I dread to mention yet another Hollywood remake of a film classic, but yes, it seems a remake is in the works for “Fantastic Voyage” with director Guillermo Del Toro (“Crimson Peak”) and producer James Cameron (“Titanic”) at the helm. Oh how I wish Hollywood would just steer clear of these remakes, considering how abysmal the new “Ben-Hur” turned out to be! At this moment it is still in pre – production. Icon and original “Fantastic Voyage” cast-member Raquel Welch seems to be up to date on the happenings, as she continues to report on Facebook. In the meantime, least anyone forget the amazing original, here are some nice pics of the “Fantastic Voyage” crew, 1966.
Ogden Standard Examiner, Sep 16, 1962
BEHIND THE SCENES
He worked hard for recognition
“I never want to pour another cup of coffee,” is what handsome, rugged, Irish Stephen Boyd said on the 20th Century lot. “I poured so many when I worked in a cafeteria to keep from starving, before things broke for me in show business.”
He went on to explain that although he had a good theatrical background, he went through a bleak period in 1952-53 that was unforgettable.
“I was unable to find work either in films or the theater,” he said. “I even took my guitar and played to cinema lines waiting to get in the show in London, one night, and it was my first and only experience in that.”
He laughed and went on with his delightful sense of humor: “It brought me a pound and sixpence for a matter of two hours’ work, and I blew the lot on a meal, and that meal lives in my memory as the most wonderful one in my whole life.”
He forgets his bad moments and rejoices in the luck he had in getting the role of Messala in the film “Ben-Hur.”
“My folks even named the home I bought for them while making ‘Ben-Hur’ after the character I played in it – Messala, “ he said.
Stephen is a native of Belfast, Ireland, and he began his career with the Ulster Theater Group there. In 1950 he was given an understudy part in “The Passing Day” and later took part in many radio productions. He then tried his luck in the London theater, but had no success, until one of Britain’s top stars, Michael Redgrave saw him working as a cinema doorman and guessed that Stephen was an out-of-luck actor, and talked to him.
This led to his joining the Windsor Repertory Company where he soon was playing leading roles, and later small film roles. His part in “Barnett’s Folly” proved to be the turning point in his career. Film companies were bidding for his services after his portrayal. He had many excellent roles in outstanding films and in 1956 was starred with Tyrone Power in “Seven Waves Away.”
Since then he had had numerous fine parts in American films and was starred with Susan Hayward in “Woman Obsessed.”
The surprise of his life was when Ralph Edwards had him on his show, “This is Your Life.”
“That was really something,” he said.
Dinah Shore also asked him to appear as a guest star on her program and it was then that he was discovered to have a wonderful singing voice.
“I had a lot of recording offers,” he said, “but I think I have plenty of time for vocalizing, after I get this acting business taken care of – that is, if I can sing at all.”
Stephen loves paintings and had a few on his two-bedroom upstairs apartment in Los Angeles. He likes his stereo equipment, records, books and cameras, too.
“I like to shoot home movies,” he said. “It’s fun. But my weakness is automobiles, especially sports cars. I’d but a new one every six months if my business manager would let me.”
He laughed and continued, “Do you know what I want more than anything? A cabin cruiser, so I can sail on the coastlines over the world. But that takes real money to maintain one of them.”
He has no ambition to be a pilot.
“I get bored when I’m up in the air too long, “Besides, I don’t have to go flying to have my head in the clouds. It’s there most of the time these days.”
Some of his latest films since “Ben-Hur” are “The Big Gamble, “ “Cleopatra,” and “The Inspector.”
He was married to Mariella di Sarzana in 1958 in Rome, but they are divorced now.
Stephen Boyd’s role in the WWII drama “The Man Who Never Was” brought him immediate attention and acclaim, and eventually led to his role in the MGM mega-spectacle “Ben-Hur” two years later. The story itself was inspired by the Ewen Montagu book, who recounts his own involvement in the British Navy to come up with a way to trick the Germans into thinking the Allied invasion would come into Greece instead of Sicily. The British took a corpse, loaded with misleading documents, and set him to sea, hoping he would be found by the Germans in an operation appropriately called “Operation Mincemeat.” The body was found in Huelva, Spain and confounded the Germans just enough to give the Allies and advantage when they invaded Sicily to start the liberation of Italy and eventually the rest of Europe. Stephen would play an Irish spy who would go to England to try to discover is the body found in Spain was real, or fictitious.
