1962 Stephen Boyd Interview regarding the runaway production of “Cleopatra”

I sometimes wonder how Stephen’s career – and the 1960’s – would have turned out had he waited just a few months longer to start filming “Cleopatra.” He would have been a part of one of the biggest cultural movies of the 1960’s. The problem was, however, he would have spent literally two years filming (or waiting to film) this project! Stephen arrived on set in London in the later summer of 1960 to start filming “Cleopatra” (he was going to be Marc Anthony, of course). By late spring of 1961 he was still waiting. Stephen opted out “Cleopatra” in June of 1961 to start work on “Lisa” with Dolores Hart. When Richard Burton replaced Boyd in July and production on “Cleopatra” finally crawled to a start in late 1961 in Rome. “Cleopatra” was still filming in the summer of 1962 when Boyd was on hand in Rome filming “Imperial Venus” with Gina Lollobrigida! Below is a fascinating glimpse at this production from Stephen’s point of view while he was filming “Jumbo” in Hollywood.

Harold Hefferman, Philadelphia Daily News, March 8, 1962

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HOLLWOOD. – Behind movie headlines:

“Runaway production” is a terrifying term striking hard at every layer of the Hollywood foundation. As to its personal impact, no actor in town has greater reason for despising it than Stephen Boyd.

Boyd came back from two years movie making in Europe with little more than wasted time and the unhappy feeling both his career and personal life had been adversely affected by his absence.

The blond actor, who spent an earlier two year period villainizing Charlton Heston in “Ben-Hur,” went back to Europe in 1960 to make “The Big Gamble” with Juliette Greco. While there 20th-Fox notified him he was to play “Anthony” to Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra,” so he remained on- and on.

“The whole two years – minus a few weeks I spent back here in Hollywood – added up to nothing short of a fiasco,” growled Steve, on the set of “Billy Rose’s Jumbo” at MGM. “While waiting for ‘Cleo’ to get started, I went to Cairo for the big lighting of the Sphinx. That was when they were planning to shoot the picture in Egypt – but, of course, that fell through.

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“I’d say that about the personal high points of those 24 months was my trip to Cairo and Lebanon. The countries are beautiful, and it’s too bad so many things came up to prevent shooting ‘Cleopatra’ there.”

A few weeks after Steve reported for the big Queen of the Nile spectacle, Miss Taylor was stricken with her first and near fatal illness, followed by innumerable script and change-of-producer- director delays. Meanwhile, he was assigned by the studio to do “The Inspector” opposite Dolores Hart in Holland. This is a film he has yet to see.

“I can only say I hope it came out better than ‘The Big Gamble,’” Steve chided candidly, “because that one, I’m sure, won’t do a thing for my career. But that did save me from doing ‘Cleopatra,’ for which I am undyingly grateful.”

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Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd in “Lisa”

Steve doesn’t put much stock in the “Roman holiday” rumors of a romance between Liz Taylor and Richard (Antony) Burton. He attributes the notoriety to “a dream creation” by the over-imaginative Italian press.

“Why, the fan magazines and even a couple of Italian newspaper columns had me linked romantically with Elizabeth- a month before I’d even met her!” he laughed. “One headline read: ‘Will Steve divide Liz and Eddie?’ And I’d never even seen the lady, except in a couple of her movies. She and Eddie and I joked about it when we finally did meet on the set – but sometimes rumor and gossip can get way beyond the amusing stage.”

Steve blasts “runaway” for two other personal reasons. It cut into his burning romance with Hope Lange – she didn’t wait, and took up with others – and financially he took a shellacking.

I didn’t get anything resembling tax breaks,” he explained, “and, in fact, I paid both British and U.S. taxes all the time I was away. (Steve is a British citizen, of Irish descent.) I’m not dead set against pictures being made in foreign countries—sometimes they really turn out better – but in far too many cases, such as ‘Cleopatra,’ if they don’t film them on the McCoy locations, they’d do better to stay right in Hollywood and let everyone relax, including the actor.”

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Hope Lange and Stephen Boyd, 1961

