Hedda Hopper “Steve Boyd is back from Stint Abroad”, 1964 Interview

Looking at Hollywood, by Hedda Hopper

STEVE BOYD IS BACK FROM STINT ABROAD

Francoise Dorleac and Stephen Boyd in Yugoslavia

Hollywood, Dec 28, 1964 – Steve Boyd, who spent more than half of this year in Europe for “Genghis Khan” and “The Bible,” finally came to a halt at Twentieth Century Fox for “The Fantastic Voyage,” which puts him on the sets Jan.5 for 85 days….

“I was over four months in Yugoslavia with Omar Sharif and Francoise Dorleac, a wonderful experience,” Steve said. “It’s the only country I’ve hit where United States aid is appreciated. All housing build with our money flies American flags atop buildings and the people are cordial and express their gratitude. I reported back here for “Voyage” to learn it was postponed a month, so accepted John Huston’s offer to play Nimrod, which fitted neatly into the interval. Just before I was to leave, Saul David, my producer, said he and Dave Fleischer must have some huddles with me first. So I canceled the flight and  took tickets for a plane four days later. It saved my life. I was booked on Flight 800 which went down with everyone aboard lost. (For more about TWA 800 Crash, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TWA_Flight_800_(1964)  )

“We were rained out when I first hit Cairo,” Steve continued, “Huston was working in the Moadi desert 50 miles outside the city, and I got lost heading for location. Nothing but sand in all directions, not even a mirage in sight. I was done up in a fantastic costume of gold metal eyebrows and helmet, tight black leather pants and fur chaps. A man appeared out of nowhere and thrust his arm inside the car. I thought I’d be shot on sight, instead he shook hands, said something in Egyptian and pointed out the direction of our company.”

Steve is leaner and handsomer these days, work black British woolens and had a close contemporary haircut. When I accused him of being a contender for Cary Grant’s sartorial spot he said: “I’m glad to be rid of that long hair I’ve sported with armor and costume stuff. I play a super-modern man and it’s the first film I’m not allowed to talk about. Generally this is a publicity gimmick, but Life magazine was turned down flat when they asked to photograph sets and see a script, and 35 foreign publications were refused also. After “Voyage” I’ll do a western for Columbia, as yet untitled. Eli Wallach will play the original Gimbel who founded the great merchant fortune and came west in the early days.”

“You sounded close to permanence with that English girl just before you went away,” I said. “What about it?” He grinned. “The little black book book gets obsolete every time I leave, so that romance is dead. As for girls, the minute they start with ‘dear heart’ and ‘darling,’ I run. Women in Yugoslavia are attractive in a big busted way,” he said. “Tito would export bosoms and rocks and make a fortune. They place is full of giant boulders and women build the roads, throwing big rocks into a crushed which a man operates. He reads his newspaper, she throws the boulders into a hopper, and he presses the lever with his foot. Then she picks up the pieces and lays them one by one in the roadbed. These girls are handsome and firm muscled; but the ones with easier jobs are given to fat.”

Steve’s still suing Anthony Mann for half a million over “The Unknown Battle.”  “I missed out on four good roles and plenty of money when he signed me without financial backing and then dropped the project,” Steve said. “He asked me again later but I’d made other commitments, so Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris made it under another title. Westerns are the big money makers in Europe. Clint Eastwood of Rawhide TV made a western in Spain with an Italian director and cast, all of whom took American names for it. It cost $140,000 and has already grossed 2 million dollars, and Clint is the top star in Italy now. ‘Jumbo’ has lines a block long in Spain when I first went over there and it was the same story months later.”

Stephen Boyd gets swarmed by a crowd at a “Jumbo” premiere

Steve says we’re behind on the subject of nutrition in which he’s keenly interested. “I can’t find a good nutritionist in Los Angeles. My mother, who was crippled with arthritis and couldn’t move about at all a year ago, has been under care of a London doctor who has a new cure. When I saw her recently she was walking in the garden without a cane. It’s a combination of exercise and diet, and she’s given a glass of red wine each day.”

 


Stephen Boyd and Ulla Bergryd from “The Bible” premiere, 1966

Stephen and young starlet Ulla Bergryd, who played Nimrod and Eve respectively in John Huston’s dream-like, biblical epic “The Bible”, attended the Hollywood premiere of the movie together in October of 1966.  Ulla was from Sweden, and she was somewhat overawed by the dazzling Hollywood stars that surrounded her during the premiere. She attended the New York premiere with John Gavin, and the Hollywood premiere with Boyd. From an article at the time, the 24-year old Bergryd said this:

“I used to read the movie magazines avidly until I was about 14 and I just couldn’t tell Mr. Gavin and Mr. Boyd that when I was a child they were two of my pin-up boys.”