In James Ellis’s book “Stephen Boyd: From Belfast to Hollywood”, Ellis interviews the then production assistant Dennis Van Thal and his assistant Guy Hamilton, who organized a screen-test for Stephen in Shepperton where Stephen was currently doing stage work and had been spotted by one of Van Thal’s talent scouts.
“A tall, shy young Irishman with a brogue you could cut with a knife and a pockmarked complexion which make-up soon covered. His natural nervousness was covered by intensely good manners. All I could do was try and stage the scene to show him off to his best advantage and relax his performance, which I remember was excellent – strong, intense, but still lacking craft and experience. I occasionally ran into Stephen in the years that followed, always gentle and courteous, and I watched with pleasure his stature grow in the screen.” (page 64)
Van Thal, who eventually became Stephen’s agent, was excited about the screen test and soon offered Boyd the role, even though the role had already been given to another actor. London Films mogul Sir Alexander Korda also saw the screen-test and approved of the move himself. But the director Ronald Neame also needed to be convinced.
“Rather reluctantly I agreed to see the test, which of course featured Stephen Boyd. Dennis Van Thal had not overstated the case This was clearly a young man who was going to go a long way. He was the ideal screen actor – tremendous sincerity, integrity and a talent for grabbing your interest without resorting to histrionics. I was placed in an immediate dilemma. Dropping the other actor was not a very kind=d thing to do and also very expensive. But on the basis of putting the interest of the quality of the film first, I dropped him and engaged Stephen.
“He played the part to perfection, giving it the realism so badly needed in a film which was 85% truth and only 15% fiction, this being the Irishman’s story.” (page 66)
The film was released in March of 1956. A review at the time from the Ottawa Citizen describes Boyd and his own reaction to the movie.
Typical of the favorable comments is that of the mass circulation Daily Mirror” Boyd steals all the acting honors.
But Boyd says he isn’t too pleased with his own performance, although delighted with the press reviews.
“I feel I just wasn’t right. I’ve lots of room for improvement.”
Tall and dark haired, Boyd has a strong featured face that can switch from an engaging smile to a sinister menace in a flash. One press review said the most effective scenes of the film fall to Stephen Boyd and his “is the new face to notice.” (Ottawa Citizen, April 5, 1956)
Not only would Boyd catch director William Wyler’s eye in this movie, but Wyler would also cast two other actors from “The Man Who Never Was” in “Ben-Hur” ; Terence Longdon as Drusus and Andre Morell as Sextus.
Stephen Boyd and “The Man Who Never Was” gets a nice mention here!!!
Stephen spent a good part of his movie career filming in Spain starting all the way back in 1957 with Brigitte Bardot on “The Night Heaven Fell,” then again in 1963 for “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” for “Caper of the Golden Bulls” in 1966 , and yet again in 1968 for “Shalako.” Most of the movies Boyd filmed in the 1970’s were made in Spain. He seemed to genuinely enjoy the country for its food, wine, bull-fighting, and its women. At one point he was even dating a female matador! “Steve Boyd is letting his coleta grow (that’s a bullfighter’s pigtail, son) for the femme bullfighter he met in Madrid.” (Pittsburgh Press, Feb 7, 1963)
Boyd enjoys Pamplona during the filming of “The Caper of the Golden Bulls”, 1966
“Off the set, Boyd spends much of his leisure time playing golf. But he became interested in a new hobby, bullfighting, when he acted opposite Brigitte Bardot in “The Night Heaven Fell”, most of which was filmed in Madrid. The famous Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguin, who fought in the bullring in the picture, awakened Boyd’s enthusiasm for the sport.
“Luis taught me how to manipulate the cape,” he says, “and I was almost ready to fight a small bull when I had to leave.” But Boyd is slated to return to Madrid to star in “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire” and will thus be able to continue working with Dominguin….
“I’ll try anything once,” he says, ” Like any good Irishman.” (Longview News Journal, April 7, 1963)
Matador Luis Miguel Dominguin
Luckily for Stephen, and the poor bulls, I might add, he did not actually embark on this crazy hobby. But he did get to do a fun photo-op with lovely Spanish songstress Mikaela, who sang many rousing bull-fighting and ‘Toro’ oriented songs in the mid-late 1960’s. Here are some pictures below of the two snuggling, drinking and eating their way through the Spain in 1966 while Stephen was there filming “The Caper of the Golden Bulls”.
