‘The Bodyguard’ Role Was Written for Steve McQueen + Other Interesting Facts About the Late Star

WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, Steve McQueen, (April 1959), 1958-61.
Gene Trind/TV Guide /courtesy Everett Collection

Steve McQueen was just one of those actors who effortlessly nailed every performance. The Wanted: Dead or Alive star was a hunk known for films such as The Great Escape and Bullitt and passed away far too young. He died in 1980 at the age of 50 after a battle with a rare type of lung cancer. To celebrate his life and career, let’s learn some interesting facts about McQueen.

He was a bad boy in real life

The War Lover Steve McQueen, 1962

Everett Collection

When McQueen was young, he started getting in with Los Angeles gangs and committed small crimes like stealing hubcaps. He ended up going to a reform school called the California Junior Boys Republic and tried to escape several times. After reform school, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines which helped him to gain some discipline. In 1950, he went to New York and enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse acting group and later the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg. When his career eventually took off, he returned to that same reform school to give inspirational talks.

He was almost in the Rat Pack

Never So Few from left, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, on-set, 1959

Everett Collection

In another ‘almost,’ McQueen could have been a member of the Rat Pack if he wanted to. He co-starred in the 1959 film Never So Few with Frank Sinatra and reportedly, he asked him to become a member of his group. However, McQueen turned down the offer because he wanted to break into the industry on his own and didn’t want to be in Sinatra’s shadow.

He was almost a victim of Charles Manson

American criminal Charles Manson, the man who murdered Sharon Tate, at California Medical Facility, Vacaville, Solano County, California, US, August 1980

Albert Foster/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

Reportedly, McQueen was invited for dinner the night that Charles Manson murdered five people including Sharon Tate. It was also uncovered that McQueen was at the top of Manson’s murder list. Yikes!

He was meant to star in ‘The Bodyguard’

The Bodyguard Kevin Costner, Whitney Houston, 1992

Everett Collection

The script was originally written in 1975 with McQueen in mind for the main role. Sadly, he died before the movie was made and Kevin Costner was cast in his place with pop singer Whitney Houston also starring in the film.

He had a ninth-degree black belt in Tang Soo Do

American actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980) visits a San Francisco karate gymnasium during the location shooting of 'Bullitt', 1968

Archive Photos/Getty Images

He trained under Pat E. Johnson, who created martial arts choreography for Karate Kid.

He owned over 200 motorcycles in his lifetime

The Great Escape Steve McQueen, 1963

Everett Collection

McQueen loved motorcycles, specifically Harley-Davidson and Triumph ones. Eventually, he competed in motorcycle races around the country. While shooting the film The Great Escape, he wanted to do his own stunts for the film. However, he crashed while attempting a 60-foot jump and the studio brought in a stunt double for the scene.

Mr. T was his bodyguard in the ’70s

A-TEAM, Mr. T., 1983-1987

Everett Collection

“I pity the fool” who would mess with the duo of Mr. T and McQueen.


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Classic Hollywood Hunks

September 2019

Cary Grant, Sean Connery, Rock Hudson and Paul Newman, smoldered onscreen and, in addition to being smokin’ hot, they were effortlessly cool.

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