Lucky lady!

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with Ulla Bergryd, 1966

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Boyd signs autographs, and Bergryd is close behind at another “The Bible” event 

Boyd as Nimrod, Bergryd as Eve in “The Bible” 1966

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A Candid Stephen Boyd Interview from 1969

Stephen Boyd Explains His Lousy Movies

The Journal News – White Plains New York, 09 Jul 1969

By Bernard Shaw

New York – Stephen Boyd was in town briefly to publicize “Slaves” in which he plays a plantation owner and which was to open in a few days. I hadn’t yet seen the film when its publicist called and asked if I cared to meet Boyd. I hedged and said that the only burning question I had for him was why he made so many lousy pictures.

“Ask him that, “ the publicist urged. “I did and found that he’s very bright and articulate and he has no illusions about the business. He’ll speak candidly about anything.”

I agreed to see him, the date was set, and in the meantime, I attended the premive of the 70-mm elongation of “Ben Hur” in which Boyd had played Messala way back in 1960, and I found, to my surprise, that his was by the far the best performance in the film.

He had managed to endow an almost impossible villain with so much humor and intelligence, even sympathy in his 27 minutes out of a total of four hours on screen, that he rather threw the whole marathon epic out of kilter. I even found myself hopelessly rooting for him to win the chariot race against the archangel Heston.

I meet Boyd a week later in his suite at the Elysee, still not having seen “Slaves.” He is a tall, handsome Irishman from Ulster – Belfast is his home- and he was dressed in conservative black, having some kind of semiformal luncheon to attend later on.  He had a ruddy bloom on his cheeks all the Irish seem to have when they arrive here, but lose too soon. His sole concession to the now look was an elegant guardsman moustache.

After the usual amenities, my first question, predictably, was “How come you’ve made  so many lousy movies?”

“20th Century Fox,” he answered immediately, “20th Century Fox. I was under contract to them- chattel- and if you think and you are correct in thinking, I made so many lousy movies, you should see what I turned. Down. I was under contract with them for eleven, which should give you some indication of how many suspensions I took.”

Why did he ever get himself involved in such a situation? Simply because at the time the contact was waived before him, it seemed like mana from heaven. He comes from a large, poor family in Belfast, and at the age of seven he went on Ulster Radio’s Children’s Hour because the family needed the money.

At sixteen, he left school and broke with the family trade – which his father and brothers all practiced – truck driving, to work with the Ulster Theater Group, and then there were long, fruitless years in stock companies in Canada and the United States where he made alarming progress getting nowhere.

In 1952 in London, where he had gone to storm the British theater, he was literally starving, and reduced to playing his guitar and “busking” to the cinema queues in Leicester Square for pennies.

That did lead to a job as doorman of the Odean Cinema which in turn led to his becoming an usher and then to his meeting Michael Redgrave who gave him an introduction to the Windsor Repertory Theater and the Midlands Theater Company and several more years of playing all kinds of roles in addition to some small parts in British films.

So that when 20th Century Fox, impressed with his performance in “The Man Who Never Was, “ offered him a Babylonian Captivity, he had to accept.

“I don’t know how I lasted,” he said, “And I’m about the only one of the bunch of white hopes who came in when I did, who did last – there were Bradford Dillman, Stuart Whitman, Bobby Wagner – they put you in anything they want to and  there’s nothing you can do about it. When you try to speak to them, you’re told you’re a tax deduction. It isn’t so much a question of your making money for them but your’e enabling them to save money. You mean nothing.”

“But you’ve been living in Europe these last few years,” I said.

“I’ve been a resident of the United States,” he said, “ and a United States citizen for the last ten years. My home is in Los Angeles. Of course I never see it. They keep shipping me abroad which is another way of their being able to make money on you.”

“Were you forced to make things like ‘The Oscar’ and ‘The Caper of the Golden Bulls?’ ” I asked.

“I would do ‘The Oscar’ again with the original script I saw, but not with the people involved in it,” he said, “and I would do ‘Caper of the Golden Bulls’ again, but not with people involved, and many others which turned out so badly.”

“And ‘Slaves’ is different?” I asked.

