All sorts of craziness went on in Rome while Stephen was filming “Imperial Venus” with Gina Lollobrigida, although it was still not as crazy as the “Cleopatra” set which was filming around the same time there. Stephen even saved Gina’s life along with other cast members when a helicopter filming scenes dipped too low!
But for Stephen Boyd’s fast thinking, Gina Lollobrigida and five other members of the “Imperial Venus” cast might have had their heads chopped off by the blades of a helicopter at the village of Marzaiana, 60 miles from Rome. Hovering only 45 feet above the players, the director was shooting a chase scene. A sudden downdraft caused the helicopter to drop sharply and tilt to a 40- degree angle.
Stephen yelled “Hit the dirt,” shoved Gina head over heals. I hear that the blade of the tilted helicopter came within inches. (Vidette Messenger of Porter County, August 6, 1962)
Above, Steve and Gina attend a Frank Sinatra benefit concert in Rome, June 1, 1962 (http://www.archivioluce.com/archivio/)
Steve’s next is “Imperial Venus”, to be filmed in Rome with Gina Lollobrigida. He reminded me that I’d introduced them one night at Producer Jerry Wald’s house: “If you recall, I talked with her that night for about five hours and found her fascinating.”
“Let’s not have ANOTHER scandal in Rome,” I said.
Steve grinned, “When in Rome, do as the Welsh do.” (Hedda Hopper Interview, “Liz Taylor’s First Marc Anthony, ” June 17, 1962).
Stephen Boyd – who was to have played the R Burton role in Cleopatra- will have the villa next to Liz’s when he films “Imperial Venus”. (The Daily Press, April 17, 1962)
Gina plays the role of Napoleon’s colorful sister, Pauline Bonaparte Borghese. Boyd is an officer in the French army who fall sin love with her, and he grinned: “She’s my Waterloo.” (Fort Lauderdale News, Erskine Johnson report, August 1, 1962)
Boyd chuckled, “I’ll never forget the big moment of passion between Gina Lollobrigida and myself in ‘Imperial Venus.’ I had to grab Gina, kiss her so passionately that our knees gave out from under us, and we sank gradually and gracefully to the floor- it said in the script. And that’s the way the director insisted we play it.
“What actually happened is that I’d grab Gina and she’d swoon. But as we tried to sink to the floor our knees would bump together, we’d have to fight to keep out balance and rehearsal after rehearsal we’d wind up roaring with laughter. Censors? They never crossed our mind.” (https://wordpress.com/post/stephenboydblog.com/9476)
“In a letter from Stephen Boyd in Rome “I had top carry Gina Lollobrigida up 75 steps at the Borghese Palace six times for a scene in our movie, ‘Imperial Venus.’ Now don’t you think that’s carrying an actress in a film too far?” (The Philadephia Inquirer, Aug 1, 1962)
A fella had to draw the line somewhere. Stephen Boyd threatened to walk off “Imperial Venus” in Rome if they stick to the new scenes written calling for him to make love to Gina Lollobrigida while he is stripped down in a bath!
“That nude bathing stuff is all right for the girls,” storms Steve, “let Marilyn and Brigitte and Kim and all the others splash around to their heart’s and press agent’s content. But me? Never. They can think again. Or they’re going to be missing a boy.” (The Springfield News-Leader, August 2, 1962) *On a side note, Stephen did complete this scene!*
They hung the “Closed” sign on Gina Lollobrigida’s set in Rome while she and Stephen Boyd did their love scenes in the room Paolina, sister of Napoleon, had constructed expressly for love – a pool surrounded by mirrors. This is the secret highspot of “Imperial Venus” which producers hope will shade “Cleopatra’s” panting passions. (Albuquerque Journal, July 28, 1962)
Every time good looking Stephen Boyd gets an assignment to make a movie in Rome, some sort of jinx starts operating. He’s been in Italy a month languishing around waiting for Gina Lollobrigida’s “Imperial Venus” to get off the dime. It’s the usual hex- script trouble. (The Indianapolis Star, June 30, 1962)
“To avoid the traffic snarls (in Rome) when I was doing ‘Imperial Venus’ with Gina Lollobrigida,” says Steve, “I had to leave for work at 7:30 in the morning, and not come back until 11 at night.” (Express and News San Antonio, September 2, 1962)