Boyd Back to ‘Civvies’
from the Republican and Herald, Pennsylvania, March 26, 1965
GOODBY TOGAS, HELLO PANTS, SAYS STEVE
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.
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.
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.
Sadly, this iconic wax museum which had so many classic movie displays is no more (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Movieland_Wax_Museum), but I was able to find this awesome postcard on Ebay which must have been sold at their gift shop when they were in business. It shows in nice detail the amazing “Ben-Hur” wax display. Messala (a very nice likeness of Stephen Boyd, I must say) can be seen in the foreground in his gold/black attire, bloodied and defeated as Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) rides by with his four white steeds in triumph. Messala’s toppled red and gold chariot can be seen prominently as well. What a nice display this was!
“One of the most dramatic new sets at Movieland Wax Museum “The Stars’ Hall of Fame” in Buena Park, is a startlingly realistic recreation of the famous chariot race scene from the 1959 Academy Award-winning motion picture, “Ben-Hur.” Charlton Heston, who won the 1959 Best Actor laurels for his portrayal of the film’s title character, drives a team of horses around the great track, speeding his chariot to victory. His friend-turned-enemy, portrayed by Stephen Boyd, lies bloody and broken next to his overturned chariot in the dirt of the ring. Thousands of citizens of Rome (portrayed on the elaborate backdrop) cheer the victor: “Ben-Hur.”
Be sure to watch Charlton Heston’s Oscar winning performance as Judah Ben-Hur and Stephen Boyd’s Golden Globe winning performance as Messala in MGM’s one-of-a-kind biblical epic “Ben-Hur” from 1959. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies , this is now a yearly tradition. It’s so wonderful that more people see it each and every year!
Always a little too self-critical, Boyd was asked once in a a “Movieland” Magazine interview in December of 1962 to critique his own work. The answers may surprise you!
“Tell me – even though you feel you’ve done nothing to deserve the current interest in you, what performances do you feel proudest of?”
“In motion pictures?”
“No, you can include the stage, TV and radio if you like.”
He tilted his head thoughtfully. “The best performance I ever gave in my life was Stanley Kowalski in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ The second best performance that I ever gave was the part of Dr. Miller in ‘The Deep Blue Sea.’ Both were on the stage in London.” He leaned forward, counting now on the fingers of one hand. “And probably Number Three is a performance I gave on television in London in a play called ‘Barnett’s Folly.’ I played a very shy, weak young man. Next I would put ‘The Man Who Never Was.’ And somewhere in there I’d put ‘Ben-Hur.’ But only the death scene. It was the only thing I liked in my performance, the only thing where I felt I was getting close to what I wanted in that picture.”
Boyd also continued to speak about filming “Ben-Hur” and working with director William Wyler.
STEPHEN BOYD’S MAIN ASSETS: HE KNOWS HIS MIND, HAS “WALLOP”
By Erskine Johnson
Jan 9, 1960
HOLLYWOOD- (NEA) – A brass hat and the armor of a Roman warrior in “Ben-Hur” does for Stephen Boyd what a tight dress does for Marilyn Monroe.
In the movie trade it’s called “box office wallop.”
Appearing in mufti in half a dozen movies, young Boyd, an Irishman from Belfast, was just a darn good actor, but one who started no fan riots.
But as the Roman heavy Messala in “Ben-Hur,” well, the riots have started. Old dolls are flipping their wigs, young dolls are flipping their pony tails and fan magazine editors are flipping their pages to make room for Boyd.
Boyd loses the chariot race to Charlton Heston in the film, but he wins big-time stardom as a “personality actor,” something we haven’t had on the screen in some time.
That costume literally turns him into a giant of a man and a giant of a star in the good, old Hollywood tradition. Today the offers are pouring in.
Movie makers can’t wait to have Boyd buckle on a sword for more swashbuckling all the way from ancient Rome to the walls of Disneyland, and he’s already been cast as Boaz in the new 20th Century Fox spectacle, “The Story of Ruth.”
But young actors in Hollywood today are rugged individualists – and that’s “The Story of Boyd,” who says he knows what kind of roles he can play and what kind of roles he cannot play, in no uncertain words and no uncertain tone of voice.
With his box office wallop hitting the big time in “Ben-Hur,” Fox, where he is under contract, immediately announced his casting as Boaz.
To which Boyd immediately announced, “no, thank you,” which immediately started Hollywood buzzing that he didn’t want to appear in another costumer spectacle immediately following “Ben-Hur,” or he didn’t like the script.
Both reasons are wrong, according to Boyd, who told me”
“I’m an actor who knows exactly what I’m capable of playing. I’m not ready for the role of Boaz. If someone asked me today to star in a film version of ‘Hamlet,’ I’d say the same thing – ‘I’m not ready.’
“I wouldn’t know what to do with Hamlet, and I don’t know what to do with Boaz. I think the picture would be much better without me. It’s a good script – a great script. It’s a great role – for someone else, not me.
“I’ve ruined pictures before because I’ve been talked into them against my better judgement. I’d starve – and I have starved – rather than accept a role I’m not ready for.
“I need to work, but this part is just wrong for me.”
Since he had been dedicated to acting since the age of 10, and since he is a moody, volatile fellow, the studio wasn’t too surprised.
Now threatened with suspension, Boyd is sitting it out while the studio and his agents fight it out.
Born in Belfast of a poor family, Boyd first appeared on U.S. movie screens as the Irish spy in “The Man Who Never Was.”
“Island in the Sun,” “The Bravados,” “Woman Obsessed,” and several European films, one with Brigitte Bardot, followed. “Ben-Hur” was his 12th, and the cincher for his career.
While working in “Ben-Hur” in Rome, he was married briefly to a doll who represents the MCA office there. By the time he returned to Hollywood they were divorced. His explanation:
“I honestly thought this was it, but I’m an Irish so-and-so when I’m working.”
Right now 20th Century Fox is discovering that he’s an Irish so-and-so when he doesn’t want to work in a role he says “I’m not ready for.*