other with a pilot. During the final hours of his life he even met Billy Graham, who gave McQueen his personal Bible.

‘All is vanity’

“Steve McQueen: American Icon” is Ecclesiastes on the big screen with the storyline of a man who obtains fame and fortune and then reaches the end of his life only to proclaim, “All is vanity.”

McQueen’s discovery is one that all of us need to hear.