Stephen Boyd ‘gets his Irish up’ about stripping down for “Imperial Venus”

FOREIGN PICTURES PRODUCERS A ‘BUNCH OF AMATEURS’

Los Angeles Times, October 28, 1962

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On the set of Imperial Venus in Rome

So you think movies have gone about as far as they can go. Rape, incest, young girls with old men, abortion, dope, sadism. After low-cut necklines, came no necklines. What’s left? Reluctantly, Stephen Boyd supplies the answer – nude males.

Boyd, whose first halting stab at this was with Brigitte Bardot in “The Night Heaven Fell,” goes all the way—as they say—in “Imperial Venus” with Gina Lollobrigida. In between, he’s managed to sandwich in more wholesome roles – the memorable Messala in “Ben-Hur” and the upcoming MGM release, “Billy Rose’ Jumbo.” Also, he starts work in December in Samuel Bronston’s “Fall of the Roman Empire.”

As for being nude, Boyd does not approve. In fact he considers that he’s made the same mistake twice, the second mistake being the worst, the Italian-made “Imperial Venus.” Said Boyd:

It Was Simple

“I think it’s crude. But we were in the middle of production and I don’t think it’s professional to hold up production right in the middle of it. I knew the scene existed but from the point of view of shooting it was so simple. I’m lying in bed and I had a sheet over me. I figure when you look nude you look nude, but you don’t have to be nude. But it didn’t turn out that way.

“I haven’t seen the picture. In fact, I haven’t seen the scene. I don’t look at rushes, but those who have tell me it’s really something. Anyhow, the scene will not be shown in America. And in my opinion that makes it worse. I mean I do not believe it is necessary for me to be nude in any version, no matter where it is shown. I don’t believe this is entertainment.”

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Why, then, over Boyd’s objections, was the scene filmed?

‘Bunch of Amateurs’

“Because,” said Boyd, “they are Italians, let’s say, and they don’t know any better. The producers are the worst bunch of amateurs I’ve ever had the misfortune to work under. The producer is amateurish rather than an amateur. He’s unreasonable.

“He thinks, I believe, that this will help sell tickets. But I wonder where he will sell them. If my memory serves me right, he can’t show it in France. I did a scene with Bardot where she was nude and I was pretty much so and they wouldn’t pass that. What Frenchman wants to look at an Irish body?

“Apart from the physical contempt for the type of operation I was subjected to, I hope I never again find it necessary to make a picture for any foreign organization that is not supported by Americans. I exclude from this the English, for the English too are professionals.

“Being a professional, one forgets there are amateurs in the field. For all I know they could be perversionists. You get involved in the picture and you get to the scene and they say, ‘All right, take your clothes off.’

Foreigners Copyists

“There’s all this talk about how great the foreign pictures are. But they’re all copyists. I believe all of the great talent is in Hollywood and New York. I don’t believe there’s anybody in the world that can touch them.”

From his words, it’s easy to see that Stephen Boyd had his Irish up. He is, in fact, and Irishman, the youngest of nine children. He was born in Belfast and while he had no trace of accent, he has the Irish gift for language.

And while Boyd deplored his part in “Imperial Venus,” he was quick to praise “Jumbo.” An opposite kind of entertainment. Said Boyd at the Hollywood Brown Derby.

“In my opinion ‘Jumbo’ is the type of entertainment that has been successful since the beginning of entertainment. It is family entertainment. I believe there are more close-knit families in this world than there are individualists.

Our Worst ‘Better’

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“I honestly believe – it depends on how you view this business – that motion pictures are a form of entertainment developed for the masses. I don’t believe there is one single picture made here that doesn’t do better than pictures made in Europe – than anyplace else, for that matter. Forget the cost or anything else, the worst picture here makes at least as much as the best picture made in Europe.

“I hate like hell leaving this town. I really hate to. But at the moment pictures are being made abroad. If it looks like it’s be good entertainment, you just have to go.”

Add a personal footnote to aspiring young actors. Learn from Stephen Boyd’s experiences. Go slow, take your time and keep your pants on.

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Another scene which was snipped from even the European version of Lollobrigida and Boyd in bed together.

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