“Goodby Togas, Hello Pants, Says Steve” – March, 1965 Stephen Boyd Interview

Boyd Back to ‘Civvies’

from the Republican and Herald, Pennsylvania, March 26, 1965

GOODBY TOGAS, HELLO PANTS, SAYS STEVE

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by Armand Arched

HOLLYWOOD – It’s a pleasure to track down Stephen Boyd on a movie set. The search can take you anywhere from Rome for “Ben-Hur” to downtown Los Angeles for his current “Fantastic Voyage.” But it’s a long time between his Hollywood-made films. And he’s one of those rare guys who’d like to stay at home in sunny Southern California and leave the driving (or flying) to other guys.

The last time we spoke to Boyd on the set of a Hollywood made film was “Jumbo”, on the back lot at MGM studios in Culver City. Since that time, he’s been to Italy (a couple of times), Spain, Yugoslavia, England, Egypt and Ireland.

***

“It seems I do nothing but travel,” he smiled. “And, as you know, I originally came to Hollywood to make my home here and to work here. But since that time, there’s been an influx over to Europe and unfortunately I’ve been a member of that group.”

Boyd wasn’t kidding about making his home in the sunny Southern California clime. The eligible bachelor, instead of making his pad one of those super-glamor places above the Sunset Strip, chose to buy his own home in the San Fernando Valley where such established family men like John Wayne live. Sure, the house has a pool- he’s a sun-lover. (One of those reasons he left the British Isles).

***

“I’m a true-blooded American citizen,” Boyd noted (he’s had his citizenship papers over a year), “and also a true- blooded California citizen.” He credits the last status in view of his always-handy golf clubs. Like thousands of Los Angelenos, Boyd is a golf nut. Whenever and wherever possible, he’s out pounding the turf.

“Fantastic Voyage” is a pleasure for Boyd on another count. It gives him a chance to work in civvies for a change. “I’d almost become used to getting up in the morning and putting on a dress- a toga, that is, ” he laughed. “It’s nice to be wearing long pants. I feel like a man again.”

In the film, he plays a secret service man –“a good full-blooded American,” he reiterated. But before this epic, Boyd was again in a toga, or baggy dress, playing “Nimrod” in the biggest epic of them all, “The Bible” by Dino de Laurentiis.

Boyd toils in the Tower of Babel sequences. Although he was again in biblical dress, Boyd admits the film was a great experience.

“But it’s a different-looking Steve Boyd,” he warned. “My make up took three hours every morning– false beard, false eyebrows, false eyelashes, false hair. Everything about me is false – except my heart, ” he laughed. These sequences were filmed outside Cairo as well as in the studios near Rome.

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***

We were talking with Boyd inside the giant Los Angeles Sports Arena. As we looked down from the upper levels at the floor below (being readied for a basketball game that night), it was hard to believe Hollywood’s craftsmen had transformed the place into a Pentagon-type building for super-secret activities of deterrent force of men who could make themselves small enough to enter the human blood stream – of the enemy, that is.

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It’s a super-futuristic film, of course. It’s not outer space, we were told, but inner, inner space. Some of the equipment rented is also used in plants doing secret government work. Some of the machines are creations of the 20th-Fox engineers. It’s super-science-fiction stuff.

***

Talking to Steve and looking down at the floor of the Sports Arena, we wondered if he and pal Charlton Heston could run a chariot race here. “It would be kind small,” he laughed. “If Chuck Heston and I got in here we’d have to expand it five or six times the size. We’re a little too fast for these guys.”

We could testify to that – we once stood on the sidelines of the “Ben-Hur” arena in Rome when they filmed their chariot race and we still shudder, recalling those charging steeds tearing around the track a few yards away from our reporting post.

Yes, we agreed with Boyd, it’s a pleasant change to see him working in civvies – and in modern civilization again.

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Stephen Boyd and Charlton Heston, 1970

More rare Stephen Boyd Stock Footage Clips!

