Since “Shalako” is finally getting a Blu-Ray release this month, I thought it would be a good time to have an in-depth blog about the making of the film. This was to be Stephen Boyd’s second western, the first having been “The Bravados” filmed a decade prior.
It all starts with producer Euan Lloyd (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euan_Lloyd). Euan Lloyd had befriended Alan Ladd in the 1950’s, which kick started his producing career. (Pittsburgh Gazette, Dec 20, 1966) Euan had been an associate producer on “Genghis Khan” in 1966, and the producer of “The Poppy is Also a Flower” in the same year. He had developed a good relationship with Stephen Boyd as a fellow collaborator after meeting Boyd during these two projects. The pair would go on to work on three Louis L’ Amour screen adaptations; “Shalako” (1968), “Catlow” (1971), which Stephen co-produced, but pulled out of acting in the film once pal Brigitte Bardot passed on the project, and “The Man Called Noon” (1973), which had its own Blu-Ray release recently. Lloyd wanted to cast Boyd in his major film “The Wild Geese” in 1977, but obviously this opportunity was cut short by Stephen’s untimely death in June of that same year.
Concerning “Shalako”, which was Euan Lloyd’s pet project, as early as 1966, he had tried to get Henry Fonda in the starring role, but found distributors reluctant to back the film. The original cast was to be Fonda, Max Schell, Senta Berger and Karl Malden. (Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, Dec 20, 1966)
Lloyd kept pursuing this project by flying to Hollywood and linking up with veteran director Edward Dmytrik, who had previously directed such projects as “The Carpetbaggers” (1964) and “Raintree County” (1957) Dmytrik approached Sean Connery, who showed much interest in the project. Sean Connery was penciled in for the lead part. Once Connery was signed, the project picked up steam as there was much interest in Connery’s “non-Bond” movie roles. Lloyd then personally flew to St. Tropez to enlist French icon Brigitte Bardot as the female love interest. Since Brigitte would only work with people she liked, Lloyd had to get her OK on the director and lead actor. She approved of both Dmytrik and Connery after meeting them both. “Now Lloyd had financing from the British banks. He also signed Stephen Boyd, a most professional actor who couldn’t care less whether he liked anybody so long as the picture was good. It developed that Boyd did indeed like Brigitte.” (St Cloud Times, July 19, 1968) Claire Bloom was cast as Lady Daggett, another female character who chooses to run off with the villain. The film was set to be filmed in Mexico at the end of 1967. “Ben-Hur” and “Lawrence of Arabia” veteran Jack Hawkins was also brought aboard, along with German actor Peter Van Eyck. The Native American role of Chato, the Apache chief, was given to Woody Strode, an Afro-American actor who would later work with Stephen Boyd in “Key West” in 1973.
Some late changes took place after filming in Mexico apparently became too costly. The film location was moved to Almeria, Spain (very close to where Bardot and Boyd had filmed “The Night Heaven Fell” in 1957). Claire Bloom dropped out, and was replaced last minute by a Bond-girl, Honor Blackman, who had worked with Connery during “Goldfinger” (1964).
The filming began on January 2, 1968, in Almeria, Spain. Sean Connery was persuaded by Edward Dmytrik to lose his ‘droopy mustache’ to avoid the same financial disaster which befell a mustached Gregory Peck western called “The Gunfighter” in 1950. Meanwhile, Boyd grew a fine set of whiskers for the part of the heavy. Stephen was excited to play the villain again. “Give me a part with guts to it, and I’ll be happy no matter how unlikeable the character is.” (The Van Nuys News, June 6, 1968)
The filming would have been uneventful had a little spark not burst into flames when Boyd and Brigitte meet up again.
Of course, Boyd was friends with Brigitte from 10 years earlier, when they had first worked together on “The Night Heaven Fell.” They also had met a few other times in Paris and London during the 1960’s. In 1968, Brigitte was married to German mogul Gunther Sachs. In Bardot’ s autobiography “Initials B.B.”, she described arriving on set in Spain to film the movie. She was disappointed to find that actor Sean Connery was practically bald. She expressed her thrill at meeting Boyd again. “Finally a face, an almost familiar presence among all these strangers!”
A month later, in February, rumors started to fly concerning Boyd and Bardot.
Bardot had been struggling with the filming of ‘Shalako’. She was displaying all the bad diva attributes she was known for, including arriving late on set, and the director, Edward Dmytryk, was very demanding of her. She was feeling nervous and unsure of herself as the filming went on. In one particular scene, Boyd sensed Bardot’s distress and gathered her up in an embrace and murmured something soothing in her ear. Bardot clutched Boyd around the neck and (of course!) a photographer was on hand to capture the embrace. The photo hit the newswires worldwide the next day. Suddenly, rumors of a love affair were rampant. It turned into a tabloid/media sensation as it was assumed Bardot was cheating on her current husband Gunther Sachs. Sachs himself even stormed to the set of “Shalako” to quell the rumors and confront his wife. Boyd and Bardot could not keep their hands off each other, it seems. There was a lot of kissing and cuddling on set.
The newspapers at the time were rampant with quotes about the pair.