He nodded, “You’ll search a long way before you find a more technically imperfect film, but that’s not what we were trying to do. We were trying to make the first true picture of slavery in America, and we did.”

“At least it’s an original of the Irish Rebellion,” I said, “I saw Sidney Poitier’s ‘The Lost Man’ which is an adaptation of ‘Odd Man Out’ and it’s terrible.”

“Sidney can’t do what he wants, superstar though he is, “ Boyd said. “He can do what he wants provided that it’s salable amd makes money. Remember, he and Jim Brown knocked themselves out, but they made it as personalities, not as blacks. The black problem was still an untouchable on the screen prior to ‘Slaves’ because the few films made that touched on the problem didn’t make money. But we’re breaking records everywhere we opened, and that’s where it counts with those boys. Will it make money?”

I asked him about some of his earlier films, about his brilliant but aborted Nimrod in John Huston’s “The Bible.” The role ended in the middle of nowhere.

“I had just made the test of Huston and had been on the film for only a couple of days when Fox yanked me off to make ‘Fantastic Voyage.’”, Boyd said. “I assumed they were going to junk what I did or do it over with someone else, but later on, Huston decided to use what little he had, so of course, the actor is blamed for it. You have to make compromises all the way. Big ones on the big picture, smaller ones on the smaller ones, you even have to make them on the good pictures, and I say the hell with it.  You can make a lot of stupid pictures that make a lot of money, so why eat your heart out?”

I wondered if he was looking for a stupid picture now, but I asked instead, “Why did you bow out of ‘Cleopatra?’”

“They changed the story on me, “ he said, “When I was scheduled to do it, when Mamoulian was supposed to direct, Peter Finch was to play Caesar and I, Anthony, and it was the story of Caesar and Cleopatra an then Anthony and Cleopatra. But then it became just the story of Cleopatra, “ he shrugged.

“And you let Richard have it, “ I said.

“I let Richard have it, “ he said.

“How come you don’t return to the theater?” I asked, “Isn’t it more satisfying for an actor?”

“From an ego point of view, yes, “ he said, “but films could be satisfying too for an actor is he was involved in the creation. We all make a picture together, but nobody talks to anybody. Nobody will sit down and discuss it beforehand, and you never do discuss it – with very, very few exceptions- unless some crisis occurs. The cameraman is off creating his mood, the actor is creating his mood, the set designed only worries about how his set looks, the costume designer, her costumes.”

He shrugged “It’s no wonder so few things turn out well. If I did do a play, I’d like to do O’Casey. ‘Juno and the Paycock.’ But it would have to be played right, as it was originally in Ireland. The first two acts are comedy and the last, tragedy. You have to be very careful about the way you do Irish drama. There are so many misconceptions abroad about Catholic and Protestant in Ireland. I heard Bernadette Devlin’s maiden speech in Parliament and I was deeply moved. She was elected, remember, in a predominantly Protestant community, and she said, “There is not a religious question in Ireland. It is simply a question of poverty.”

“Of course, that was distorted in all of the foreign press,” Boyd said angrily, “Nobody had it right but the London Times. Of course it’s a question of poverty in Ireland, and people everywhere was so ignorant of the situation. Only yesterday someone said to me, ‘But you’re Catholic,’ and I said, ‘No I happen to be Protestant, but what has that to do with it?”

“I come from an Irish family, the youngest of nine. My father was a truck driver. When he retired, he was at the height of his earning power. He was making six pounds a week, that’s about thirteen dollars. How the hell are a man and his wife and nine children going to live on thirteen dollars a week?”

Then he grew less angry and he said, “And then I think of something O’Casey said when I did ‘June and the Paycock’ in Belfast and he came up to see it. He said, ‘There are many, many, many noes in the world , but there is always a bigger yes.’”

Filming ‘The Bible’ in Cairo- 1964

Stephen Boyd had the opportunity to visit Egypt in 1964 to film a short scene in John Huston’s ‘The Bible’ as King Nimrod. Here is a fun anecdote about the filming of the movie. Stephen was thinking of Elizabeth Taylor on the Nile from his hotel suite…which is ironic since he wore about as much eyeliner in this movie as Taylor did as ‘Cleopatra’! Below are some early costume pics of Taylor in 1960, when Boyd was cast as Anthony; a photo of Boyd’s hotel from the 1960’s; and Boyd himself during the filming of ‘The Bible.’

Article, November 1964 by Louella Parsons

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