Terence Steven McQueen was born in Indiana and had a difficult childhood. He was born to a stunt pilot, William T. McQueen, and Julia Ann Crawford. His father left his mother six months after they met. His mother was an alcoholic and a part-time prostitute which made it impossible for her to raise a small child. Unable to give him what he deserved, she left him with her parents in Missouri in 1933. He was raised as a Catholic by his grandparents. He has been recorded describing how much of a pleasure it was to live with his grandparents at the farm of his grandmother’s brother. But this happy childhood wasn’t meant to stay for long. When he was eight, his mother came back to take him back to live with her and her new husband. It was difficult for him to leave the farm and it got even more difficult back home in Indianapolis with his mother and stepfather. His stepfather tortured him to the extent that a nine-year-old boy got forced to run away to live on the streets. Streetlife comes with it negatives and soon he got involved in small scale crimes. Tired of his behavior, his mother sent him back to his grandparents, but it wasn’t long until he called back for him when she remarried for the third time. His new stepfather was no good too but, this time, McQueen fought back, after which he was sent back to his grandparents’ for one last time because after this return, nobody called for him- he ran astray. Although he ran away without even saying goodbye, it didn’t take much time for him to land in the horror house of his mother and stepfather after he got involved in criminal activities.
They got him admitted into the California Junior Boys Republic to correct his behavior. The step worked, and he was soon seen as a role model for the boys. Before becoming an actor, he was a part of several jobs. He worked in a brothel, on an oil rig, as a salesperson and even joined the military. He failed miserably at serving the military and was honorably discharged in 1950 after three years of rebellion and indiscipline. He was a brilliant bike rider and won several races each week which made him earn hundreds of dollars. Finally in 1952, he got serious about acting and, with some financial help, joined the acting school Neighbourhood Playhouse in
. He got his first break as a lead artist in a low budget movie, The Blob, in the year 1958. It was his ticket to success because he then made two more movies in 1959, one in 1960, two more in 1962 and one in 1963 and continued doing more almost every year since then. It was his time, and it was good. He was highly appreciated in his 1963 movie, Great Escape. Although in the beginning, he was famous for his anti-hero personality, he did not stick to one career persona throughout his career- he played an action hero in Bullitt and a family-oriented role in The Reivers. After doing many more movies, he went into a four-year pause in the 1970s. The hiatus was taken well when he returned with a different look and a great movie, An Enemy of the People. He did two more movies after that until he got sick. He was reported to have developed a cough that won’t go away. Tests confirmed that it was a type of rare lung cancer that had no cure. It was believed to have occurred due to exposure to asbestos.
By 1980, he was told there was nothing that could be done to prolong his life. But like anybody’s natural instincts would go, his went to saving himself too. He took a trip to Mexico, which has been reported to have cost about $40,000 per month, where he took several unconventional and unapproved treatments that involved unusual steps like coffee enemas, injections of live cells from animals, etc. He was being treated there by a doctor whose medical license was for orthodontics only. The treatments did not work, and he returned to the U.S. to have yet another surgery. All his efforts went in vain when he died in his sleep due to a cardiac arrest. After his death, he was included in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and also in the Hall of Great Western Performers.