Steve McQueen was ‘terrifying’ – ‘He’d knock out anyone who crossed him’

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Today, Steve McQueen is an icon of cinema from the 1950s and 1960s. The Hollywood macho-man made a name for himself by starring in movies such as Bullit and Le Mans. But before he was a multi-million dollar actor he came from a rough background.

His son, Chad McQueen explained how his father’s difficult upbringing lead to his own brash actions.

Chad said in a documentary about Steve: “He was always worried about things being taken away from him. But if you look at where he came from, you can understand why. My dad had a horrible childhood. It made him the man he was.”

Steve was the son of an “alcoholic sex worker,” according to the documentary, I Am Steve McQueen. And after leaving home at an early age he found himself living on the street. He then turned to petty crime to survive, where he was arrested, before returning to his family home. Shortly thereafter, he was sent to a “reform” school. Years later he enlisted in the US Military before he discovered his love for acting.

Chad said these tough life experiences made him the man he was later in life.

Chad said: “He fought like hell for what he believed in, but he had a very short temper. I saw that at home and in his work. He wasn’t opposed to knocking somebody out if they crossed him.”

But this attitude was too much for his first wife. Steve married the actress Neile Adams in 1956, with whom he had his three children. However, once the cameras had stopped rolling, Steve was just as aggressive at home.

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Adams said in the same documentary: “He terrified me.” She noted how he threatened her with a gun when he found out about her affair with actor Maximilian Schell.

And this wasn’t a unique incident. Steve divorced Neile after almost 20 years of marriage in 1972.

He remarried the following year to Ali MacGraw, another actress. And she agreed that the star was certainly very troubled and angry.

Ali said: “He was tremendously insecure and dangerous. When it was good it was very, very good, but when it was bad it was horrendous.”

She added that this aggression affected the kids as well. Ali said: “After five years Steve sort of checked out of the marriage. Chad would come downstairs and find plates sailing past his head. It was a rotten family scenario.”

But Chad claimed that some good did come from his extremely troubled upbringing.

Chad revealed that despite the aggression he displayed toward his wives, he was always very loving towards the children. He said: “If any good came out of him feeling so unwanted as a kid, it was that he always made sure me and my older sister, Terry, knew how much he loved us. He wanted to make up for what he never had.”


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