“Brigitte Bardot apparently is breaking up with her German husband, Guenther Sachs, and actor Stephen Boyd is her new passion, a source close to the situation reported today….For the last week, she and Boyd are reported to have dined together nightly and to have been openly affectionate.”
“It’s been 10 full years since Stephen Boyd and Brigitte Bardot made “The Night Heaven Fell” in Paris. But from the way they’re carrying on making “Shalako” in Spain, heaven is falling all over again.”
“Brigitte Bardot and Stephen Boyd are still causing talk around the set of “Shalako” in Spain.”
“The two have been together for most of their free time. It seems to be all hearts and flowers down here.”
“Since the hot news broke about Brigitte and Steve Boyd, they seem to be cooling it….and though Boyd is a constant escort, there have been no more public displays of affection.”
“Eventual marriage for the twosome looks doubtful. Not that Steve isn’t enjoying every moment of the affair – just as he did 10 years ago when they shot a film together. Brigitte is so hung up over Steve that she’s even offered producer Euan Lloyd to go on a many country personal appearance tour to plug the movie – something she’s never done before- if Stephen will go with her.”
Sparks fly between Boyd and Bardot on the set of Shalako
Suddenly, everyone was interested in going on location to southern Spain to see what was going on! Newspapers sent reporters to check up on the rumors. Both Boyd and Bardot would deny any such entanglements and stuck to the story-line that they were just ‘good friends.’ Bardot would say, at the time, “As for Stephen, he and I are just old friends. The whole company usually dines together at night. I may have kissed Stephen, but I kiss everybody I like.” (New Castle News, Feb 28, 1968). Boyd would say, “For the last three or four days these reports have been circulating round the film set. But they are just not true. I know why they started. Recently I have taken Miss Bardot out to dine on a couple of occasions in Almeria. But we were not alone – always with a bunch of friends.”
The open affection of these two may have cooled a bit after the rumors hit the fan, but they remained close throughout the film, and even after, as Bardot insisted Boyd accompany here to both the Munich and London premiere of “Shalako”. Boyd was happy to oblige.
Later that year, even producer Euan Lloyd was asked to comment about their relationship. “I’d call it a great friendship. Obviously there’s a real rapport between them. Brigitte wanted Steve to accompany her to Munich, Germany, world premiere of “Shalako” – and he did. Nearly got his clothes tore off for his trouble trying to protect Brigitte from the crowd outside the theater.” (The Indianapolis Star, Oct 11, 1968) (see also https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/brigitte-and-stephen-cause-a-commotion-in-munich-1968/)
“If Brigitte Bardot’s popularity in Europe is slipping, her fans have a funny way of showing it. The Munich premiere of “Shalako” resulted in near disaster for the star and Stephen Boyd. Excited fans overturned the couple’s car, ripped Stephen’s $500 tuxedo to shreds and almost kidnapped Brigitte before police could wrest her from the shouting throng…Too bad some of that enthusiasm didn’t rub off on the critics who saw “Shalako”. (Valley News, Nov 3, 1968)
Boyd and Bardot nearly cause a riot at the Shalako premiere in Munich
The film was met with mixed reviews, but luckily for Stephen, his performance was probably the most highly praised of all the actors. He certainly is the most entertaining! Boyd looks super sexy and ruggedly handsome in his rakish whiskers and western jeans. He just lights up the screen with his portrayal of bad boy Bosky Fulton . I enjoy seeing him so much with Brigitte again, even though the scenes they have together are very brief. Brigitte’s performance, unfortunately, was panned, and her discomfort with speaking English can clearly be seen. Boyd’s lusty romance with Honor Blackman in the film is all too brief, as they have great chemistry on screen together. Of course, Sean Connery gives a solid performance as the stoic hero, and he works very well with Boyd – The Scotsman vs the Irishman! I also enjoy Jack Hawkins as the cuckolded husband who eventually gets his revenge. But there could have been so much more between all these characters with a better script. Honestly, the behind the scenes action with Bardot and Boyd was more entertaining than the movie itself!
“Sean Connery came away from “Shalako” with 30 percent piece of the take while Brigitte Bardot and Stephen Boyd came away from it with each other.”
“…a British aristocrat [Jack Hawkins] and his hot-eyed wife [Honor Blackman], who lusts after the party’s crude, leering guide [played by Stephen Boyd, who off-screen leered after someone else.] (Chicago Tribune, Nov 11, 1968)
“”Shalako” probably won’t win any new converts to Westerns. It’s too silly, for one thing, and too gory, for another….Couldn’t the brave, good cowboy, instead of the brave, bad cowboy, get killed, just once? Or would it not be possible for the treacherous woman to escape a cruel death at the hands of the Indians, against incredible odds, and to have the honorable lady succumb instead, to the very same odds? ” (Detroit Free Press, Nov 18, 1968)
I must say, it will be awesome to see the film cleaned up for Blu-Ray. I greatly anticipate sitting down to watch this release as soon as it arrives on my doorstep courtesy of Amazon.com!
On-screen it was BB and Connery, but off-screen it was BB and Boyd.