Costumes from the film Ben Hur at the Debbie Reynolds Auction Breaks Up Historic Hollywood Collection (The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, CA, USA). On the foreground: Costume worn by Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur and costume worn by Stephen Boyd as Messala.
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.
Hollywood – Stephen Boyd is hoping the third time is the charm that will break the bone he always had to pick with Hollywood.
The rugged actor is referring to the fact that his next picture, “Fantastic Voyage,” marks only the third time he has worked in Hollywood.
He loves the place, the motion picture industry and most of the people in it. But the trouble is, he doesn’t get much chance to work in Hollywood.
Steve recently had returned from filming ‘Genghis Khan’ in Yugoslavia, England and Germany. He was there one week- long enough to confer with producer Saul David and Director Richard Fleischer. Whambo! He was off again to Italy for a week to make a cameo appearance in “The Bible.”
TOP SECRET ROLE
Boyd will return to Hollywood in time to start his top secret role in the top secret “Fantastic Voyage,” to which he is sworn to secrecy except, to say that it will be the most expensive science fiction story ever filmed – and the most unique.
“I want to make more films in Hollywood,” is his simple plaint, “I’ve become an American citizen. I’ve bought two homes here. I’d like a chance to enjoy them and my many friends. But I keep getting assignments abroad.
“I’ve made eighteen pictures since’ The Man Who Never Was,’ from which Darry F. Zanuck signed me for a long term contract, in 1956.
“’Fantastic Voyage’ will be only the third film I have made wholly in Hollywood – and that’s a pretty low average.”
“Once, in 1958, I was rushed from Europe to Hollywood to do ‘The Bravados,’” recalled Boyd. “I thought at least I’ll make a picture in Hollywood. But it was filmed entirely in Mexico. I’d come back from South of the Border for three days when they sent me to Italy to do ‘Ben-Hur’ for another eight months.”
His only two previous Hollywood-based films were ‘The Best of Everything’ and ‘Jumbo.’
“I was about ready to sell my California homes,” Boyd said, “when along came ‘The Fantastic Voyage.’ I’m hoping producers mean it when they say they’ll be less runaway pictures.
“It’s frustrating in another way, always working abroad,” said Boyd. “That little black book isn’t much good by the time I get back from long European locations. The girls I knew have married or are going steady with someone else, I have to start all over again.
“For a guy who loves home, hearth and California girls, this making films every place but Hollywood isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I’m an American now, and I’d like to continue making pictures in America.”
British Actor Finds Culture in L.A. September 3, 1966 – Herald Post (El Paso, Texas)
LONDON – Drinking afternoon tea in the Hilton Hotel is like having one foot in England and the other in the United States. Stephen Boyd sipped tea in the Hilton this week and the tea seemed his last link to home.
Mr. Boyd, tall, blue-eyed, sparkingly smiling, is a man who looks all film-star in the old-fashioned sense. He’s Irish by birth.On the hard way up the ladder he did a stint once as commissionaire at the Odeon, Leicester Square.
Now he is an American citizen, resident in Los Angeles and Ireland. London, the Hilton Hotel and the Odeon, Leicester Square are all just part of the land he left behind him. Some people, these days, go to Hollywood and then can’t wait to get out again. Mr. Boyd seems to have been gobbled up by Hollywood in one gulp.
It was not a step he took lightly, he explained. “I thought long and hard about what I was leaving behind me. This place with its centuries old tradition, its art and its theater.
“when I got back to Los Angeles, I suddenly discovered that all the art and culture you need can be found in Los Angeles. I can also be in San Francisco in 15 minutes. I can reach snow for skiing and the coast for water skiing within hours. And i just love the sun. When I wake up in the morning and see that beautiful sun I realize I just wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
People who talk of Hollywood as a cultural desert anger Mr. Boyd. “When I hear people talk like that I feel I want to ask them, ‘How hard did you look?’ In London art is right under your nose, in Los Angeles you have to seek it out. Remember that Los Angeles is not a city, it is a holiday resort. There are things going on in Bournemouth that the tourist never sees and the same goes for Los Angeles.”
Hollywood, thinks Mr. Boyd, is still a place that grips the imagination of the world. “Every great person comes to stay in Hollywood at least once. Many buy houses there and come regularly. I have been privileged to meet many of these people.
“Salvador Dali told me that being asked to design in Hollywood was the greatest thing that ever happened to him. Picasso said to me that he hoped that one day he might be asked to do some work there.”
Taking up American citizenship had its practical side, Mr. Boyd explained that he had his money in property in Los Angeles. He had an interest in getting a vote.
He also discovered that America is Mecca for the single man. Mr. Boyd was married and divorced fairly quickly and shows no urgent desire to get married again.
“In America a single man doesn’t need a wife,” he said, “The whole life is geared for the housewife. A man comes around and refills my refrigerator. The cleaners come and collect, collect mark you, my cleaning in the morning, and return it in the evening. My cleaning people noticed I’d lost a little weight and left a note inquiring if I’d like them to alter my clothes for me. And servicing the flat is all handled by people who run the apartments for an extra dollar a month. I would sooner pay an extra dollar a month than pay for a wife. Who needs a wife?”
Stephen Boyd at the age of 37, has espoused Hollywood with a convert’s fervor. He looks back with approving and nostalgic eyes to its golden age. His latest film is a story about Hollywood called “The Oscar”. he thinks it is a film for the unsophisticated and the barbs of the sophisticated may bruise his flesh but they don’t draw blood.
He is, as it happens, armoured by he knowledge that American unsophisticates have so strongly rallied to the cause that the film has already made its money.
“We created a film in the spirit of Mildred Pierce and in the tradition of the Bette-Davis-Joan Crawford pictures,” he said.
Joe Hyams, a Hollywood journalist and also the future husband of actress Elke Sommer, wrote some interesting articles about Stephen Boyd – one in 1960 and another in 1962. The below article is from the Toledo Blade in April 28, 1960. In it, Stephen teases about a romantic interest in Brigitte Bardot –‘Let’s hope where there’s smoke, there’s Brigitte’. He discusses the challenges of being single in Hollywood – ‘Hollywood women outnumber men by at least four to one which means an eligible bachelor is in demand. It’s not only incredible, it’s marvelous.’ He also confesses to being more of a character actor than a leading man – ‘But the fact is I don’t particularly like being a leading man. Those are usually the milk and water parts. they are cliches. the leading man role is created for you whereas the character role is one you create yourself.’ Stephen also anticipates returning to Belfast after being away two years – ‘I know someone’s going to ask me what I’ve been doing since the last time they saw me. I’ll say I’m an actor and then they’ll say, ‘Yes, but what else do you do?’ What will I say then?’