Stephen Boyd and Director Anthony Mann discuss cliche-free “Fall of the Roman Empire”, 1963 Interview; “Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies”

Steve Boyd Flits Among the Lovelies

August 5, 1963

The Daily Intelligencer

By Erskine Johnson

Rome – Chunky, rugged, dimple-in-the-chin Steve Boyd has just completed movies with Doris Day and Gina Lollobrigida, Now he was playing love scenes with Sophia Loren.

So leave it to me. I came right out and asked him how they compared on his personal popularity chart.

There had been drama of a sort at Rome’s airport the day before. The two Italian film sirens were slated to arrive within 15 minutes of one another – Gina from Athens, Sophia from Madrid.

The photographers were told: “Sophia at Gate 3, Gina at Gate 22.”

One or the other could be missed between arrival times.

I was in the seat directly behind Gina on the plane from Athens. I didn’t know that the airport photographers faced a dilemma. 

Not until later did I check their popularity chart. With a choice, they waited for Sophia.

In Steve Boyd’s book it was the same story.

With a sudden, slightly startled smile he answered my candid question:

“There is no comparison. I wouldn’t die exactly for Sophia, but I’d come close to it.”

We were on the set here of Samuel Bronston’s latest big epic, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.” It was a big, colorful set, build for only two weeks work. Most of the filming had been in Madrid, and more scenes would be filmed there.

The size of the film and its colossal set put no damper on the small talk always associated with a movie set, at home or abroad.

Boyd talked about “Imperial Venus,” the movie he had made with Gina. It was a farce and this he regretted. He was sticking to straight drama from now on because:

“I just can’t play farce. When I say something, I mean it.”

Director Anthony Mann was delighted about the chance to be making a historical film about Rome “with positively no clichés.” He started counting them on his fingertips – the clichés the film did not have:

“No lions, no orgy, no shower of rose petals, no debauched emperor, no coliseum mobs.”

About the lack or orgy, he laughed:

“How can any movie have an orgy anyway? They always turn out to feature old men sitting around with young girls dropping grapes into their mouths.”

The film was in its 110th shooting day but Mann was right on schedule.

“We are filming history, not making history in putting this film on the screen,” he laughed, an obvious reference to “Cleopatra.”

On sets, in Rome or in Hollywood, the small talk is the same as always.

Anthony Mann and Stephen Boyd
Boyd as Livius
Stephen arrives in Madrid (?). Photo from http://www.lafototeca.com

Stephen Boyd “Follows the Dodgers from Spain”, 1963

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Follows Dodgers from Spain- a Dodger ‘fan-atic’ 

by Herb Stein
The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 7, 1963
MADRID. – Stephen Boyd is the only actor we know working abroad who imports his own ball games. For some stars the Number One item requested from America when they’re on foreign locations is Dave Chasen’s chili. For Belfast-born Boyd, whose birthday was July 4 and who hopes to become an American citizen, baseball is more important than food.

Here he is in Las Matas, 16 miles from Madrid, on the mammoth set of the Roman Forum for Samuel Bronston’s “Fall of the Roman Empire” where from 2000 extras and players – gladiators, flagellantes, priests, trumpeters, mounted Praetorians, stilt-walkers, townsmen and townswomen, etc. – are being rehearsed for a Saturnalia celebration.
Suddenly, during a five minute break, a courier races across the set to where Boyd is sitting off-camera to watch director Tony Mann prepare and shoot the spectacle sequence.

Steve is not in this shot. The courier is not in the dress of the scene’s Second Century Roman period. He’s in sport shirt and slacks. He arrives breathlessly, clutching a newspaper as though it were his very life. He hands it to Boyd, exclaiming: “They win! They win!”

WIN ‘MAKES’ HIS DAY

The paper is the Rome Daily American, first to arrive in Madrid with the basebal results of the preceding day. Boyd grabs it, quickly scans the standings on the sports page, sees the results for himself. His day is made. The Dodgers (at that moment) are a few percentage points atop the heap.

“One of the things I miss most about California,” Steve told us, “are the Dodger games at Chavez Ravine. I’m a big Dodger fan-atic.” He said that twice a week Armed Forces Radio broadcasts games live from the States. “They don’t carry the night games. But we get the day games on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We hear them at night, of course because of the five hour difference between here and the East (eight hours ahead of the coast). You can’t get me out of my apartment those nights. I’m glued to the radio.”

The days he can’t hear the games, or misses AFRS score recaps, he must depend on the papers. He has a standing order for the first paper with the results to be rushed to him by “courier.”

