Before making his way back to the United States, McQueen worked in a brothel as a towel boy for a time. He returned home and began a series of odd jobs around the country, including working on oil rigs and in a carnival. In , McQueen enlisted in the U. Marine Corps and became a tank driver. Showing his rebellious streak, he ended up in the brig for extending a weekend pass into a two-week holiday. McQueen was far from the model soldier: "I was busted back down to private about seven times. The only way I could have been made corporal was if all the other privates in the Marines dropped dead," he said, according to Marshall Terrill's Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel.
He hung out in the Greenwich Village neighborhood, a Bohemian enclave.
Steve McQueen, TAG Heuer legend
For a time, McQueen seemed aimless, moving and changing jobs frequently. He discovered his calling with the help of a girlfriend who was also an aspiring actress. With support from the G. McQueen's first role as an actor was a bit part in a Yiddish theatrical production; he only had one line and was cut from the show after four nights.
Despite this setback, it was apparent that McQueen had talent, and he won a scholarship to study at the Uta Hagen-Herbert Berghof School in He felt a rivalry with Newman, a fellow member of the Actors Studio. The show became a big hit, and McQueen started to attract more attention from Hollywood. Around this time, he discovered a passion for race-car driving. McQueen was already a longtime fan of motorcycles. His television show ended shortly afterward, giving him the opportunity to take on more film roles.
With 's The Great Escape , McQueen earned top billing, showing the world that he was a bona fide movie star. More box office hits followed, including the gambling drama The Cincinnati Kid and the Western Nevada Smith Turning to more weighty material, McQueen had better success as the title character of Junior Bonner , a well-received family drama directed by Sam Peckinpah.
As his career progressed, the actor's personal demons began to eclipse his talent. Their relationship grew increasingly stormy, fueled in part by McQueen's use of alcohol and drugs, until their divorce in Both of his ex-wives later stated that the actor could be physically abusive and was often unfaithful. He was almost unrecognizable in the film with his long hair, beard and heavier physique, and audiences did not know what to make of their action hero's portrayal of a scientist fighting against pollution.
After this project failed at the box office, McQueen returned to more familiar character types. By this time, McQueen was terribly ill. He had been experiencing flu-like symptoms and respiratory problems for a while, before an X-ray taken in late showed that he had a tumor in his right lung.
The doctors said that his type of cancer stemmed from exposure to asbestos and was known to be aggressive and terminal. McQueen returned for the bleak drama Baby the Rain Must Fall , playing a country singer recently released from prison; Lee Remick was his supportive wife.
As Evelyn…. Steve McQueen earned his only Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of an alienated and disillusioned sailor. History at your fingertips.
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