Stephen Boyd

Stephen Boyd

Original Name William Millar
Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Death 2 Jun 1977 (aged 45)
Granada Hills, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Chatsworth, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Plot Mausoleum #1, North Wall, Niche 257
Memorial ID 1629 · View Source
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Actor. A rugged leading man, he made a powerful impression as the villainous Messala in "Ben-Hur" (1959). The chariot race from that film, in which Boyd duelled to the death with star Charlton Heston, is one of the indelible moments of American movies. Boyd was born William Millar in Belfast, one of nine children to an impoverished couple. Some sources give the year of his birth as 1927 or 1928. He began acting in his teens, and after appearing on stage in the U. S. and Canada broke into films in England in 1955. Four years later, "Ben-Hur" brought him international fame. According to author Gore Vidal, who did uncredited work on the screenplay, Boyd wanted to give a homosexual subtext to his interpretation of Messala. Director William Wyler agreed, but cautioned the actor, "Whatever you do, don't tell Chuck [Heston]". After Heston won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Ben-Hur, Boyd joked that if he'd used his chariot spikes earlier he would have won the race and possibly the Oscar. In fact, he wasn't even nominated for his performance. He may have alienated Academy voters with his acerbic appearances on TV talk shows, where he disparaged "tin hat" roles like that of Messala. This did not prevent him from accepting parts in subsequent spectacles like "Jumbo" (1962), "The Fall of the Roman Empire" (1964), "Genghis Khan" (1965), and "The Bible"(1966). He also starred in the sci-fi adventure "Fantastic Voyage" (1966), his best film after "Ben-Hur". With his talent, charisma, and matinee idol looks, Boyd should have become a major star. It never happened. Critic Charles Champlin suggested that the actor was too versatile for his own good. "It's probably an ironic tribute to Boyd's craft that he should, in effect, be remembered for his roles rather more than for himself". But Boyd's disdain for the politics of the film business, and his poor choice of scripts, were also to blame. By the 1970s he was starring in cheesy European exploitation flicks. Although he kept himself aloof from the Hollywood social scene, Boyd was inadvertantly responsible for one of filmdom's fabled romances. He was the original choice to play Marc Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (1963), but because of endless production delays he had to drop out to meet other commitments. He was replaced by Richard Burton---and the rest was tabloid history. When Taylor and Burton married in 1964, Boyd feigned indignation that he wasn't invited to the wedding. "'Tis the luck o' the Irish", he sighed. He died of a heart attack on a Los Angeles golf course.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1629
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Stephen Boyd (4 Jul 1931–2 Jun 1977), Find a Grave Memorial no. 1629, citing Oakwood Memorial Park, Chatsworth, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .