Stephen Boyd: Born to Play a Roman

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Anyone who has read this blog may have noticed I have a fondness for Ancient Rome and Greece. And I do – I have studied it most of my adolescent and adult life and is one of my great passions. One of the reasons I got into the history of that period was from seeing movies like Ben-Hur, Cleopatra & The Fall of the Roman Empire when I was a teen. So in honor of all the Romans I love read about, I thought I would collect a few quotes from Stephen Boyd about Ancient Rome and the famous Romans he studied for many of the roles he played (or would have played). If anyone was born to play a Roman, it was Stephen Boyd.

Quotes about Mark Anthony/Cleopatra


Never was any actor so prepared for a role. I had studied Anthony from every possible angle, reading everything about him I could lay my hands on. (July 11, 1961, Petaluma Argus Courier)

I am interested if Anthony is played as a warrior, as he was in the original script. But I’m not interested if he is only a lover. e can be shown as a warrior making love. But no actor can convincingly play a warrior like figure as a lover. Marlon Brando found that out when he did Napoleon in ‘Desiree.’ (July 11, 1961, Corpus Christi Caller Times)

She (Cleopatra) was an ambitious housewife who dabbled in politics and who wanted Egypt to share the honors with Rome. So she romanced Ceasar, and they had a child. Then later with Anthony, with whom she had four children.

I love the Mark Anthony role; I believe the film will be a tremendous success. It’s not often you get to play a role summed up in the classic line: ‘Who lost Marc Anthony the world? A woman. (Screenland Magazine, July 1961)

Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon and Marcus Aurelius

And strangely enough, in a flash, the conversation veered off from romance to Stephen’s other interests: the science of cybernetics, self-hypnosis, and then to historian Edward Gibbon and his classic work, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” as well as to the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome! ….But far more goes into a role. He (Boyd) reads everything he can find on the period of the film, particularly if it has an historical background. Before he portrayed the evil Messala, and while he was working on “Cleopatra,” he immersed himself in Roman history. All this scholarly reading paid off, for once again he will be involved in the Roman Empire, but this time on a broader canvas. It was this reading which gave him an interest in the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (Why, even Freud was influenced by him.) (Silver Screen Magazine, April 1963)

Quotes about Rome, Romans and Chariots

I may be tempted to settle down in Rome because I had such a big part in building the place. (September 17,1 1962, Standard Speaker)

Try walking down a street someday and make believe you’re a Roman. You have to walk like a Roman, talk like a Roman and act like a Roman. It’s much harder than just playing a modern man–then, all you have to do is act, but you don’t have to think about your walk or your costume or your speech. (June 26, 1966 Brownwood Bulletin)

Chariot racing cannot be mastered without complete muscular control. Enormous pressures challenge the driver every second of the way. To pull of galloping horseflesh, the weight of the Roman two-wheeler and unpredictable terrain features constantly threaten the charioteer. He must be prepared to react with violent resourcefulness to stay alive. (Salt Lake Tribune Nov 16, 1963)


Stephen Boyd studies his Ancient Romans at the Prado Museum in Madrid before staring the filming of The Fall of the Roman Empire.

Stephen Boyd at the Prado with statue of Nero (?)
Stephen Boyd at the Prado viewing the statue of Agrippina, mother of Caligula
Stephen Boyd at the Prado with statue of the Emperor Vespasian
Stephen Boyd at the Prado with the statue of the Emperor Augustus

Stephen Boyd in Roman costume

The shrinkage: In honour of Ant-Man, we rank the best movies about characters who shrink down – Ottawa Citizen


Fantastic Voyage

It’s somewhat surprising that one of the more family-friendly offerings of the shrunken down genre, would be among the most serious. Decades after its 1966 release, Fantastic Voyage has been echoed in films like Innerspace and an unforgettable episode of The Magic School Bus. Nonetheless, it still stands out as the best shrunken-down mission into the human body. With a compelling narrative adventure and a colourful aesthetic composition, Fantastic Voyage is the perfect intersection of science-fiction and anxiety-symbology, making it the all-time shrink-down classic.

Actor Stephen Boyd commemorated with blue plaque – BBC News

Actor Stephen Boyd commemorated with blue plaque

Stephen Boyd was born in Northern Ireland and became a Hollywood legend

Actor Stephen Boyd, who became a Hollywood film idol, has been commemorated with a blue plaque close to his Newtownabbey birthplace.