Be sure to check out the two below links for more rare Stephen Boyd clips and snippets, including a fantastic interview of Stephen at the Paramount Movie Studios set talking about The Oscar and his sexy co-star Elke Sommer! Below are some of the highlights.

http://www.producerslibrary.com

*A video of Stephen Boyd and Hope Lange attending “The King and I” charity/benefit premiere at Graumans Chinese Theater in May of 1961. (event presented by Eight Ball foundation of L.A. Press Club – Grandeaur 70 premiere)

*Stephen Boyd receiving his “Golden Globe” award in 1960 in Coconut Grove, Florida for Best Supporting Actor for his work in “Ben-Hur”! I love the satisfied , dimpled grin he can’t hide. Bravo Stephen!

https://www.gettyimages.com/videos/stephen–boyd?autocorrect=none&offlinecontent=include&phrase=stephen%20%20boyd&sort=best#license

*Getty Images videos showing Stephen arriving and enjoying the party for Tony Bennett in Las Vegas, Nevada, specifically for “The Oscar”, 1966

*Stephen attending the “Fantastic Voyage” premiere in Hollywood, and signing lots of autographs ala Frankie Fane! Boyd ON TOP OF THE WORLD here!

*Stephen Boyd on the Paramount Movie Set talking about co-star Elke Sommer (he REALLY likes Elke!) and his role in “The Oscar”.  I had never seen this interview before – it’s amazing!

Stephen Boyd: Born to Play a Roman

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Anyone who has read this blog may have noticed I have a fondness for Ancient Rome and Greece. And I do – I have studied it most of my adolescent and adult life and is one of my great passions. One of the reasons I got into the history of that period was from seeing movies like Ben-Hur, Cleopatra & The Fall of the Roman Empire when I was a teen. So in honor of all the Romans I love to read about, I thought I would collect a few quotes from Stephen Boyd about Ancient Rome and the famous Romans he studied for many of the roles he played (or would have played). If anyone was born to play a Roman, it was Stephen Boyd.

Quotes about Mark Anthony/Cleopatra

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Never was any actor so prepared for a role. I had studied Anthony from every possible angle, reading everything about him I could lay my hands on. (July 11, 1961, Petaluma Argus Courier)

I am interested if Anthony is played as a warrior, as he was in the original script. But I’m not interested if he is only a lover. He can be shown as a warrior making love. But no actor can convincingly play a warrior-like figure as a lover. Marlon Brando found that out when he did Napoleon in ‘Desiree.’ (July 11, 1961, Corpus Christi Caller Times)

She (Cleopatra) was an ambitious housewife who dabbled in politics and who wanted Egypt to share the honors with Rome. So she romanced Ceasar, and they had a child. Then later with Anthony, with whom she had four children.

I love the Mark Anthony role; I believe the film will be a tremendous success. It’s not often you get to play a role summed up in the classic line: ‘Who lost Marc Anthony the world? A woman. (Screenland Magazine, July 1961)

Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon and Marcus Aurelius

And strangely enough, in a flash, the conversation veered off from romance to Stephen’s other interests: the science of cybernetics, self-hypnosis, and then to historian Edward Gibbon and his classic work, “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” as well as to the stoic philosophy of Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome! ….But far more goes into a role. He (Boyd) reads everything he can find on the period of the film, particularly if it has an historical background. Before he portrayed the evil Messala, and while he was working on “Cleopatra,” he immersed himself in Roman history. All this scholarly reading paid off, for once again he will be involved in the Roman Empire, but this time on a broader canvas. It was this reading which gave him an interest in the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius (Why, even Freud was influenced by him.) (Silver Screen Magazine, April 1963)

Quotes about Rome, Romans and Chariots

I may be tempted to settle down in Rome because I had such a big part in building the place. (September 17,1 1962, Standard Speaker)

