The beginnings were inauspicious. An unaccredited appearance as an extra in Girl on the Run, a low-budget crime flick, kicked off several years of roles in TV series and films for Steve McQueen.

Then, in 1960, he was in The Magnificent Seven and got himself noticed even among the likes of Yul Brynner and Charles Bronson. From then on, McQueen was the embodiment of cool, rugged masculinity and turned in stellar performances in myriad movies, including The Great Escape, Bullitt (the one with the famous Mustang car chase), The Thomas Crown Affair, Papillon and The Towering Inferno.

He turned down many roles, too, declining to appear in Dirty Harry and Apocalypse Now, to name but two – and if it hadn’t been for contractual reasons, he might also have taken Peppard’s place in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When he wasn’t acting, this one-time US Marine enjoyed life and also lifted weights, ran, and practiced martial arts. As if that weren’t enough, he was into off-road biking, motor racing, and flying. Bit of a daredevil…

Sadly, cancer – a legacy of his work with asbestos as a Marine – took him at the age of just 50, in 1980.

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