Boyd is famous for the chariot scene in 1950s blockbuster, Ben-Hur, when he raced alongside Charlton Heston.But he was originally Billy Millar from Glengormley, the youngest of nine children, born on 4 July 1931.It was a chance encounter with Sir Michael Redgrave at a London cinema that paved the way to success. Before that, the aspiring actor had spent nights on a park bench and even busked outside the cinema to make money.Sir Michael helped him along the road to success. He had his big break with the Hollywood epic, Ben Hur.

The blue plaque was unveiled on Wednesday afternoon.

He won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor for his role and carried the scars from that chariot race for the rest of his life.During his career, he played opposite famous leading ladies including Sophia Loren, Doris Day and Brigitte Bardot. Despite the glamour, he never forgot his roots and returned to his parent’s house as often as he could. He bought a bungalow for his parents in Bangor and named it Messala – his character in Ben-Hur.

Stephen Boyd’s Hollywood success has been celebrated by the Ulster History Circle. He died of a heart attack in 1977, aged 46.The plaque was unveiled at noon on Wednesday, at Moygara, 292 Shore Road, Whitehouse.


Blue plaque honour for Ulster-born Hollywood star Stephen Boyd

Blue plaque honour for Ulster-born Hollywood star Stephen Boyd

Stephen Boyd appeared in around 60 movies
Stephen Boyd appeared in around 60 movies
The life and work of legendary Hollywood actor Stephen Boyd is to be commemorated with the unveiling of a blue plaque close to his birthplace in Newtownabbey.
The Ulster History Circle – a voluntary organization which erects plaques across the Province to celebrate people of achievement – will officially unveil the plaque at ‘Moygara’, Shore Road, Whitehouse, tomorrow at noon.
Stephen Boyd – real name William Millar – was born in a house, long demolished, at the corner of the Doagh Road, Whitehouse on July 4, 1931. He was the youngest of nine siblings born to Irish/Canadian parents, James Alexander Millar and his wife Martha Boyd. At a very early age, William, or Billy as he was known, moved with the family to live in Glengormley. Whilst living there, in 1935 he attended the local Public Elementary School, but left the school at the age of 14 to study shorthand typing and bookkeeping at Hughes Commercial in Belfast.
As he grew up, Billy became the ‘heart throb’ of many of the local Glengormley women with his film star looks, and by late 1948 his wanderlust had led him to Canada and the United States where he performed on radio with a touring theatre company. He returned home, as he did many times in the ensuing years, and graduated from the local Carnmoney Drama Group to the Ulster Players at the Group Theatre where writer and actor, the late, great Joseph Tomelty gave him the role of the gravel-voiced policeman in the popular radio series, The McCooeys.
Billy travelled to London in 1951 as an understudy with the Ulster Players for a performance as part of the Festival of Britain. Whilst in London he met Sir Michael Redgrave who arranged a contract with London Films, later to become part of 20th Century Fox in Hollywood.
So, the young man from Whitehouse and Glengormley, who had big dreams of becoming a star, made his first movie in Hollywood in 1954 – Lilacs in the Spring, with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Anna Neagle. With his name changed to Stephen Boyd, his real break came in the role of a Nazi spy in the 1956 production of the Man Who Never Was.
He became noted for his looks and his acting, and the following year, he was auditioning along with such famous names as Victor Mature, Stewart Granger and Kirk Douglas for the part of Messala in William Wyler’s 1959 MGM epic, Ben-Hur, set in ancient Rome. The part of Messala catapulted Stephen to international stardom, and he won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. He was being hailed as ‘The New Gable’.
For almost three decades and some 60 movies, Stephen Boyd played opposite some of the greatest leading ladies, Sophia Loren, Doris Day, Bridget Bardot, Camilla Sparv, to name but a few.
Despite the glamour of Hollywood, Boyd never forgot his roots and returned to Glengormley to his parents’ house as often as he could; many times resting there after filming in Europe. He purchased a new bungalow for his parents in Bangor and James and Martha named it ‘Messala’, after their son’s most famous role.
Boyd married twice in California. In 1975 he married his long-time girlfriend and secretary, Elizabeth Mills, but just two years later on June 2, 1977 aged just 46, whilst playing golf in the San Fernando Valley, he collapsed and died of a heart attack. He is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery, Los Angeles alongside other Hollywood greats such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers.Boyd is also remembered on his parents’ grave in the Clandeboye Cemetery, Bangor.
Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “Stephen Boyd was born in Whitehouse across the lough from Holywood, Co Down, but he set his sights on Hollywood, California, from where he achieved world-wide fame, starring in many movies. “The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this celebrated actor with a blue plaque close to his birthplace, and the circle would particularly like to thank Abbey Historical Society for their financial support towards the plaque.” 
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