Ink-slinging Steve McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill dishes on Elvis, Paul Newman, and the Duke

Jeremy Roberts
8 min readDec 2, 2017
Frequent Steve McQueen chronicler Marshall Terrill evenhandedly dishes the dirt on the King of Cool’s collisions with fellow Hollywood superstars John Wayne, Paul Newman, and Elvis Presley. Seen here as cerebral San Francisco Police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt, McQueen is locked and loaded with his trusty Colt Diamondback snub-nose pistol in director Peter Yates’ “Bullitt,” unleashed to critical acclaim and strong box office receipts on October 17, 1968. Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Guilty as charged for penning seven authoritative tomes about Steve McQueen going back to 1993’s Portrait of an American Rebel, Marshall Terrill is a reporter in the truest sense of the word. Although a dyed in the wool King of Cool aficionado, Terrill doesn’t sugarcoat any details about the actor’s ceaselessly fascinating, complex life as evidenced by a “Biographer of the Year” accolade bestowed by The Arizona Republic and a day gig promoting Arizona State University.

The executive producer of the theatrically-distributed documentary Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon is corralled below in an exclusive interview probing McQueen’s lifelong rivalry with Paul Newman, the Boys Republic alum’s competitive romantic streak with Elvis Presley over stunning fashion model-actress Barbara Leigh, an evening when the King of Cool stumbled upon a bladder-busting John Wayne backstage at an awards ceremony, and a gritty late ’70s action flick that McQueen mistakenly turned down during his Hollywood sabbatical.

Elvis Presley and Glen Campbell attend the December 5, 1970, wedding of Memphis Mafia member and rock ’n’ roll deejay George Klein to Barbara Little. Presley, also brandishing an elongated black police flashlight, black glove, aviator sunglasses, black velvet fur overcoat, and flashy gold belt recognizing his record-shattering August 1969 season at the Las Vegas International hotel, graciously loaned his pal since the eighth grade the use of his International suite for the marriage. Photography by Frank Carroll / For Elvis CD Collectors Forum

The Marshall Terrill Interview

How was Steve McQueen intertwined with Elvis Presley?

I did a book with late Memphis Mafia member Sonny West called Elvis: Still Taking Care of Business [2007]. He told me a story of how the two met one day on the way to the studio in the mid-’60s. Elvis was in a limousine when McQueen pulled up on a motorcycle. They were pleasant to each other but the exchange was brief.

The two legends really collided when they were competing for the affections of actress Barbara Leigh, who I also wrote a book with — The King, McQueen and the Love Machine [2002]. She was Steve’s co-star in his 1972 rodeo western, Junior Bonner.

Before she met Steve, Barbara was dating Elvis and Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio executive Jim Aubrey in August 1970. She then got the role of “Charmagne”, and she and Steve started seeing each other on the set of Junior Bonner, and even after the movie was completed.

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Jeremy Roberts

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ something fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net