Try walking down a street someday and make believe you’re a Roman. You have to walk like a Roman, talk like a Roman and act like a Roman. It’s much harder than just playing a modern man–then, all you have to do is act, but you don’t have to think about your walk or your costume or your speech. (June 26, 1966 Brownwood Bulletin)

Chariot racing cannot be mastered without complete muscular control. Enormous pressures challenge the driver every second of the way. To pull of galloping horseflesh, the weight of the Roman two-wheeler and unpredictable terrain features constantly threaten the charioteer. He must be prepared to react with violent resourcefulness to stay alive. (Salt Lake Tribune Nov 16, 1963)

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Stephen Boyd studies his Ancient Romans at the Prado Museum in Madrid before staring the filming of The Fall of the Roman Empire.

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Stephen Boyd at the Prado with statue of Nero (?)
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Stephen Boyd at the Prado viewing the statue of Agrippina, mother of Caligula
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Stephen Boyd at the Prado with statue of the Emperor Vespasian
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Stephen Boyd at the Prado with the statue of the Emperor Augustus

Stephen Boyd in Roman costume

Oscar Awards : Shouldn’t Stephen Boyd have been nominated for his role in “Ben-Hur”?

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Stephen Boyd…outspoken Irishman

Supporting Actors Pose Movie Woe by Bob Thomas, March 23, 1960 (The Corpus Christ Caller Times)

Hollywood – The Motion Picture Academy still hasn’t solved its supporting-actor problem.

The support category in the Oscar sweepstakes has vexed Hollywood ever since 1944. That was the year when Barry Fitzgerald was nominated for both star and support awards for his performance in “Going My Way.”

Changing Rules

Absurd? Of course. The academy has kept changing its rules ever since (Fitzgerald finally won for support). For a while, actors in hit films permitted themselves to be demoted to supporting class to qualify in that less competitive race. Now the academy rules that any actor with star billing– usually denoted by having his name appear above the title — must compete in the star race.

That still isn’t the answer, as you can see in the case of Stephen Boyd. Recently he won the Hollywood foreign press award as best supporting player because of his work in “Ben-Hur.” Yet he drew no Oscar nomination, because he had star billing in the film.

“Ridiculous!” declares the outspoken Irishman. “I was a supporting player in the picture. Every other role in ‘Ben-Hur’ was in support of Chuck Heston.

“Why, not counting the chariot sequence, my role lasted only a half-hour on the screen. Now how can you call that a starring role?”

Boyd remarked that Hugh Griffith had a much larger role than he did. Yet Griffith was nominated for support, while Boyd remained a star.

“Nobody can tell me that Thelma Ritter is not a star, yet she was nominated for support for ‘Pillow Talk,” the actor added. That’s another incongruity. Some noted character performers never get star billing, though their roles are stellar. Yet some top names will accept minor roles as long as they get the balm of star billing. You figure it out.

Boyd has always managed to speak his mind in this town, and it made him a puzzle for his studio (20th Century Fox). For instance, the bosses were taken aback when he refused to take the role of Boaz in “The Story of Ruth.”

“It;s a good script, but I felt I couldn’t add anything to the role,” he remarked. “It wouldn’t have helped me and it wouldn’t have helped the picture.”

He was equally vocal about wanting to do “Let’s Make Love” with Marilyn Monroe after Gregory Peck walked out of the lead. But it went to Yves Montand instead.

“That was a part I would have done,” Boyd complained. “The studio didn’t think I could do comedy.

“Good lord, for about 10 years I played 50 different plays a year in repertory in England. About 10 of those would be dramas. I got my first big breaks in films doing comedy.”

Fatalistic View

Boyd takes rather a fatalistic view of his service with the 20th-Fox, which extends another two and a half years. He’ll stick it out – but in the roles he thinks he can do. During that time, he’ll make no move to change his citizenship.

“That’s a big step, and I’d never do it while I was under contract and had to stay in the country,” he reasoned.

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