Steve McQueen became a household name throughout the 1970s after starring in Bullitt, as well as a number of other high-octane Hollywood hits including The Great Escape and The Getaway to name a few. In 1972 McQueen was cast alongside American actor Barbara Leigh in the film Junior Bonner.
The two actors hit it off, and soon started a relationship behind the scenes. But she was also still seeing Elvis Presley.
Elvis and Barbara reportedly had a “don’t ask don’t tell” relationship that allowed them to see other people while also dating themselves. So then, when Barbara met Steve, she was happy to start seeing him once the cameras had been turned off.
Speaking about her relationship with the two icons, she said: “Elvis later found out about Steve McQueen when I was filming Junior Bonner in Prescott, Arizona. Elvis decided he wanted to visit me in Arizona, and it was an awkward moment.”
The disdain between the two icons went both ways, however. Steve was not a big fan of Elvis dating Barbara, either.
In fact, when Steve would call Barbara and Elvis was present he would insult the King by hinting at his upbringing. He would ask Barbara over the phone: “Is that guitar hick still there?” referring to his southern childhood in Tennessee.
Elvis would use similar insults on Steve, as well.
Barbara explained how, when Elvis found out about her relationship with Steve, he pressured her to tell him the truth about what was going on.
It’s no wonder Elvis was jealous of Steve. The King always wanted to be a movie star – but by the 1970s, that dream was dead. He spent the majority of the 1950s and 1960s playing heartthrob parts in musical movies to promote his own voice and albums.
Steve, on the other hand, quickly built a show-stopping Hollywood career that made him extremely popular. But, according to Steve McQueen’s biographer Mashall Terrill, the two icons did meet once at a red light in the street.
Terrill recalled their meeting took place years before they were inadvertently involved in a love triangle with one another. He said: “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.”
There is no other known meeting between the two stars, other than their secret dislike for one another behind the scenes.