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Stephen Boyd 1931-1977

Country : Glengormley, Northern Ireland
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1931-07-04
Date of death : 1977-06-02
Cause of Death : Heart Failure

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Stephen Boyd (July 4, 1931June 2, 1977), born William Millar, was an Irish-born actor from Glengormley, Northern Ireland, who appeared in 60 films, most notably in the role of Messala in the 1959 film Ben-Hur.


Boyd was discovered by actor Michael Redgrave while working as a hotel doorman.He began in British films, but it was his role in a 1957 French film The Night Heaven Fell opposite Brigitte Bardot that got him noticed. He went to Hollywood and appeared as second leads in a variety of films, including The Bravados (1958) and The Best of Everything (1959). His role as Messala in Ben-Hur (1959) propelled him to international fame and he was thereafter fated to play roles wearing Roman armour and togas, as in Samuel Bronston's The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), in which he co-starred with Sophia Loren. He received a Golden Globe for his performance in Ben-Hur.

He was originally chosen to play Mark Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 20th Century-Fox's epic production of Cleopatra under the direction of Rouben Mamoulian, but eventually withdrew from the problem-plagued production when he committed to star in The Fall of the Roman Empire (Cleopatra was later directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and the role of Mark Antony went to Richard Burton).

Boyd also appeared in John Huston's Biblical epic The the Beginning (1966) and was top-billed in another costumed epic Genghis Khan (1965), filmed in Yugoslavia. He appeared in the French-produced Napoleonic epic Imperial Venus (1962), playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida. His non-epic roles included the musical Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962) opposite Doris Day, the Hollywood melodrama The Oscar (1966), the sci-fi special effects extravaganza Fantastic Voyage (1966), the spy thriller Assignment K (1969) and the international Western Shalako (1969), shot in Spain. His career declined in the 1970s and he appeared in several European potboilers before making a comeback in Michael Apted's British gangster thriller The Squeeze (1977).

He died of a heart attack at the age of 45 while playing golf at the Porter Valley Country Club in Northridge, California. He was in talks to play the role of the Regimental Sergeant Major in Euan Lloyd's The Wild Geese before his death.

Stephen Boyd was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.

Awards and achievements

Preceded by
Burl Ives
for The Big Country

Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
for Ben-Hur

Succeeded by
Sal Mineo
for Exodus

Personal life

Boyd was married twice - briefly in 1958 to Italian-born MCA executive Mariella di Sarzana, and subsequently to Elizabeth (Liz) Mills, who was a secretary at the British Arts Council and whom he had known since 1955. Mills followed Boyd to the USA in the late fifties and was his personal assistant and secretary for many years before marrying him about 10 months before his death.

Partial filmography

  • The Man Who Never Was (1956)
  • A Hill in Korea (1956)
  • Seven Waves Away (1957)
  • Island in the Sun (1957)
  • Les Bijoutiers du clair de lune, also known as The Night Heaven Fell (1958)
  • The Bravados (1958)
  • Woman Obsessed (1959)
  • The Best of Everything (1959)
  • Ben-Hur (1959)
  • Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)
  • Lisa (1962) (released as "the Inspector" in the U.K.)
  • The Third Secret (1964)
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964)
  • Genghis Khan (1965)
  • Poppies Are Also Flowers (1966)
  • The Oscar (1966)
  • Fantastic Voyage (1966)
  • The Bible: In the Beginning (1966)
  • Assignment K (1968)
  • Shalako (1968)
  • Slaves (1969)
  • Carter's Army (1970) (TV)
  • Hannie Caulder (1971) (uncredited)
  • The Squeeze (1977)

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