Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1959
IRISH STAR Stephen Boyd has made half a dozen American movies yet he seldom draws a role forceful enough to fit his personality He has terrific screen impact and vitality beyond any actor I know but casting him presents a problem to his bosses, who are in much the same predicament as the fellow who grabbed a tiger by the tail.” I don’t think they know what to do with me,” he told me. ” I can’t play a straight foward milk and water juvenile because I’m not one. I can do anything that has any type of a test, providing the physical appearance of the role. is right. But producers are more inclined to come up with ideas for someone like, say Bob Wagner.”
To add to casting problems Boyd, a supreme individualist, refuses to be type cast. He agreed to the part of the drunken editor in ” The Best of Everything ” because it was off beat and got him away from the costume thing he’d done as Messala in ” Ben-Hur.”
“I won t work in a brass hat to the end of my days,” he said when offers for that type thing poured in after word got around he was superb as the Roman charioteer. The part in ” Best” gave him some tender love scenes, some rebellious moments, and the satisfaction of playing a man who had opinions and spoke them forcefully. But he looked a bit vital, with perhaps too much character, for a lush. When I told him I thought of him as the Clark Gable of this era, altho a far more vital type than Gable, he shook his head, puzzled “It’s difficult to associate myself along those lines,” he said. “But I daresay the roles Gable has played are roles I’m suited for. I prefer a two line part with genuine character to an innocuous one such as I had in ‘ Woman Obsessed.’ So many actors get hold of a script and go thru it counting their lines. Or they’ll read only the scenes in which they play. They get only a general idea of their own character and no idea at all of the over-all story. This, in my opinion, is the trouble with so many young actors.
“How do you go about it? ” I asked.
He thought a moment: “Well, after I read a story I ask myself whom do I remember. That is the part that will be remembered on screen. I’d like to try some of the kinds of roles Arthur Kennedy plays-something with guts and vitality. I’ve no particular desire to get my name on top of the credits, altho I realize you have to get your name there to get the money.”
After digesting this unusual point of view, l asked if he d ever had a frank discussion with Buddy Adler, head of his studio, over the sort of parts he thinks he d like to play. He said he had not. In the four years he’s been under contract to Twentieth Century Fox he has talked with but three producers-Jerry Wald, Sydney Boehm, and Walter Wanger. ” Wanger talked with me about the role of Marc Antony in ‘ Cleopatra,”‘ he said. ” I told him I thought I was too young to play Antony, who was 48 when he got together with Cleopatra. I’ve played it on stage, tho.”
Boyd is disarmingly frank, has a keen sense of humor, and, while claiming to be shy, which he says is why he blushes so easily, has of the British Isles reserve.
He has been in Hollywood a year now and I asked him whether he preferred living in the film capital permanently to living in London, New York, or Ireland.
“I’d really prefer New York, or perhaps San Francisco, if I’m going to live in this country ,” he said. ” But I think Los Angeles best for furthering my career and, in view of that, I believe it wise to remain and do film work.”
Of the legitimate theater, he said: “Theater is something I need like I need clothes to wear on the street-it s like food and drink to me” I inquired if he d ever worked in the theater with Laurence Olivier. He said: “No, I’ve only said hello to him. Michal Redgrave has been my great friend. He helped me get a start but I’ve only worked with him once.”
“Ben-Hur” will take him around America and Canada so he’ll miss the Hollywood premiere, but he told me that he d like to attend the London opening.
Wyler had Stephen use dark contact lenses for the part of Messala and they gave him trouble thruout the entire film. He had to have anesthetic drops in his eyes to wear them, and could only endure them for two hours a day. In the death scene the lenses didn’t glaze properly and the doctor had to use a creamy substance under them. Boyd describes much of this as sheer torture.
Boyd romances Hope Lange in “The Best of Everything.”
Money means nothing to this man, except for the fun of spending it. He says his business manager allows him $25 a week spending money and restricts his credit charges.
When he was abroad for ” Ben-Hur” he bought his parents a house in Ireland. ” It has three bedrooms, a double garage, two and a half baths, central heating, and half an acre of ground in lawns and flower gardens. It cost 2,000 pounds-far less than it would have in England. I also got them a small English car, and one for my brother. But my parents haven’t used the car yet-not once. They go for walks”
I said: “Haven’t you had any romances in Hollywood?” “Not romances,” he said, “just a couple of flirtations.”
I told him I was once warned never to fall in love with an Irishman because, even when he has his arms around you, he’s thinking of someone else.
He laughed: ” I wouldn’t say that. He means it when he has his arms around you. As Shaw said, ‘The truth of the Irishman is when he’s with you-watch him when he leaves.'”