"The Passion of the Christ" director Mel Gibson helped inspire Harvest Church pastor Greg Laurie to make the forthcoming film "Steve McQueen: American Icon", director Jon Erwin has revealed.
"Steve McQueen: American Icon", in select theaters for a special one-night event on Thursday, September 28, chronicles the life, relationships, career and spiritual journey of "the King of Cool". It reveals how, at the height of his career, McQueen left behind fame and fortune to embark on a journey to find truth and meaning - finding Christ in the process.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, film director Erwin - who's also behind a number of successful films including "Mom's Night Out", "Woodlawn", and "October Baby" - revealed that Laurie first shared McQueen's incredible conversion experience with himself and Gibson during the 2016 Harvest Crusade in Southern California.
"I was there helping out with the 'Hacksaw Ridge' campaign, and I sat with Mel and Greg in the suite before the crusade, and Greg just started telling the story of Steve McQueen," Erwin said. "He'd recently discovered the story, and he was really passionate about it. So, he shared half of the story before the crusade, and after it, Mel tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'hey, finish the story about McQueen.' Honestly, I felt the same way, just waiting with baited breath."
The very next day, Laurie called Erwin and said, "We gotta make a documentary of McQueen's story."
"We were literally prepping to film 'I Can Only Imagine' but I just couldn't stop thinking about," Erwin said. "It led to traveling all over the United States and making this documentary and finding these audio recordings that had never been heard before where McQueen talks about his faith. Really powerful stuff."
The documentary features never-before-seen photos and interviews with McQueen's closest friends and relatives including his third wife, Barbara Minty McQueen, Gibson, McQueen biographer Marshall Terrill, and more.
"Mel was very kind to do this kind of actor-on-actor, very insightful interview in the documentary," Erwin said. "Barbara McQueen just did this incredibly brave and authentic interview, and Marshall is like the encyclopedia of Steve McQueen. A lot of direct stories of those closest to McQueen - it's a fantastic group that assembled around it. It really exceeded my expectations of what we were able to put together."
He added, "This is the first complete look at the life of Steve McQueen. For whatever reason, the story has been buried for nearly 40 years. It's an honor to bring it to the forefront."
In an earlier interview with GH, Laurie, who also penned a book detailing McQueen's story, reflected on his conversation with Gibson and said it's important to understand that McQueen's embracing of Christianity was "not a deathbed conversion."
"I had a conversation with Mel Gibson last year, and we were talking about Mel's new film, 'Hacksaw Ridge,'" he said. "In the backroom I was telling the story of Steve Mcqueen, which I would in turn share that night. And Mel had never heard the story before. Mel said, 'I always thought Steve became a believer on his deathbed.' And I said, 'No Mel, what's amazing is that it happened when he was a major celebrity, when he was the number one movie star in the world.'"
He added, "People do come to faith on a deathbed, and God is so gracious, he'll hear our prayer wherever we pray it. But that's not what happened with Steve. He was at the top of his game, he literally, at this point, had walked away from Hollywood and was charging $50,000 to even read a script. He thought it would make them stop coming, but he just became more desirable to Hollywood people."
The pastor told GH that he's passionate about sharing McQueen's story because he believes the actor's life is a powerful proclamation that Jesus can redeem anyone and soften even the hardest of hearts.
"Steve McQueen is a modern day Solomon," Laurie told GH. "Solomon had everything the world had to offer. He had all kinds of money, power fame, and everything else, and he said it was all emptiness. Steve came to the same conclusion, which set him on the search that led him to Christ. It's a modern story that shows that no one is beyond the reach of God."