Stephen Boyd’s last feature film, The Squeeze, directed by Michael Apted (Gorky Park, Coal Miner’s Daughter), is a gritty, 70’s British crime drama starring an impressively British-accented Stacy Keach, Edward Fox, and David Hemmings. It’s a stunning cast, and an equally entertaining crime romp through the streets and back by-ways of London. For Stephen, this was one of those rare film opportunities where he could actually use and enhance his native Ulster brogue with great affect. Boyd portrays an Irish gangster, Vic , and his performance is chilling and effective, especially when countered against the more refined (and cautiously nervous) David Hemmings as his partner. Carol White is excellent as the kidnapped woman who frets for her daughter’s safety and uses all her wiles to try to turn her captors favor. She runs into a wall, however, when confronting Vic, and the climax of a heist-gun-kidnap battle on the streets of London-town is riveting. Boyd, at this time in his career, seemed ready to take on the long coveted character parts he had always cherished. It is sad that his untimely end came at a moment when his career could have taken off in a fascinating new direction.
Many thanks to Emmanuel in France for finding the below interview of Stacy Keach about The Squeeze.
CD: In the late 70s you obviously worked in Italy a little bit and also made a terrific British thriller called THE SQUEEZE .
|As Jim Naboth in Michael Apted’s THE SQUEEZE with Freddie Starr|
SK: Oh I love that film. Michael Apted.
CD: It’s a film that still hits quite hard even now, nearly 40 years on. Is there a difference between working on a British set with a British crew and working on an American set.
SK: I love the tea breaks [laughs]. No, not really no. When I shot LUTHER, Freddie Young the cameraman, my God I’ll never forget, he was in his late 70s and he came bounding into the studio one morning saying “I’m going to direct my first movie”, he was so excited. He was something else, he never stopped working, he was a genius at lighting, David Lean certainly took advantage of that.
But no, British crews are great. You know I like shooting where we’re not taking breaks every half an hour, which happens in America, I like to just keep moving… keep moving and keep going forward. You know it’s good for the actors too because nothing frustrates an actor more than sitting around and getting ready to go and then being told it’s not time yet because something has to be fixed. What you learn as the years go by is that you never get everything on the first take – something’s going to be off, you just know you’re not going to hit it, but that takes years of experience.
CD: In THE SQUEEZE one of the particular strengths of that film I think is the vivid use of locations and that really gives it a grounding in reality; I imagine those location shoots were quite lively.
SK: Oh they were indeed yes. Gosh yes – you’re bringing it all back in my head. Stephen Boyd. He was so great. It was so tragic though he died so young. He was great to work with. Same with David Hemmings. And Carol White.
CD: It was another film with a superb cast: Edward Fox was also in it. And Freddie Starr of course.
SK: Freddie Starr was great. One day he’d come out and spit on my windshield, I couldn’t believe it, he thought he was being funny. He is good in the film though, he’s very good. And he was fun to work with… most of the time! As a stand-up comedian he was… always on. He was very popular then.
A couple more excellent blog posts about The Squeeze below, as well as my own little The Squeeze Tribute on YouTube!
What a handsome picture of Stephen from the set of The Fall of the Roman Empire! Monica Peterson, seen here, was an extra in the film. She went onto to act in Anthony and Cleopatra in 1972 (starring Charlton Heston). She also spoke about Stephen in the documentary “The Man Who Never Was” about Stephen Boyd from 2011.
photo from http://www.monicapeterson.com
Stephen Boyd Talks about “Slaves” , Civil Rights, Scientology and Cleopatra!
August 1, 1969, Detroit Free Press by Bruce Vilanch
For a man who made his name getting dragged through the mud, Stephen Boyd is surprisingly clean.
His teeth really sparkle, his eyes shine bright, he appears to have full power in all his four limbs- he’s in great shape.
This will assure the thousands who became concerned when Boyd spent the better part of 15 minutes under the hoofs of eight galloping stallions pulling his chariot to oblivion in “Ben-Hur.”
A sizeable portion of skin and bone was sliced off the Boyd body during that scene, all so Charlton Heston could go on to victory in Rome and and Oscar in California.
Undaunted, Boyd picked up his pieces and headed for Hollywood, and Irish heartthrob-in-a-toga, to star in such treasures as “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” “Caper of the Golden Bulls” and America’s trash classic, “The Oscar.”
He married (a whirlwind union of 23 days), divorced and was quoted as proclaiming “the only difference between Doris Day, Sophia Loren and Brigitte Bardot is their hair styles.”
He walked out of “Cleopatra” and into “Jumbo” (in which he shared billing with an elephant) and “Fantastic Voyage” (in which he plunged lymph gland rapids with Raquel Welch).
He even played the heavy in “Genghis Khan.”
It has not been a dull life for Stephen Boyd.
The new Boyd, minus the blue eyes (they were contact lenses) and the massive shoulders (that was padding), stands over six feet tall and is dashingly handsome, but in a decidedly un-Hollywood, non-glamour-boy way. He is finished with Biblical pictures, gladiator spectacles and other trappings of imperial majesty and, in his latest film, plays an enigmatic, yet evil plantation owner in Mississippi circa 1850.
