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

Stephen Boyd, Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi

Stephen Boyd was compared to Marlon Brando early on in his career as an upcoming, masculine, rugged-type actor. Although Stephen never considered himself a method actor like Brando, he had nothing but high praise for who he considered hands down the best American actor.

Boyd and Brando

Asked whom he considered America’s finest actor, Boyd didn’t hesitate. “Marlon Brando, without doubt,” he said.
“America has never produced a talent like that, and I wonder whether it ever will again.
“I’ll tell you one interesting sidelight about him : If he invited you over for a drink, you’d often end up in some sort of impromptu drama class.
“You’d be sitting there with a drink talking about something someone said to you, or some incident that happened, and he’d say – ‘Hey, let’s play that as a scene, just for laughs;’
“He does that a lot with friends, and they turn out the performances of their lives for each other.
“Marlon told me not too long ago that his next film will be his last – and his best.
“‘It’ll be my 100 percent,’ he said.
“And you know what ? I believe him.
“There is no other actor in America that even comes near to touching his shoelaces.”

http://leglatin.pagesperso-orange.fr/boyd/boyde.htm,  Stephen Boyd Reveals Offscreen Personalities Of Top Stars by Chris Pritchard (National Enquirer)

It’s also interesting to note that Stephen’s own favorite stage performance as Stanley in “A Streetcar Named Desire” on the British stage was of course the role made famous on the screen by Brando in 1951.

Stephen also happened to briefly date Marlon Brando’s ex-wife Anna Kashi immediately after her divorce from Brando in 1960.  Anna was a mysterious looking beauty born in India and raised in Wales. Unfortunately I have been unable to find a photo of Stephen and Anna together, but there are several news snippets about the pair at that time.

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“Stephen Boyd finds both Anna Kashfi and British Actress Elizabeth Mills very attractive. But it was Elizabeth whose hand Boyd was holding after dinner.” (January 11, 1960 by Louella Parsons. Yes, this is Stephen’s personal secretary and close friend Liz Mills! Interesting point made by Louella. Liz is rarely mentioned in any other news snips during the 1960’s)

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Boyd with Liz Mills in the early 1960’s

“Her (Anna’s) first date in her new freedom will be Stephen Boyd.”  (Jan 30, 1960 by Harrison Carroll)

“Marlon Brando’s ex, Anna Kashfi, is dating Stephen (“Ben Hur”) Boyd. (Feb 5, 1960 by Earl Wilson)

“Anna Kashfi and Stephen Boyd, who usually seek out the quieter places for their dates, and eye-catching duo at dinner at “Chasen’s” (Feb 6, 1960 by Louella Parsons)

“At La Scala, Anna Kashfi and writer producet Alan Reisner were having an Italian dinner. The the next booth, Elana Eden and Stephen Boyd were eating spaghetti. Stephen, remember, sometimes dates Anna.” ( Mar 8, 1960, by Louella Parsons)

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Stephen and Elana Eden

“Stephen Boyd slammed a car door on his right hand, broke his index finger. And speaking of Boyd, his favorite date, Anna Kashfi, is feeling much better. She was able to attend a special showing at MGM of “Ben Hur,” in which Stephen plays Messala” (March 10, 1960 by Hal Boyle)

“The ex-Mrs. Brando (Anna Kashfi) has become Stephen (Ben Hur) Boyd’s favorite date. (March 19, 1960 by Erskine Johnson)

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There was a while that his friendship with exotic and excitable Anna Kashfi waxed hot and promising. While it lasted – and while presumably, Steve felt the numbers were right – Steve enjoyed it, and wasn’t even coy about discussing it.

“I wouldn’t say this is a romance,” he fenced only slightly, ” but then it might be construed as a romance. I’m very fond of Anna. She’s a wonderful girl and we’re very good friends. This is not a publicity thing where I’m saying this, nothing of the sort. I like Anna and she likes me. We are good friends, but romantically I don’t know.”

His indecision was but another manifestation of his abiding conviction that love is a numbers game.

“Anna is fun to be with,” Steve continued with a grin. “She’s intelligent and she’s quite a conversationalist. She’s a little bit kookie, but intelligent. She’s eccentric in some of her sayings and in some of her thoughts, but don’t ask me for specifics. I don’t like specifics because I would only give a specific to you as I see her now. Tomorrow if you ask the same question I’d have to give you something else.” (“Stephen Boyd, Love Gambler” from Screenland, November 1960)

I am sure Stephen Boyd got to hear from interesting Brando stories from Anna at the time of her tumultuous divorce!

 

A match made in hell apparently! Brando and Kashfi. 

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Boyd in early 1960- around the time her was dating Anna Kashfi. Here Stephen is seen prepping for “To the Sound of Trumpets” for Playhouse 90 TV which aired in February 1960.

Boyd looking “Brando-esque” – brooding in white t-shirts from “Lisa” and “The Oscar”