Stephen Boyd spent most of 1957 romancing French starlets and sex-kittens. He started the year off filming the WWII drama “The Beast of Marseilles” with Anna Gaylor, which was filmed in Marseilles and London. Later that year he would go to Paris to meet Brigitte Bardot and Roger Vadim to begin filming “The Night Heaven Fell.”
“Stephen Boyd, young Irish actor who romances Joan Collins in “Island in the Sun,” won’t be coming to California in the near future. 20th Century Fox, where he’s under contract, loaned him to J. Arthur Rank to star in the Danny Angel production “Seven Thunders, ” which will be shot in England. French Star Anne Gaylor will play a top role and Hugo Fregonese directs.” (Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1957)
The film is based on a novel called “Seven Thunders” by Rupert Croft-Cooke. The movie follows the novel fairly closely, but it is well worth reading the novel to get more insight into all of these characters.
Stephen truly commands the screen with ease, considering this was his first major part. He is assisted by some wonderful English and French character actors which make all of the story lines engaging to watch. Exactly a year after filming “The Beast of Marseilles” Stephen would be filming the biggest role of his career – Messala in “Ben-Hur.”
Stephen Boyd commands the screen in his first true starring role.
STEPHEN BOYD’S MAIN ASSETS: HE KNOWS HIS MIND, HAS “WALLOP”
By Erskine Johnson
Jan 9, 1960
HOLLYWOOD- (NEA) – A brass hat and the armor of a Roman warrior in “Ben-Hur” does for Stephen Boyd what a tight dress does for Marilyn Monroe.
In the movie trade it’s called “box office wallop.”
Appearing in mufti in half a dozen movies, young Boyd, an Irishman from Belfast, was just a darn good actor, but one who started no fan riots.
But as the Roman heavy Messala in “Ben-Hur,” well, the riots have started. Old dolls are flipping their wigs, young dolls are flipping their pony tails and fan magazine editors are flipping their pages to make room for Boyd.
Boyd loses the chariot race to Charlton Heston in the film, but he wins big-time stardom as a “personality actor,” something we haven’t had on the screen in some time.
That costume literally turns him into a giant of a man and a giant of a star in the good, old Hollywood tradition. Today the offers are pouring in.
Movie makers can’t wait to have Boyd buckle on a sword for more swashbuckling all the way from ancient Rome to the walls of Disneyland, and he’s already been cast as Boaz in the new 20th Century Fox spectacle, “The Story of Ruth.”
But young actors in Hollywood today are rugged individualists – and that’s “The Story of Boyd,” who says he knows what kind of roles he can play and what kind of roles he cannot play, in no uncertain words and no uncertain tone of voice.
With his box office wallop hitting the big time in “Ben-Hur,” Fox, where he is under contract, immediately announced his casting as Boaz.
To which Boyd immediately announced, “no, thank you,” which immediately started Hollywood buzzing that he didn’t want to appear in another costumer spectacle immediately following “Ben-Hur,” or he didn’t like the script.
Both reasons are wrong, according to Boyd, who told me”
“I’m an actor who knows exactly what I’m capable of playing. I’m not ready for the role of Boaz. If someone asked me today to star in a film version of ‘Hamlet,’ I’d say the same thing – ‘I’m not ready.’
“I wouldn’t know what to do with Hamlet, and I don’t know what to do with Boaz. I think the picture would be much better without me. It’s a good script – a great script. It’s a great role – for someone else, not me.
“I’ve ruined pictures before because I’ve been talked into them against my better judgement. I’d starve – and I have starved – rather than accept a role I’m not ready for.
“I need to work, but this part is just wrong for me.”
Since he had been dedicated to acting since the age of 10, and since he is a moody, volatile fellow, the studio wasn’t too surprised.
Now threatened with suspension, Boyd is sitting it out while the studio and his agents fight it out.
Born in Belfast of a poor family, Boyd first appeared on U.S. movie screens as the Irish spy in “The Man Who Never Was.”
“Island in the Sun,” “The Bravados,” “Woman Obsessed,” and several European films, one with Brigitte Bardot, followed. “Ben-Hur” was his 12th, and the cincher for his career.
While working in “Ben-Hur” in Rome, he was married briefly to a doll who represents the MCA office there. By the time he returned to Hollywood they were divorced. His explanation:
“I honestly thought this was it, but I’m an Irish so-and-so when I’m working.”
Right now 20th Century Fox is discovering that he’s an Irish so-and-so when he doesn’t want to work in a role he says “I’m not ready for.*