The picture, “Slaves” and was shot on what in movies they call “a shoestring” (small fortune.) Boyd says no one would back “Slaves” until he signed on as its star. “That helped them raise at least some of the money,” he says.
“No one would back ‘Slaves’ because it is about an explosive situation which is explosive only because no one understands it.”
The picture tries to make a statement all about Now and how voices in the black community clamor alternatively for blood and quiet. Stephen Boyd thinks this is the value of “Slaves.”
“Civil rights 100 years from now should not be discussed. Civil rights of today is what is important. I joined the civil rights movement years ago,” the former British subject, now American citizen says. “I gave my word years ago to help. Now I want to find out if their programs are getting to the people they’re supposed to be getting to.”
“I feel a picture like ‘Slaves,’ which addresses itself to some of America’s current problems, is something of a moral obligation for me. As soon as I have fulfilled some of my moral obligations, I can begin making money doing other things so I can have time to fulfill some more.”
The whole idea of moral obligation and responsibility for one’s fellow man, as well as responsibility to oneself, fills up a great deal of Boyd’s conversation. He speaks of co-workers as if they were close relatives, not just contractual partners.
“I was a guest on one of those New York radio panel shows and they were talking about Judy Garland,” he says, “one fellow, I won’t mention his name its so sickening, was carrying on about how she was a no-talent, a faggot hero. It’s disgusting what some people will say in public.”
In an attempt to find his own mind amidst such goings-on, Boyd has turned to scientology, a voguish new faith whose speakers turn up regularly on college campuses to lecture for $2.50 a throw.
“I don’t think anything should be suspect because it costs money,” he says. He calls scientology “a process used to make you capable of learning.”
“Scientology is nothing. It means only what you want it to. It is not a church you go to to pray, but a church that you go to to learn. It is no good unless you apply it. It is the application.”
Basically, scientologists meditate, usually in the presence of a spiritual supervisor, teaching themselves to be open in order to learn. One who has truly opened himself can be elevated to the position of Clear. Stephen Boyd has elevated himself to OC 6, a position beneath that of Clear. It took him nine months.
“Slaves” did not take him quite so long to accomplish, and, hopefully, it will give him equal peace-of-mind. What it certainly will not do is anything big for Stephen Boyd’s career. This he knows and accepts, as he has accepted everything since he walked away from the most expensive movie of all time.
“It was in the original version of ‘Cleopatra,’ the one to be shot in London. I was to play Marc Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor, with Rouben Mamoulian directing, but Elizabeth got sick and everything stopped.
““I was outside the hospital door that day with Eddie (Miss Taylor’s fourth husband, singer Eddie Fisher) when the doctors came out and told us her had one hour to live. It was one of the saddest, most pathetic moments I can recall. But somehow she pulled through – nothing ever stops her when she wants something.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait around until they decided to shoot. The script was being rewritten, there was a new director, the whole Shaw and Shakespeare concept of a personal drama was being thrown out in favor or spectacle. So I left. They gave my part to a fellow named Richard Burton. They even gave him my costume, and to this day every time he sees me, he says ‘Jesus, you’ve got big feet!”
“He doesn’t even mention my chest,” Stephen Boyd says, with that serene scientologist’s smile.
Stephen Boyd and Shirley Jones were friendly acquaintances for over 20 years in Hollywood. They also starred in a NBC Monday Night Movie Television Pilot called “The Lives of Jenny Dolan” which aired in October of 1975. Jones plays a reporter who is drawn out of her honeymoon retirement to pursue a baffling (and convoluted!) crime conspiracy. Boyd plays her handsome, demanding yet sympathetic boss. The movie also featured Farley Granger and Ian McShane. The movie was meant to be the beginning of a new television series for Jones, as the very popular “The Partridge Family” had just ended in 1974.
Shirley Jones, in an interview from 1975, explained that the concept of Jenny Dolan was comparable to the courageous Dorothy Kilgallen. Kilgallen (well known from the TV show “What’s My Line?”) had died in 1965, but her death was left open to speculation concerning her aggressive investigation of the JFK murder and the FBI. (Watch Stephen Boyd on “What’s my Line?” with Dorothy Kilgallen here!)
“I guess she would come closest to the idea of a woman reporter out in the world covering big stories.” (Oct 26, 1975, Arizona Daily Star)
Amazingly, the TV movie was filmed in just 16 days! And it does have an actual movie quality about it. Unfortunately the TV series was not picked up by NBC. It would have been a great opportunity for Stephen Boyd at the time to have been in Hollywood as a mainstay on a television series!
Shirley Jones was most notable for musicals “Oklahoma” (1955), “Carousel” (1956) and as Marian “The Librarian” in the fantastic “The Music Man” (1962) and the erstwhile mother of “The Partridge Family” in the 1970’s. Shirley is still making films!