Meet Stephen Boyd, That Guy From The ‘Oscar’
Feb 16, 1966
By Ken Barnard
Free Press Staff Writer
Stephen Boyd, 37, is nibbling on a big chunk of fame as a result of his impressive performance as the heel actor, Frankie Fane, in “The Oscar.”
“That picture cost me three hours of throwing up,” he declared on a recent Detroit visit. But this was not a critical judgement, rather a measure of the strain that the role put on his nervous system. It was the final arduous scene, at the Oscar ceremony, that brought on a sudden sick reaction.
“We did it in two days,” he recalled, “to get all the people in, such as Bob Hope and Sinatra, when they were available. As soon as that last scene was over, I left the set and vomited for three hours. I hate like hell to talk like this because I begin to sound like a method actor.”
And method acting is not his style. “I am very much against actors’ schools that say, ‘Come here and we’ll teach you how to act.’ But I’m very much for schools of actors. Actors tend to lie around and get lazy. The majority of them work six to seven months a year. The rest of the time they’re playing tennis and running around. I don’t know anyone who can spend that much time away from his profession and stay fresh. You can’t take it easy for a year or so, then go before the cameras —someone shouts ‘Action!’—then what do you do? It sounds like a deodorant.”
Boyd came upon one of the big breaks of his career in London when Michael Redgrave invited him to join the Windsor Repertory Company. Whenever he goes back to London to see Redgrave, he takes due note of the fact that his appointment is usually sandwiched between Redgrave’s voice lessons and fencing workouts. And, says Steve, “Olivier is also a positive nut about working all the time.”
Another scene besides the last on in “The Oscar” gave Steve a shaking up. It’s one that takes place in a club pantry between him and Peter Lawford, who is cast as a washed-up actor working as a maître-d’.
Of Lawford, Steve said, “My God! That guy’s a professional down to his fingertips. It was a little frightening watching him – I always just thought of him as part of the Rat Pack. He amazed the hell out of me.”
While performing as Messala for the filming of ‘Ben Hur’, Boyd met and married Mariella di Sarzana, an employee of his agents, but the marriage had a short run–23 days. Now he maintains bachelor quarters just over the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. Single status seemed particularly suitable when during the filming of “The Oscar,” he had to live every day as the odious Frankie Fane. “I’m lucky I didn’t have anyone to snarl at. I was pretty well worn out.”
Stephen Boyd was born in Belfast, Ireland but it was in July 4, so perhaps it was in the cards that he wound up a Yankee Doodle Dandy by naturalization.
His mother is Irish and his father, a retired truck driver, is Canadian. Steve, born William Millar, took his mother’s maiden name, Boyd, for professional use, and thought Stephen went well with it. He has since legalized his stage name.
The family home is actually in Glengormley, just outside Belfast, and Steve gets back for a visit two to three times a year. He has four brothers and four sisters.
One brother, Alexander, lives in Van Nuys, Calif., where he operates a liquor store. “Like every good Irishman should,” noted Steve. “I’m a disgrace to the Irish; I just nibble on a little wine.”
Steve has worked as a stage director, would like to direct one movie “just as an exercise.”
It looks as if his next acting assignment will be ‘The Caper of the Golden Bulls,’ which Joe Levine’s Embassy Productions hope to have the cameras turning on by May.
Not interested in seeing his own movies, Steve confesses that he did watch the chariot scene in ‘Ben Hur.’ Yet he thinks that ‘Ben Hur’ and ‘The Man Who Never Was’ represent his best work prior to this year.
“They were easiest,” he said a bit cryptically, “because they were right for me. When they’re wrong, it’s like climbing up walls.”