TAPES OF GAMES

Boyd doesn’t confide his Dodger interest merely to results of the occasional AFRS coverage of the L.A. games. Steve’s friends frequently send him tapes of the Dodger games. “Those are the most eagerly awaited evenings, when the tapes arrive. I cancel any date. I sit backand listen to every word, hand on every pitch, hit, stricker, out, foul, cheer, boo – bell. I even enjoy the commercials. It doesn’t bother me a bit that the game is several days old or a week old – that I know the outcome. It’s as fresh live to me as though it were being played, that instant.”

He paused a moment, then asked: “Do you think the day’ll come when I’ll be able to get a kine and run the game on a screen at home? Wouldn’t that be sumpin’?”

That part is how one motion picture star, at least, spends much of his spare time during location shooting abroad. One Sundays and is rare days off, Boyd golfs.

While we sat with Boyd, Christopher Plummer (who plays Commodus in “Roman Empire”) was taking instructions from a javelin expert for a duel sequence with Boyd (Livius). Steve had taken lessons earlier.

Plummer said later: “It’s east once you learn it. You can make it as vicious as you like after you learn the basic steps.” The javelin fight expert is much like a choreographer and the staging is much similar to ballet. The javelins? The “steel” is rubber. “But in filming the fight, they won’t use synthetic rubber,” we were told,” We’re much to authentic for that – we’ll use real rubber.”

Boyd and Plummer rehearse the javelin duel in “Fall of the Roman Empire”

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Stephen Boyd on the set of “Fall of the Roman Empire” enjoying a cigarette break.

Stephen Boyd talks about kissing Sophia Loren

“Kissing Sophia Tough When You’re In Armor”

February 16, 1964 (The Bridgeport Post)
Hollywood- – (AP)

Stephen Boyd tells the hard luck story of the year even thought it involves kissing Sophia Loren in “Fall of the Roman Empire.”

“Wouldn’t you know it?” asks the Irishman now an American citizen. “I’m wearing medieval armor. Now kissing Sophia is a rare pleasure – but in steel armor?

“As you lift up your arms, the neck of the armor goes up and presses on your Adam’s apple. At the same time, the helmet comes down on your head.

“You try to look romantic but actually you’re choking to death. The kiss becomes a gasp because you’re trying to get from air into you.

“Only Sophia makes it worthwhile.”

Tacitus on the battle in the Teutoburg Forest

http://www.livius.org/te-tg/teutoburg/tacitus.html

 

Lucius Stertinius was dispatched by Germanicus with a flying column and routed the Bructeri as they were burning their possessions, and amid the carnage and plunder, found the eagle [4] of the nineteenth legion which had been lost with Varus. The troops were then marched to the furthest frontier of the Bructeri, and all the country between the rivers Amisia [Ems] and Lupia was ravaged, not far from the forest of Teutoburg where the remains of Varus and his legions were said to lie unburied.

 

Germanicus upon this was seized with an eager longing to pay the last honor to those soldiers and their general, while the whole army present was moved to compassion by the thought of their kinsfolk and friends, and, indeed, of the calamities of wars and the lot of mankind. Having sent on Caecina in advance to reconnoiter the obscure forest-passes, and to raise bridges and causeways over watery swamps and treacherous plains, they visited the mournful scenes, with their horrible sights and associations.

 

Varus’ first camp with its wide circumference and the measurements of its central space clearly indicated the handiwork of three legions. Further on, the partially fallen rampart and the shallow fosse suggested the inference that it was a shattered remnant of the army which had there taken up a position. In the center of the field [5] were the whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the barbarous altars, on which they had immolated tribunes and first-rank centurions.

 

Some survivors of the disaster who had escaped from the battle or from captivity, described how this was the spot where the officers fell, how yonder the eagles were captured, where Varus was pierced by his first wound, where too by the stroke of his own ill-starred hand he found for himself death. They pointed out too the raised ground from which Arminius had harangued his army, the number of gibbets for the captives, the pits for the living, and how in his exultation he insulted the standards and eagles. 

 

And so the Roman army now on the spot, six years after the disaster, in grief and anger, began to bury the bones of the three legions, not a soldier knowing whether he was interring the relics of a relative or a stranger, but looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood, while their wrath rose higher than ever against the foe. In raising the barrow Caesar laid the first sod, rendering thus a most welcome honor to the dead, and sharing also in the sorrow of those present.


[Indulging in a little fantasy, my two favorite subjects; ancient Roman history and photos from Stephen’s movie The Fall of the Roman Empire]

For a great novel based on the events of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 a.d., read this excellent book “Give me back my Legions!” By Harry Turtledove.