Nearly 40 years after his death, acting legend Steve McQueen is still referred to as the “King of Cool.” His rags-to-riches story still fascinates fans, new and old. But one chapter of that story has rarely been told. And that is his journey to faith. McQueen overcame many hardships to become the Hollywood “boy wonder” of the 1960s and 1970s. And now Pastor Greg Laurie tells the rest of the story.
Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California – and a lifelong Steve McQueen fan – talked about the actor’s life in a recent interview with CBN.
“He had no father, and his mother really did not raise him,” said Laurie. “She was a raging alcoholic, with a lot of guys, and I tracked with that part of the story because I, too, had an alcoholic mother, married and divorced seven times and I never knew my biological father.”
An American Icon
By today’s Hollywood standards, Steve McQueen’s resume could be considered relatively short. But he is an American icon. “Not everybody from his generation is an icon,” Laurie said. “But James Dean, another contemporary of McQueen, is an icon. Elvis is an icon. The Beatles are iconic. Certain people transcend time and they become iconic characters. I think maybe one of the things that makes a person an icon is when there is sort of a timelessness about them.”
But Laurie discovered more about McQueen than his iconic stature in American culture. He discovered something about his faith. “I started delving into Steve’s life more, and I had heard that he had become a Christian, and I believed it to be true, but I never had checked it out.”
The Pastor Who Led McQueen to Christ
“I had seen a documentary film last year. And it talked about his rise from the worst childhood imaginable to superstardum, where he was the number one star in the world, in films like Bullitt, The Great Escape, The Magnificent 7, etc., and then how he walked away from Hollywood and became a Christian, and I thought, is this true?” Laurie continued.
The megachurch pastor went to work. In his search, he says, “The name Leonard DeWitt popped up. Leonard is the pastor who led Steve to Christ and I wondered if this guy was still alive.”
Laurie tracked him down. He asked the aging pastor, “Are you the Leonard DeWitt that prayed with Steve McQueen?” And he said, “Yes, I am.”
Laurie said, “I was amazed that Leonard didn’t have a website that said, ‘The preacher who led Steve McQueen to Christ.’ That’s quite an accomplishment.”
The Salvation of an American Icon
Laurie has written a soon-to-be published book on Steve McQueen. The book includes details of a special meeting between McQueen and Billy Graham.
Doctors diagnosed McQueen with an aggressive form of cancer only months after he accepted Christ. Before McQueen flew to Mexico for surgery, he met with Graham, who gave him his personal Bible for the trip.
Laurie said, “I asked Billy about this years ago, and he confirmed that’s what happened. Steve went down and had the surgery. After they wheeled him into recovery, he was waiting in this room alone in the clinic in Juarez, Mexico, and he died. And he went into the presence of God. They came in to find Steve and they pulled the sheet back and he was holding onto that Bible.”
He continued, “It was indeed Billy Graham’s Bible that he was holding onto, maybe reading it when the Lord called him home.”
And then Laurie revealed this powerful truth. “One thing Steve said before he died was, ‘My only regret in life is that I was not able to tell people about what Christ did for me.’ So, I wrote this book to tell his story for him.”
In his book, Laurie concludes, “Steve McQueen, the ‘King of Cool,’ realized he needed Christ. So the ‘King of Cool’ met the ‘King of Kings.'”
About the Author
Efrem Graham writes for CBN News.