“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

Stephen Boyd Cover, Sunday “New York News”, May 5, 1963

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ON THE COVER…

If Stephen Boyd hadn’t been so anxious to get on with his move career, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor might never have met. Boyd was the first choice to play Mark Antony in “Cleopatra,” but when Liz’ illness postponed filming for six months, the ruggedly handsome Irishman signed to do another picture.

“I’m not sorry about missing THAT experience,” he said.

Born in Belfast on July 4, 1928, the youngest of nine children, his real name is Billy Miller. He was 8 when he decided to become an actor, and at 16 he began his career with the Ulster Theatre Group. Two years later he went to Canada, where he played in summer stock and radio. In 1950 he came to the United States and tours in “Streetcar Named Desire” and other plays.

He returned to Europe, where his career hit a bleak period, and it took him five years to win his way to a movie contract. His first major screen role was in “The Man Who Never Was.” He also appeared in “Island in the Sun” and “The Best of Everything” before getting his first big break, the role of Messala in “Ben Hur.” His latest role was opposite Doris Day in “Jumbo.”

Boyd married Mariella de Graziani, an Italian talent agency executive, in August, 1958. The marriage lasted 23 days, and they were divorced the following March.

SUNDAY NEWS, MAY 5, 1963

 

Blogger’s note:  this article misspelled Mariella’s name – it’s di Sarzana. Also, this is a common mistake where Boyd’s birth date is incorrectly given as 1928, not 1931.

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!

Rare Stephen Boyd Clips on BritishPathe.com!

I love when a generous fan out there shares something amazing concerning Stephen Boyd! I want to thank Annette in the UK for pointing out a great website I had never perused before…www.britishpathe.com! Be sure to go to this website and search for Stephen ‘s name. You will find these video clips!

There are some great Stephen Boyd clips on this page!

*Stephen acting as guest-host on a British TV show Film Fanfare from 1957

*An interview of Stephen on the set of Shepperton Studios talking about “Seven Waves Away” and Tyrone Power!

*Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh visits the set of Cleopatra in 1960 and talks to Stephen Boyd

*The premiere of “Shalako” in London, December 1968. Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery, Diane Cilento and Stephen Boyd meet Princess Margaret. Stephen arrives with a beautiful, elegant Black woman – does anyone know who this mystery woman is?

*A quick video of behind-the-scenes of The Fall of the Roman Empire in Spain. The video features Sophia (sitting in Stephen’s on set chair), and Stephen Boyd and Christopher Plummer enacting a scene which was eventually cut from the film! It’s a scene where Commodus and Livius dash wine (rather cruelly) on captive German prisoners below. You can see the 2 captive girls in the crowd (one of them, Lena Von Martens). This whole storyline was cut from the film, but you can read excerpts from the novel of The Fall of the Roman Empire on this tag here, https://stephenboydblog.com/category/harry-whittington-novelization-of-the-fall-of-the-roman-empire/

I always wondered what this scene was from! It was (wisely) replaced by the ‘drunken’ Livius/Commodus scene instead.

Fantastic Voyage, 1966

Be sure to visit my new landing page for all Stephen Boyd/Raquel Welch movie photos from “Fantastic Voyage”! https://stephenboydblog.com/fantastic-voyage-1966/https://stephenboydblog.com/fantastic-voyage-1966/
In August of 1966, the classic science fiction movie “Fantastic Voyage” was first premiered. “Fantastic Voyage” was really quite a revolutionary movie when it came out.  Up until that time, throughout the 50’s and early 60’s,  science fiction features were mostly relegated to Drive-In-B movies. But “Fantastic Voyage” was a 20th Century Fox experiment that turned into a big success. In fact, in 1966, Stephen Boyd was lucky enough to part of two of the top grossing movies of the year – “The Bible” was #1, and “Fantastic Voyage” was #22 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_in_film#Top-grossing_films_.28U.S..29). It was an expensive looking movie with a very good cast, including Stephen Boyd, Donald Pleasence, Arthur Kennedy, Edmond O’Brien, and newcomer Raquel Welch. It took a completely out of this world idea of shrinking a scientific crew to microscopic size and inserting them into the bloodstream of a patient who needed a blood clot operated on inside the brain. It was filmed at Fox Studios, and also at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, which substituted as the inside of the fictional C.M.F.D.M. headquarters. Even though now the ‘lava lamp’ special effects look somewhat dated, this movie still looks exquisite, especially on blu-ray. The sleek, zippered, sexy white uniforms the cast wears look perfectly modern by today’s standards. The studio even enlisted the iconic science fiction writer Isaac Asimov to write the movie-tie in book to give the film additional clout.  This movie paved the way for more and more high-end popular science fiction films of the late 60’s and into the 70’s, including Charlton Heston’s “Planet of the Apes’ in 1968.  Without the success of ‘Fantastic Voyage”, the world of science fiction movies may have looked very different!

Stephen Boyd and Anthony Mann – “The Unknown Battle”, 1964

In mid 1963, as Stephen Boyd was wrapping up his role as the Roman General Livius in the epic production of “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” director Anthony Mann started to consider Boyd as the lead in his next project as well – “The Unknown Battle.” This movie was going to portray the true story of the top secret Allied mission to knock out the nuclear weapons plant run by the Nazi’s in Norway during the mid stages of WWII. Norwegians saboteurs, in a serious of heroic operations, destroyed a ‘heavy water’ plant in Telemark, Norway before if could be used to help develop a nuclear weapon which could have changed the outlook of the war in the most terrible way. Winston Churchill called it one of the most important single acts of World War II because it prevented the Nazis from developing the atomic bomb.

