“I’m a completely practical actor” – Stephen Boyd interview from 1973

This is a fascinating article that really makes you realize what a working, adaptable actor Stephen Boyd was – and a survivor!

“I’m not Laurence Olivier. I’m a completely practical actor. I have a commodity value and sometimes I get close to the limit of my value, sometimes not. But I don’t overprice myself. Even if I won an Oscar, I wouldn’t change my price.”

Stephen Boyd Likes U.S. Best

By Bob Thomas, Associated Press Writer

Mar 1, 1973

Hollywood (AP) – “No matter what it says on my passport, I consider this my home. I’d like to stay here all the time, but how can I, when all the film-making is elsewhere?”

Irish born Stephen Boyd admits that is he “one of those rare birds among actors.” Whenever he has time between films abroad, he returns to his house in nearby Tarzana.

The last seven years of Boyd’s career comprise a case study in a film star’s survival, one which other actors might profit from studying. Particularly those who are sitting beside their swimming pools, waiting for their agents to call.

Stephen Boyd, now 44, became a star with his powerful performance as Messala in “Ben-Hur.” He finished a nine-year contract with 20th Century Fox with “Fantastic Voyage,” then played the lead in “The Oscar.” That proved to be his last Hollywood film.

“It was in 1966 and the studios were shutting down,” he recalled. “I decided I didn’t want to wait for my agent to telephone. I saw what independent producers were doing, especially abroad, and I made up my mind to join them.”

Boyd formed a partnership with English producer Euan Lloyd, and they worked for 18 months on projects that never reached fruition. Then he decided to avail himself of the lush field of film making in Europe.

“During the past two and a half years,” he said, “I have made nine films – for Italian, English, French, Australian, American companies and two co-productions of Italy and Spain.

Stephen Boyd (R) during the filming of ‘Kill’, directed by Roman Gary, 1971, Madrid, Spain. (Photo Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images)

“Some, Like ‘Kill, Kill, Kill,’ will be released in this country, some may not. The Italian-Spanish films were aimed strictly at the Latin market – they’re more emotional, overdone, theatrical.

“The Italian producers don’t even concern themselves with the American market any more: they’ve been cheated too many times by American producers. They can do all right on their own. One of my Italian-Spanish films, ‘Marta,’ made $780,000 in its first seven weeks.”

Stephen Boyd mingles at a “Marta” event in Madrid, 1971

Some American stars have despaired of entering the jungle of European independent production, but Boyd said he had encountered no real problems. He goes over each contract with care and retains the English speaking rights for his own company.

“Language is no problem,” he said, ”I make all of the films in English, and the foreign languages can be dubbed in later. I understand Italian and French, and I’ve found that you can get along with any language if you know your own language well.

“There’s no problem with budgets, either. Most of them run around $750,000, which represents more than a million- dollar film made in Hollywood. The reason is that union and overhead charges are such that a million-dollar picture in Hollywood only provides $630,000 of entertainment on the screen.”

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Maria Mahor, Stephen Boyd and Analia Gade at “A Million For a Blonde” premiere event in Madrid (1971?)

Boyd declined to discuss his earnings from European films, but he obviously earns more than when he was a contract actor. He is realistic about his position:

“I’m not Laurence Olivier. I’m a completely practical actor. I have a commodity value and sometimes I get close to the limit of my value, sometimes not. But I don’t overprice myself. Even if I won an Oscar, I wouldn’t change my price.”

Boyd recently finished a two-hour movie for television, “Key West,” and Warner Brothers hopes that it will become a series.

“So do I,” said the actor, “I’d like anything that will keep me in the United States of America.”

Stephen Boyd at Madrid Airport, 1973 – www.lafototeca.com
Stephen Boyd arrives in Madrid in 1973 – www.lafototeca.com

Stephen Boyd and Farrah Fawcett in “The Interview”/ “Of Men and Women”, 1973

Stephen Boyd acted with two of the biggest female stars of the 1970’s who also happened to be cast members, at one time or another, of the TV hit series “Charlie’s Angels”; Cheryl Ladd in “The Treasure of Jamaica Reef’, and Farrah Fawcett in a TV program on ABC called “Of Men and Women.”  “Of Men and Women” is a hard one to find, but I recently was able to view it at the UCLA facility/ Powell Library in Los Angeles (http://cinema.library.ucla.edu/vwebv/searchAdvanced).

