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'King of Cool' lecture celebrates life of Steve McQueen

March 15, 2011

Steve McQueen’s widow and his biographer are coming to ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus to discuss and celebrate the life of the ‘King of Cool’ as part of a popular lecture series.

Barbara McQueen and author Marshall Terrill will appear at 6:30 p.m., April 7, at ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation Building Two, 550 N. Third St., Phoenix, Innovation Auditorium, Room 110. The two will co-present, "Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool,” answer questions, and sign copies of Terrill’s two new books, Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon and Steve McQueen: A Tribute to the King of Cool as well as McQueen’s 2007 photo book Steve McQueen The Last Mile.

The spring 2011 Humanities Lecture series is sponsored by ASU’s School of Letters and Sciences and University College. The event is free and open to the public.

“What does Steve McQueen have to do with the humanities?” asks Terrill, who has written four books on the cinematic icon. “In breaking down McQueen’s life, one can learn about history, human behavior, psychology, triumph and tragedy, and several invaluable life lessons.”  

McQueen, known for his ultra cool and nonconformist movie persona, started out life in rural Indiana. Born to a young, alcoholic mother and abandoned by his father, McQueen was left in the care of his grandparents and other relatives when he was a toddler. Reunited with his mother at age eight, he was introduced to a series of strange men and a violent stepfather. Compounding McQueen’s problems were his partial deafness from a childhood ear infection and his dyslexia, making adjustment to his new life and schooling particularly challenging.

McQueen frequently got into trouble and soon found himself remanded to Boys Republic, a home for troubled teenage boys in Chino, California. Following that, he joined the U.S. Marines for a three-year stint and afterward used the G.I. bill to study acting in New York in the early 1950s. There, his rebellious angst and good looks helped him become a fixture of the emerging Method theater scene, competing with the likes of James Dean and Paul Newman, with television and movie success just around the corner. Terrill will provide a narrative spanning McQueen’s spectacular career, his greatest films (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Sand Pebbles, The Thomas Crown Affair, Bullitt, The Getaway, Papillon and The Towering Inferno), his personal flaws and defeats, and his hard-fought battle with terminal cancer at a controversial clinic in Mexico. 

Barbara McQueen will present a more human side to her husband in rare photos she took from 1977 to 1980. They record a behind-the-scenes look at personal pleasures enjoyed near the end of the actor’s life: hitting the road in his vintage pickup trucks, driving 700 miles for a rare World War I motorcycle, flying antique planes in rural California, and generally ducking out of Hollywood life. The pictures also capture McQueen on the sets of his last two films, Tom Horn and The Hunter.

“It’s very strange when people say, ‘Oh, you were married to Steve McQueen?’” said Barbara McQueen. “He was such a normal guy and unlike most Hollywood stars that I often say, ‘I could have just as easily been married to a plumber or electrician.’”

Author Marshall Terrill is a film, sports and music writer and the author of more than a dozen books, including best-selling biographies of Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley and basketball legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich. Three of his books are in development to be made into movies, including an upcoming McQueen biopic for Black Swan producer Brian Oliver.

Barbara Minty McQueen is the widow of the famous actor and met McQueen in 1977. They remained married until his Nov. 7, 1980, death. She resides in Ketchum, Idaho.

For directions, visit For parking information, visit For more information, call Mirna Lattouf, series lecture organizer, at (602) 496-0638 or visit