‘The King must Die’ – Stephen Boyd as Theseus…what might have been!

During the late 1950’s, peplum films were all the rage. Stephen Boyd was a little paranoid about being typecast as a sword-and-sandal B movie actor, and after his success in Ben-Hur, he was looking for more modern roles to fill in his repertoire (although he showed no hesitation about being type-cast as a Roman in Cleopatra and Fall of the Roman Empire!). The one movie I wish had come to fruition was a 20th Century Fox production idea for Mary Renault’s excellent novel, ‘The King Must Die.’ Mary Renault was the premiere novelist about Ancient Greece. She had written some excellent books about Ancient Greece and Alexander the Great. ‘The King Must Die’ is the story of Theseus, the ancient Greek hero who sought out his parentage (the King of Athens), and ended up going to Crete to live among the bull-dancers and kill the infamous Minotaur (who in Renault’s book is an actual person – not a mythical creature). He also wooed and abandoned Ariadne, who in Renault’s book is also an earth-goddess priestess in Crete. Stephen was immediately cast in the role by 20th in early 1959 (just after he finished ‘The Best of Everything’). Ariadne was slated to be played by new Fox star Elena Eden. Ironically, Stephen and Elena actually dated each other in early 1960.

 The movie version of ‘The King Must Die’ most likely would have turned out to be a low-budget production had it actually come to reality- fulfilling all of Stephen’s worst fears. But if Fox had committed the funds to make this worthwhile, it could have been spectacular epic. Since we’ll never know how this would have looked on the big screen, I highly recommend reading the novel and imaging Boyd and Eden in the starring roles!