Actor. Most remembered for his roles in "The Great Escape" (1963), Papillon (1973), and a host of other action movies. Born in Beech Grove, Indiana, he dropped out of school in the 9th grade, was sent to reform school, and enlisted in the US Marine Corps. Later, he studied acting, breaking into films in 1956 with bit parts. In 1958, he got the lead in the teen movie "The Blob" (1958), which lead to his role of bounty hunter Josh Randall in the TV series "Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1958-1960). His career continued to grow with films such as "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), Hell is for Heroes (1962) and "The Great Escape" (1963), in which he performed many of his own stunts on a motorcycle. For his role as Jake Holman in "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), he received an Oscar nomination. His most successful film was "Bullitt" (1968), which he again performed his own stunts, running up and down San Francisco hills in a car. Diagnosed with mesothelioma lung cancer (caused by exposure to asbestos - it is thought that the asbestos lined crash suit from his race car driving days was one potential source) in December 1979, he kept it a secret while filming "The Hunter" (1980), and died within a day after undergoing surgery to remove tumors from his right lung. He was married three times, to Neile Adams (1957 to 1972, divorced), to actress Ali MacGraw (1973 to 1978, divorced), and to Barbara Minty (1980 until his death). He often carried a pistol after it was determined that he topped the list of celebrities to be killed by the Charles Manson "Family;" oddly enough, he would claim to have a dinner appointment at the home of Roman Polanski-Sharon Tate the night she was murdered by the Manson group, but had to cancel the appointment; this claim is disputed by other Hollywood star watchers.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson