Steve McQueen’s wife’s affair with famous star brutally ‘drove him over the edge’

Few actors can boast a resume as impressive as Steve McQueen’s. From The Great Escape to Bullitt, Papillon to The Getaway, the star quickly cemented himself as ‘The King of Cool’ in Hollywood. Sadly, his life wasn’t as glamorous behind the camera. Before dying in 1980 at the age of 50, McQueen was married three times to Neile Adams, Ali MacGraw and Barbara Minty. His troubled relationships stemmed back to his childhood, with his first marriage ending in shocking violence.

McQueen and Adams were married from 1956 to 1972. Despite being married for 16 years, it wasn’t until 1970 when their relationship became violent. Speaking to Steve McQueen Online, his former wife explained how things changed.

Adams said: “The man never laid a hand on me for the first 14 years of our life together, but the fact that I’d had an affair just really drove him over the edge. I expected that, really, because I knew him so well, but I didn’t think it would destroy our marriage. But it did.”

Despite the star being jealous of her affair, he didn’t hold himself up to the same standard. He was known for seeing multiple women, something he was open about at the time, even to his wife. Adams, recalls McQueen said: “Look, ah, I should tell you, there’ll be women coming from all over the world to visit me this summer.”

READ MORE: ‘Never speak to them again’ Bing Crosby would cut ties with kids

At the time, McQueen was repeatedly asking her if she was having an affair, something she vehemently denied. However, she was seeing someone else – Maximilian Schell, the actor who had earned a 1962 Oscar for his performance in Judgement at Nuremberg. Her repeated denials only made McQueen more suspicious, according to biographer Marc Eliot’s book Steve McQueen: A Biography.

McQueen eventually tricked Adams by offering her some cocaine. Eliot wrote: “She didn’t like that sort of thing, but he pushed her, and to keep the peace between them, she did a little bit.”

He added: “Once again, Steve brought up infidelity. Only this time, Neile’s resistance broke down, and she confessed she had – with a famous actor who had won an Academy Award.”

After this confession, McQueen went into a frenzy, grabbing a gun and repeatedly demanding she gave up the name. This eventually led to her naming Schell in a bid to get him to stop screaming and berating her.

Eliot explained: “While admonishing her, he began to hit her, punching and jabbing and smacking her in the face, until she confessed that she had liked sleeping with the other man. When he was finally finished, he left her in that chair, beaten up, bloody, and sobbing.”

McQueen never confronted Schell about this, but he did try to have him hired in one of his films. At the time he was unavailable for the part, “which probably saved his life,” Eliot added. The actor later showed remorse for his actions against Adams, but she filed for divorce soon after.

Elvis movie: What is the release date of Elvis 2022? [INSIGHT]
Uncharted movie: What is the Uncharted release date UK? [EXPLAINER]
Bohemian Rhapsody 2: Brian May ‘excited’ by Freddie sequel ideas [INSIGHT]

Many of his issues can be traced back to his tumultuous childhood. Eliot states that he was “the product of a one-night stand” between a circus stunt pilot and a “teenage alcoholic prostitute.”

He explained: “His emotional insecurity left him extremely sensitive and wary, a combination that would aid him enormously in his early days as an actor. [It led eventually to] his powerful attraction to and essential distrust of females – a pattern that began in childhood with his mother and continued into adult life with the three women he made his wives.”

In the twilight years of his life, McQueen became a born-again Christian in 1979, nearly six months before he was diagnosed with cancer. The actor had a rare, normally fatal lung cancer and died on November 7, 1980.