Exclusive interview with Barbara McQueen for The First Steve McQueen Site
Q: How did you first meet Steve McQueen and what was your first impression of him?
BM: I first met Steve on the July 4 weekend of 1977. He saw me in a Club Med ad and found out that my Los Angeles agent was Nina Blanchard. Steve knew Nina, called her, and told her that he had me in mind for the role of an Indian princess in a new movie he was going to produce called Tom Horn. Nina was a sharp cookie and knew of the script and said to him, "There isn't a role for an Indian princess." Steve assured her that he was having the role written for me, so Nina came with me to our first meeting, which was at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Nina told me that I was going to meet the star from The Towering Inferno, and for some reason, I thought she meant Paul Newman, so I was excited. When I met Steve, frankly, he looked like a bum! He had long hair, a shaggy beard and mustache and didn't dress like a movie star. He and Nina ended up talking for the entire two-hour visit while I just sat there, taking it all in. I didn't say a word. When we left the room, Nina turned to me in disgust and said, "Well, you could have opened your mouth!" I don't know why I said this, but I replied, I'm just crazy about that man! I'm going to marry that man!" Turns out that I was right (laughs).
Q: What was it like going to public places with someone so famous? Do any particular events with crazy fans or the media stand out?
BM: Often people didn't even recognize that it was Steve McQueen because of the beard and mustache, and he usually wore sunglasses and a trucker's hat. Then when they did find out it was Steve, they'd act differently, and he hated that. In all of the time that I was with Steve, we didn't really socialize with the Hollywood crowd or go to parties. The only public event we went to was the premiere of Tom Horn. You have to remember, when I was with Steve, he had climbed the Hollywood ladder. He just wanted to kick back and be a normal person again. That's when he really started living again.
Q: It has been said that you and Steve lived an isolated life. Is that the case or did it just appear that way since you both left the "Hollywood" scene behind and had a more normal life?
BM: I wouldn't say we were isolated at all. Steve just stopped talking to the press. He did pretty much what he wanted to do. We took drives up the coast, went to swap meets for motorcycle parts and antiques, took trips to Montana and Idaho, and led a very laid back lifestyle. We made friends, went to their homes and had friends over the house. We went to the Rolling Stones concert in 1978 and got backstage and met Bill Wyman, which there is a picture of in my new book. Steve had the money to do whatever he wanted and he didn't feel the need to play the Hollywood game any longer. He wanted to lead a very normal life and that's exactly what he did.
Q: What is your opinion on the media after having been in the spotlight during your marriage to Steve McQueen?
BM: The funny thing is with the tabloids, they might have gotten some of the facts wrong, but there was always an ounce of truth in what they wrote. Steve's advice to me in dealing with the media was, "Be nice, but don't say shit!" And I never said a word to them my entire time with Steve.
Q: Someone wrote me a short time ago and said they spotted you and your current husband at a motorcycle function. If this is true, what type of bike, if any, do you ride?
BM: We were at the Legend of the Motorcycle event in San Francisco last May. I was asked to be a celebrity judge along with Peter Fonda, who knew Steve and actor Ewan McGregor, who is a very nice gentleman. My husband, David, has lots of different bikes, but I just ride on the back and hang on for dear life. I wouldn't dare ride one myself.
Q: Having sold Steve's items at the Petersen Automotive Museum auction, are there any items that you still have and would never sell? If so, what are they and what makes them special to you?
BM: I have kept a few items, but most everything went in the auction. The things I have kept are very personal and will remain personal.
Q: Was it always your intention to publish these photos or was this something you recently decided to do?
BM: Steve and I originally were going to publish this book in 1980, and we were going to call it The Long Haul. I took the pictures and he was going to write the captions. We were going to visit all of his old haunts, including Slater, Missouri, but then he got too sick. These pictures pretty much stayed in the closet for 25 years, but I had always wanted to publish them. Steve saw every picture and loved the photos I took, so I feel very good about releasing these to the public. I just love the book and am very proud. I know Steve would have been proud of this project. I feel as if over the past year, he's been watching over everything; “ the book, the auction, the photo exhibit at the San Francisco Art Exchange in May 2007, my new relationship with the Boys Republic. Life's good and this year has been a lot of fun. Stressful in some ways, but fun.
Q: Are you working on any other projects that Steve McQueen fans might be interested in?
BM: I'll be doing a fundraiser for the Mesothelioma Foundation in February and the photo exhibit of my pictures of Steve at the San Francisco Art Exchange in May 2007. Stick around, there might be a few other surprises coming down the pike, which is all I can say at the moment.
Q: Finally, what is your favorite Steve McQueen movie?
BM: Honestly, it's hard for me to watch his films. I watched The Thomas Crown Affair recently and had a tough time getting through it. I also caught a glimpse of him in The Great Escape not too long ago and the same thing. I started tearing up and I had to turn the channel. It's been a long process dealing with my feelings about Steve, but at least I'm able to talk about him now. He'll always remain a big part of my life.
(Special thanks to Marshall Terrill for making this interview possible!)
My review of "Steve McQueen: The Last Mile"
This amazing book is a must-have for any McQueen fan. Barbara McQueen and co-author Marshall Terrill have created the definitive book on Steve McQueen.Barbara McQueen’s photos put the reader inside Steve's world during the three and a half years they were together, from their first meeting in 1977 until his untimely death in 1980. Steve McQueen's life is captured in detail through her recollections and the hundreds of photos, that she personally took, that accompany her stories. Barbara, who was a top fashion model when she met Steve, reveals her unique life with him spent traveling the country, on the beaches of Malibu, and living in Santa Paula. She also photographed Steve on the set of Tom Horn and the Hunter. "The Last Mile" will make you feel as though you finally got to see what the real Steve McQueen was like.
I can't say enough good things about "The Last Mile." It should be mandatory reading for all McQueen fans!
To order, go to:
Steve McQueen: THE LAST MILE
Barbara Minty McQueen