MOVIES: Steve McQueen film more than 'celebrity salute'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- "Steve McQueen: American Icon" premieres theatrically nationwide for one night only, Sept. 28. Why do I mention it?

My reason has to do with the fact that this documentary isn't just another celebrity salute. Rather, it's a revealing biography of a tormented man seeking and ultimately finding redemption -- through Jesus Christ. Viewing it, one can see God's guiding hands at work.

The new film about screen idol Steve McQueen ("Bullitt," "The Towering Inferno," "The Great Escape") reveals that toward the end of his life back in 1980, the life-long rebel had surrendered to Christ. Fan or not of the cinema's one time "King of Cool," this faith-based production will inspire, because we clearly see a prodigal son unknowingly take a spiritual journey that eventually led to Christian faith.

Many younger moviegoers may not know the name Steve McQueen, while others have heard that he was supposed to be the star of "The Magnificent Seven," but can't quite place him in that 2016 movie. There's a reason for that: 2016's The Magnificent Seven is what those in the biz call a remake. McQueen's movie stardom began with the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven -- along with five other about-to-bes, and one already established Hollywood ruler, Yul Brenner ("The King and I").

Besides highlighting the actor's career, this 110-minute documentary from Harvest Ministries presents an in-depth interview with McQueen's last wife, Barbara Minty McQueen -- as well as conversations with actor/director Mel Gibson, McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill, stuntman Stan Barrett, co-stars Barbara Leigh and Mel Novak, the pilots who taught Steve to fly, and McQueen's own pastor -- who offers clues as to McQueen's spiritual trek. The production also contains a message from megachurch pastor Greg Laurie and a performance by leading contemporary Christian band MercyMe.

Phil Boatwight
 
The consensus of many a film buff: Steve McQueen was considered "cool" due to his swagger and those piercing blue eyes, which could say more with one stare than most thespians could muster with several paragraphs of dialogue. There's no denying, McQueen had the look. However, what may have been the biggest contributing factor to that self-possessed persona was his apparent lack of fear. In reality, as we learn from the film, he masked an abundance of insecurity with that well-maintained antihero screen image.

Aided by his provocative screen personality, Steve McQueen became a very good actor ("The Sand Pebbles," "Papillion," "Love with the Proper Stranger"). That said, I want to reiterate the importance of this documentary isn't about the showcasing of what this man achieved in life. It's about what the Lord is doing through McQueen's testimony 30-some years after his death.

From the press notes: "It's wildly ironic that one of the world's most well-known men did something important that most people are unaware of," says Harvest Ministries' Greg Laurie, the documentary's commentator. "Steve McQueen: American Icon documents a top star's exodus from a world of fame and fortune to search for meaning, truth and significance."

If you question why I'm covering a movie star better known for his raucous ways than his little-known Christian conversion, let's remember the good thief who sought forgiveness while dying on the cross. The message of this film clearly points out that a man can secure salvation through God's grace and Christ's sacrifice. Any man.

Yes, Steve McQueen seized his celebrity stature and indulged in all it would offer. However, despite his success, we discover through this bio-pic that he always felt something was missing. And though he hadn't disavowed God's existence, the actor waited until the December of his years to embrace Jesus as his Lord.

We hear in McQueen's own voice that he regretted not having more time to witness the love of Jesus. Now, 37 years later, his voice will be heard in movie theaters, declaring Jesus as his Savior.

Imagine that: Steve McQueen witnessing for Christ in movie theaters across our country!

Do you know people who are fans of the legendary actor, who are still searching for spiritual fulfillment, and who aren't busy on Sept. 28? Hmmm.

For further information on theatrical showings of this film: stevemcqueenmovie.com.

Phil Boatwright has been writing about Hollywood from a Christian perspective for over thirty years and is the author of MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available on Amazon.com.
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