Stephen Boyd, filming “Lisa” (The Inspector), 1961

The movie “Lisa” (The Inspector) was filmed in London, The Netherlands and Wales in the summer of 1961. Stephen Boyd has been languishing for months waiting to film “Cleopatra”, so by the summer of 1961 he was more than ready to start the filming of a post Nazi- era drama with Dolores Hart. In Stephen’s unauthorized biography by Joe Cushnan, Cushnan quotes the author of “The Inspector”, writer Jan De Hertog.  In  the novel, the Inspector, Peter Jongman, is an older man, and there is no romance between himself and the girl he is rescuing, Lisa Held. The author had envisioned an actor like Spencer Tracey in the role. Obviously, 20th Century Fox wanted to add some level of romance between the characters, so they cast the much younger Stephen Boyd in the role of Jongman. Apparently Natalie Wood was the top choice for Lisa Held, but casting eventually led to actress Dolores Hart as the concentration camp survivor and heroine in search of Palestine.  As Dolores Hart described it to journalist Sheilah Graham, “Now I’ve got Anthony, and Cleo has King Arthur” – meaning Richard Burton.  Boyd and Hart had both already met and acted together about a year and a half earlier on the Playhouse 90 WWI drama, “To The Sound of Trumpets”.  This movie was directed by Philip Dunne and included a host of top notch character actors; Finley Currie, Leo McKern, Donald Pleasance, Harry Andrews, Hugh Griffith and Robert Stevens. Much of the filming took place in damp weather in the Amsterdam and the Netherlands as the film crew searched for idyllic Dutch scenery. The filming then moved onto London, which is where most of the later Tangier scenes were filmed on a soundstage. The dramatic desert exterior shots of what is supposedly Palestine actually took place in Wales at Three Cliffs Bay. The crew and cast had to be rescued by a local lifeboat at one point when the converted trawler they were using was stranded in mud. The skipper feared the craft might roll over, so Boyd, Hart and director Dunne, and 32 other people had to be evacuated. Boyd and Hart also became close friends during the filming of this movie, to such an extent that Hart became quite enamoured with her co-star. At the time, Hart would deny any romance, but later in her autobiography “From the Ear To The Heart” she would confess that she on the verge was falling in love with Boyd, and was heartbroken when he rejected her overtures. The two would remain friends for many years after the filming of the picture, even after Hart made a life-long commitment as a Catholic nun in 1963.

The Courier Journal (Louisville Kentucky) featured an extensive look at the making of “Lisa” in January 7, 1962.

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Netherlands Cocktail Party for “Lisa” June 20, 1961 – Photo Pics of Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd in Amsterdam

http://www.gahetna.nl/collectie/afbeeldingen/fotocollectie/zoeken/q/zoekterm/stephen%20boyd

These are some of my favorite pictures of Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart together – from the Netherlands National Archive website. They attended this cocktail party together in Amsterdam to promote the filming of “Lisa” in June of 1961.

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For more about Dolores Hart and Stephen Boyd, see https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/stephen-boyd-and-dolores-hart/

Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart

Inspector UK

Stephen Boyd and Dolores Hart had a very special relationship. They starred in two films together–one was a TV special called To The Sound of Trumpets in 1960, and the other The Inspector (or Lisa) in 1962. They were two of the top 20th Century Fox rising stars- Boyd with his sex appeal and success in Ben Hur, and Hart with her Grace Kelly looks and her hit movie Where the Boys Are.  When they initially did To The Sound of Trumpets, the studio had them pose for a few magazines together, hinting at a romance.  This was not the case initially, but when they filmed The Inspector about a year and a half later, there was a romance afoot.  According to Dolores in her autobiography The Ear of the Heart, she had very deep feelings for Stephen. Hart was a Catholic who would soon chose to become a nun. She found Stephen to be very spiritual and they had many in depth conversations together, several of them about religion. Dolores was truly heartbroken and baffled when Stephen gently rebuffed her romantic inclinations, telling her she was ‘marked.’ According to Dolores, he never explained what he meant, but she understood his words in time to mean that she was destined for the Church and a future cloistered life. In 1962 Dolores would complain publicly that the studio had cooked up a “phony romance” between her and Boyd. In late 1962 she become briefly engaged to businessman Don Robinson. She even teased Hedda Hopper at the time about inviting Boyd to both the wedding and the reception so “he can’t get out of sending me a present.” Around the same time she was asked about Doris Day’s apparent crush on Boyd. Dolores would reply, “I know nothing about it, but I can see how a girl could flip for him.” But truly, Dolores’s heart belonged to the Church. Later in 1963 she would break off her engagement to Robinson and permanently join the Abbey of Regina Laudis, shocking Hollywood and her fans.  Later on in 1966, Stephen would visit her at the Abbey in Connecticut, but it was a brief and tense reunion. They would keep up a writing friendship for several years until Stephen’s interest in Scientology caused them to drift apart. Dolores appeared on TCM in 2014 to premiere the movie Lisa, which was her favorite role.  She told some interesting stories about the filming of the picture. She and Stephen would go over their characters motivations repeatedly. He also apparently had to carry her on the beach for several takes while the director tried to get the perfect lighting for the scene.  Dolores was also disappointed with the end of the film. Interestingly, Dolores said “I wanted to marry him” to Robert Osbourne when the film finished. It’s hard to say if she meant the characters in the film, or Stephen himself.  Dolores still lives at the Abbey of Regina Laudis to this day.

See also https://stephenboydblog.wordpress.com/stephen-boyd-and-dolores-hart/

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