• Golden Globe Awards

Neile Adams on her Marriage to Steve McQueen: “It was an everlasting love”

When, quite literally, Neile Adams ran into Steve McQueen at the age of 23 on Broadway, she had no idea that the moment would change her life and turn into a scene in a movie.
Neile Adams, who grew up in the Philippines, had been through rehearsals at Carnegie Hall. A very handsome man made her turn and look twice. And so did he. It was the beginning of a lifelong love that would last in spite of a divorce, remarriages, and his death in 1980.
“I will take care of you,” Neile Adams clearly recalls him saying already back then when they first met. “I will always take care of you,” he said. And he always did.”
The Woman Behind the Man
We are at home with Neile Adams in Century City. She is 90 years old now and her home is full of memories. On the walls you find images of Hollywood royalty. There are posters of herself from the Broadway years and from Picasso exhibitions, photographs of Steve McQueen, their two children, and a few of Kirk Douglas too.

On a table sits the book “My Husband, My Friend: A Memoir” published in 2006. It will soon be turned into a movie about one of Hollywood’s grandest love affairs. The working title is “The McQueens” and the script is in development at the Los Angeles-based production company “No Fat Ego.”
“My name was on the marquee already and his was not,” says Adams about her suitor, who was three years older and in a show on Broadway that would soon fire him. She was at the top of her career. He was still far from making it. But Adams saw something in Steve McQueen that was deeper than just love. She decided to push him, make sure he made it. That became her project until the couple split in 1972 after 16 years of marriage.
“From the beginning, I kept pushing him,” says Adams, who introduced McQueen to her agent at William Morris to make sure he was in good hands. He went on to make The Great Escape (1963), Bullitt (1968), and Le Mans (1971). “Throughout his career, I would read his scripts and pick the projects for him. I stopped working. We changed positions – now he was up there and I was supporting him.”
Matching and not
It was a match made in heaven in many ways. The couple had similar backgrounds. Both had parents who neglected them. They grew up alone. There was a deep understanding of what that meant to a human being, but they dealt with it in very different ways.
“Steve never got over the problems he had, whereas I always did and I moved on,” she explains. She adds that her attitude toward life was much lighter than his. “That is just the way I am. When my daughter passed away in 1998, it was the hardest for me. I felt like I was having a heart attack. But you get on with it. Or you wither away and die.”
The Hollywood power couple remarried after their divorce. They would always gravitate towards each other. McQueen had been unfaithful – as Adams’ mother had predicted, “successful men very rarely do not have affairs” – but the bond between them stayed intact.
“It is a great love story. It really is. It is a universal story. We married, we had a great life and then we divorced because of this craziness. But I was always in his life. As he used to say: “It was always you.” I was always there for him. He always asked me for advice.”
Danish Producers
Danish producing partners Sofie Nordstrom and Niels Juul fell in love with the love story and decided to develop it into a movie with their company No Fat Egos. For Niels Juul, in particular, it was a familiar story. He had been running the Von Dutch clothing company and there was a strong Steve McQueen connection there too. The love for motorcycles, the style surrounding that culture.
“When I got to know her, I realized that here was an extraordinary woman,” says Juul, whose credits include Silence (2016), The Irishman (2019), the upcoming Ferrari, and Killers of the Flower Moon. “It was not only one of the greatest love stories I had ever heard of, it was also a story about perseverance and how she shows incredible strength in creating his career. What I love most about the story is that, regardless of what happened between them, they remained close friends till his death. They were connected in love and through their pain.”
Sofie Nordstrom wanted to highlight Adams’ strength and support of McQueen. In her opinion, he would have struggled without her. It’s important for her that the script is written by a woman and seen from a woman’s perspective.
“She made it as a woman in the US with all odds against her. Her strength, ambition, and drive were so admirable.” Addams came to the country from the Philippine. Her ancestry is Chinese and Spanish. “We would like to not only tell the story of a famous idol but, actually, tell the behind-the-scenes story, which is really beautiful. It is about how he got to that success. It is about the power of the woman who stood behind him and had the vision and the smarts to maneuver in Hollywood.”
Loving the Globes
On the wall is also a photo from the Golden Globes ceremony in 1967. Overall. Steve McQueen was nominated for a total of 6 Golden Globe Awards. He won twice. In 1967 and in1970 he took home the Henrietta Award for World Film Favorite – Male.
“I loved going to the Globes,” says Adams, who accompanied the actor to the festive evening when he got nominated for Love with the Proper Stranger (1963), The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Reivers (1969), and Papillon (1973).
“It was a fun night. You would wander around and talk to people. At the Academy Awards you just sat there. It is definitely more fun being at the Globes,” she concludes.