It aired on ABC on May 6, 1973. It is an hour long program featuring 3 short vignettes, all of which are introduced by the narrator of the show,  Stephen Boyd. The show starts off with Stephen looking pretty much like he does in “Key West” (sexy 70’s Stephen!) with longish hair sporting a mustache and wearing a double breasted suit. He talks straight into the camera with a very Svengali-like gaze as he waxes philosophical about all the different kinds of women in the world (“white, black, brown, yellow…etc.”). Stephen tells us about the different vignettes that are coming our way including his own and describes his character as a typical “male stereotype”. Then the show begins, and Stephen’s vignette “The Interview” comes first. He plays a movie director with a very affected voice which I have never really heard him use before. He pronounces every word very crisply. His character is being interviewed by Barbara Rush who is investigating the death of a young actress from the film set. The actress is played by Farrah Fawcett. This is a very early role for Farrah, although she did have a pretty major role in Raquel Welch’s over-the-top feature “Myra Breckenridge” in 1970.  Sadly, Farrah gets no dialogue with Stephen – we only get to see Stephen talking to Barbara Rush and his own narration.  This vignette shows Stephen and Farrah in brief, fuzzy-lense flashbacks as the story unfolds. First we see Fawcett’s body being dragged up from the ocean onto a boat by a very distraught man as Boyd looks on rather coldly. As Barbara Rush tries to get at the details, the insufferably arrogant Boyd (rather humorously) keeps trying to steer the conversation back to his new movie, but as he is pressed, he continues to describe what happened. The next flashback is Farrah at a fancy party with the leading man, and her director (Boyd) approaches her and takes her by the arm forcibly, steering her into another room where he yells at her (apparently jealous of the leading man’s attentions to his own protégé). Then we see a fight scene where Boyd and the leading man are literally playing tug-of-war with Farrah in an antechamber before the press busts in to photograph the tumult.  We move back to the interview as Boyd gets contemplative while he explains how he was trying to nurse his emotionally distraught leading lady during the next day of filming, and we see a rather strange scene of Boyd and Fawcett sitting at a table in the set together (Boyd in his director’s sweater), and he is basically force feeding Fawcett cup after cup of hot tea. Apparently this tea is laced with something narcotic as a very woozy Fawcett is led out by the crew to do her ocean diving scenes (didn’t this movie have body doubles for these moments?? That aside..), and as she dives into the water, you know she will never emerge again. Then we see the same scene we saw at the beginning with the leading man carrying Fawcett up to the bought, obviously drowned. Barbara Rush is struck by Boyd’s callousness as the narrating of these events, and he goes on to tout his new movie! Then we are back to Boyd in the studio giving us brief introductions to the other 2 vignettes. He makes one last appearance at the end of the program, recounting the various interactions of ‘men and women’, then cautioning the audience as they go out on their own seeking the opposite sex, with an Irish glint in his eye, saying “Good luck!”

The show received fairly negative reviews. The stories are really not interconnected in the least, and it seems Boyd was persuaded to act as the narrator to try to pull them together into a cohesive mass. Besides “The Interview” segment, the other stories are not really worth watching.  But as a Stephen Boyd rarity, acting with Farrah Fawcett, it is worth a viewing!

Of Men and Women was evidently planned as “a trio of diverting tales.” The tales, though, happened to be entirely unconnected in subject matter, theme or any other convenient gimmick, and the program was given a host, actor Stephen Boyd, to pull things together. So sitting in a bustling TV studio, Boyd spoke to the viewer of his wonder at the infinite variety and basic similarities of men and women everywhere. They “speak many tongues feels many emotions,” Boyd observed, but each is immediately recognizable….The Lowell Sun, Jan 2, 1973

In the “The Interview”, written by Evan Hunter and directed by Robert Day, a supercilious movie director (again, the hapless Boyd) and a persistent interviewer provided the only dialogue. “What happened in Sardinia?” “On Sardinia,” he replied prissily, “Sardinia is an island.” In silent and artily hazy flashbacks, the middle-aged director is seen watching his young leading man, in a “hairy-chested-star gesture,” dragging the dead body of his young leading lady out of supposedly Sardinian waters. The leading man is frantic. The egotistic director is coldly self-possessed. Was it a drowning accident, or did the director do it? The interviewer drones on with her questions. His answers say no-no, but there’s yes-yes in his flashbacks. The interview remains properly civilized throughout, and, as it ends, the director suavely declared that “I intend to endure.” With that bit of depressing news, the tale reached its apex of emotional impact. The Baltimore Sun, May 13, 1973

A playlet called “The Interview” was conducted by Barbara Rush as if it were a form questionnaire. Her subject was an arrogant, egocentric motion picture director who tells of the death, by drowning, of the leading lady of his first film. The girl had defied the director briefly. It was a slickly told, unconventional bit and Stephen Boyd gave his cold, remorseless character a fine edge. The Detroit Free Press, May 8, 1973


Stephen Boyd 1964 Hedda Hopper interview 

Looking at Hollywood, by Hedda Hopper


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.”


Rare “Evil in the Deep” Stephen Boyd pictures added to Movie Photo Gallery

This is a crazy mix of pictures. Half of them taken circa 1972 when the movie was first filmed, and the 2nd half (with the older Stephen sporting the mustache) taken in 1976 when the movie ‘The Treasure of Jamaica Reef’ was reissued as the ‘Jaws’ inspired “Evil in the Deep.”  The cozy love scene with Cheryl Ladd never made it into the final cut of the film (darn it!), and the brunette posing with Stephen, Wendy Douglas, was an actress who was featured very briefly in the added ‘horror’ scenes which bookend “Evil in the Deep”. And then there is a random picture of Stephen next to a very big, old computer, which looks more like a “Fantastic Voyage” still!

See the Stephen Boyd Movie Photo Gallery here: https://stephenboydblog.com/photos/