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The Vemork Hydroelectric Plant – the setting for Anthony Mann’s WWII adventure film, “The Unknown Battle”

Originally Mann was seeking to cast Charlton Heston (who had worked with Mann on “El Cid” in 1961) and Stephen Boyd (currently working with Mann) as the two leads in the project. Yes, a reunion of the iconic “Ben-Hur” antagonists was initially the main objective!

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Boyd was set up for a decidedly busy schedule for the next few months and even lamented to one reporter, ” When will I get in a round of golf?” (Honolulu Star Bulletin, June 6, 1963).
By February of 1964 stunner Elke Sommer (Boyd’ future co-star in “The Oscar”) was signed to be the female lead on the film (whose title had now changed to “High Adventure.”) Boyd told Hedda Hopper that Sommer was as “sexy looking as any actress around”, and asked for her to be his leading lady. (Los Angeles Times, Feb 5, 1964)

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Meant for each other – Sommer and Boyd would reunite explosively in “The Oscar”, 1965

Heston had not been signed, and then Mann considered Boyd’s counterpart in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, Christopher Plummer for the role. Then the merry-go-round of casting continued to some very curious participants!

For a key role opposite Boyd, Mann wanted Steve McQueen and offered him $500,000 plus a percentage of the gross.

Mann explained what unfolded next.

“McQueen told my representative : ‘I resent your calling me at home.’ So I forgot about him.

“Then I went after Marlon Brando, whose price is a million. I didn’t mind the price but he wanted to change the script.

“There were some actors in the cast he didn’t like. He insisted that they must play Nazis. I dropped him, too.” (The Progress Index, Feb 24, 1964)

Incredibly Anthony Perkins of “Psycho” fame, for a cheaper price than Brando of course, won the role.

So the main cast of “The Unknown Battle/High Adventure” was set – Stephen Boyd, Elke Sommer and Tony Perkins.

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Boyd’s carousel of potential “Unknown Battle” co-star’s – from McQueen to Brando to Perkins!

In March Boyd was home in Hollywood to discuss the premise of the movie with the press. He seemed very excited about the story.

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Smoking rising from Vemork hydroelectric plant after Allied air raid, Telemark, Norway, 16 Nov 1943 ww2dbase

The story if based on a little-known incident of 1943. It was in the spring just 23 years ago that Hitler announced he has discovered the basic elements to destroy the Free World with atomic bombs of his own. A group of seven men, Norwegians and British, were selected by Allied Intelligence Service to be smuggled into occupied territory to blow up the secret Heavy-Water experimental station in the mountains 100 miles north of Oslo. How these men helped to save the cause of democracy is a story, Boyd feels, must be told. Elke Sommer, herself a product of Germany, portrays a Norwegian girl who helps her countryman in the dangerous mission. The account of the venture has been fictionalized by Ben Barzman… (St Louis Jewish Light, March 18, 1964).

Stephen had packed his bags once more and headed to London and the cold ice fields of beautiful Oslo, Norway to start filming on location. Boyd has been waiting – and waiting – for the production to actually begin. Terrifying flashbacks to the “Cleopatra” debacle of a few years prior were most likely clouding his thoughts! Frighteningly, Anthony Mann was producing and directing the project. It didn’t take long for the money to run short.

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In late March journalist Sheilah Graham broke the story that Stephen, after arriving in London, discovered that the production has been indefinitely postponed. He hurriedly called his agent to join him there to find out what was going on! By April Stephen had filed a $500,000 breach of contract suit against Mann for time wasted and other opportunities lost (Mann didn’t seem to mind to much- he was at the Cannes Film Festival when the suit was filed!). (Philadelphia Inquirer, April 25, 1964)

Boyd has missed some other excellent film offers, including Sophia Loren’s project “Lady L.” Carlos Ponti, Loren’s husband/producer, had told Boyd that “your love scenes with my wife were the greatest (From “The Fall of the Roman Empire”). I’d like you to costar with her in Lady L.” (Los Angeles Times, Feb 5, 1964) Boyd wanted the role, and Loren was insistent that Boyd star as her lover, but as Boyd was tied up with “The Unknown Battle”. Loren had to settle for a lackluster and totally miscast Paul Newman! In addition, Boyd chose not to fly all the way back to Hollywood to attend the premiere of Paramount’s “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

By July of 1964 Boyd had cooled a bit and explained to Sheilah Graham what had happened with the production.

“But I sat on my rear end in London, waiting for it to start. A major studio was supposed to provide 50 perfect if the finance. Two weeks before production, they backed out. Tony Mann, the director, has promised me we will make the picture later this year, when the snows come again in Norway.” (Asbury Park Press, July 2, 1964)

Two weeks after this interview, Kirk Douglas replaced Boyd in his role. Boyd had signed on to be the villain in “Genghis Khan” and he was off to make this film instead.

Stephen Boyd and Anthony Mann in 1963 during The Fall of the Roman Empire shoot in Spain

Mann did eventually get his project off the ground with Douglas, Michael Redgrave and Ulla Jacobssen. Richard Harris, who had been Mann’s original choice to play Commodus in “The Fall of the Roman Empire”, eventually became the second lead. Harris had just finished up his role as Cain in John Huston’s epic “The Bible”, which also featured Boyd as Nimrod.

Mann’s film was renamed “The Heroes of Telemark” and it was released in 1966. It’s a taut adventure movie with some truly heartracing action scenes and spectacular Norwegian scenery. But I still wish it had been made with the original cast!

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Boyd missed this opportunity to star with his favorite co-star, Sophia Loren