Filmmaker John Erwin has encouraged Christians to bring their non-believing friends to watch the forthcoming faith-based documentary Steve McQueen: American Icon, as they will simultaneously be entertained and exposed to how the Gospel can change even the hardest of hearts.
"We are challenging Christians to begin to think differently about Christian films," Erwin, who with his brother Andy is behind Woodlawn and October Baby, told The Gospel Herald. "We make films that are designed to engage people in their community, for you to bring your friends. We're making them entertaining and emotionally relatable - they don't jump out and scare you with faith-based stuff. Instead, they bait you in and you get hooked on the story."
He added, "A movie theater is a neutral site, it's accessible. With the Steve McQueen movie, it's really not till the back half the film that we begin to discuss his faith."
Steve McQueen: American Icon, hitting theaters for one night on September 28, hails from American Icon Films, a joint venture between Erwin Brothers Entertainment and pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship. It 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.
Known as the "The King of Cool," McQueen rose from poverty to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars in the late 1950's and 60's, starring in major films like The Towering Inferno and The Blob. Soon, he was charging $50,000 to simply read a script, accumulating fame, fortune, drugs, and women.
Despite his material success, McQueen was empty inside, his life spiraling out of control. At the height of his career, he walked away from Hollywood, embarking on a journey to find meaning.
McQueen died in 1980 of mesothelioma, but not before becoming a Christian and striking up a friendship with famed evangelist Billy Graham, who gave him a Bible. In the Bible he wrote the words: "To my friend Steve McQueen: May God bless you and keep you" and added the Scripture found in Philippians 1:6: "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."
During his one of his last meetings with his pastor, the actor said, "My only regret in life was that I was not able to tell others about what Jesus Christ did for me." When McQueen died at 50 years old, he was clutching Graham's Bible.
"It's only after showing McQueen's fame and taking you on a fun ride through the history of old Hollywood that we say, 'here's what happened at the end of his life,' and we get to a very powerful place," Erwin said. "That's as far as we can take the audience. They then need to say, 'I need what's in that movie. I don't understand it, but I need whatever it is.' And that is the good news of the gospel that can change your life and set you free."
He added, "That is the great proof of Christianity, is in the lives it changes. Steve McQueen is one of those people."
Christian or not, Erwin said the film will resonate with all audiences because through storytelling, it examines a very relatable question: Where do you find happiness and meaning and fulfillment in life?
"Story is and always has been the language of our hearts, and entertainment is the language of our time," he said. "A movie unites the two together. It's a very powerful new way to do an old thing. I consider myself a storyteller serving the greatest storyteller of all time. Jesus told incredible stories. There are ways to disarm and open people up to deeper spiritual conversations in this distracted culture we live in. This movie is a tool of engagement, so that you can go on the offense in your community."
Erwin said he's seen the tool work; in fact, over 25,000 people embraced Christianity as a result of Woodlawn. Steve McQueen: American Icon, he said, will see similar fruits.
"Our movies will be accessible to your family and won't offend you," he said, "and yet we're going to pull no punches in telling these hopeful stories of how the gospel can change your life and set you free, and here's the proof. This is a perfect illustration of that working, and it's encapsulated in a story that's never been told for whatever reason. It still blows me away."
To learn more about Steve McQueen: American Icon, click here.