In the late 50s and early 60s, the whole of Hollywood was falling over itself to churn out historical epics of biblical proportions. Stephen Boyd was major player in this genre, so much so that he was originally chosen to play Mark Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra but Taylor became ill and the production was delayed so Boyd withdrew when he committed to star in The Fall of the Roman Empire. Its funny how things turn out because had he not withdrawn one of the great love affairs of the 20th century, Burton and Taylor would probably never have happened. Of course that’s not true, the power of the connections between Richard and Elizabeth’s charts meant that they had to be Antony and Cleopatra and it was also important that Taylor was already part of the film when Burton arrived. Astrology would never have had it any other way.
Stephen Boyd had the Sun in Cancer, Moon in Pisces and Scorpio rising. The Sun was opposite Saturn and the Moon opposite Neptune. He was a fluid character who would comfortably take on the shape of the part he was playing but this combination does not easily create the kind of ego that was common amongst the mega stars of the day. He said himself “They tried to make me a star, a leading man. Well, I’m not a star even though they thought I looked like one. I’m a character actor. When I’ve had the choice I’ve always opted for the character role. I’d rather be the pillar that holds up the star than the star himself”.
His chart does say something about the genre that he made his name working in and particularly his role in Ben Hur.
If there’s one sign that is associated with the past and history it is Cancer due to its strong connection with its own roots and family. One planet that has a similar connection with the past is Saturn as it rules tradition and forms that have been in place for many years. Boyd has the Sun opposite Saturn.
As if to confirm this theme, his Moon is in the 4th, the house which rules the past and this is opposite Neptune a planet that has some rulership over film in his 10th house. So his career ( 10th house ) is in film ( Neptune ) and specifically in historical drama ( Moon in the 4th, Sun in Cancer ).
To continue on this theme further, Boyd’s Sun is part of a stellium in Cancer which also includes a Jupiter / Pluto conjunction in the 9th house. Jupiter always expands anything that it touches and Pluto does so in an explosive, dramatic fashion so this conjunction aptly describes the kind of powerful big budget dramas that he worked in. The 9th house is far away lands so helps to create the setting.
The opposition between this Cancer group and Saturn projects strongly by T Square onto an apex Uranus in the 5th house. The 5th house is strongly linked to acting itself so its appropriate that this house is emphasised. Uranus is in Aries showing a military role of someone with an erratic temper. In fact the whole T Square very neatly describes his role of Messala in Ben Hur and in an extraordinary twist his Moon / Neptune opposition reflects the role of Charlton Heston as Ben Hur.
Judah Ben-Hur is a wealthy prince ( Moon in the 4th ) and merchant in Jerusalem. The Roman citizen Messala who was Ben Hur’s childhood friend ( Sun in Cancer ) is now a tribune ( opposite Saturn ). After several years away from Jerusalem, Messala returns as the new commander of the Roman garrison ( Uranus in Aries ). Messala believes in the glory of Rome and its imperial power, ( Jupiter in Cancer ) while Ben-Hur is devoted to his faith ( Moon in Pisces ) and the freedom of the Jewish people ( opposite Neptune in the 10th ). Messala asks Ben-Hur for the names of Jews who criticize the Romans. Ben-Hur refuses, angering Messala ( apex Uranus in Aries ).
During the parade for the new governor of Judea, Valerius Gratus, a tile falls from the roof ( Neptune in the 10th ) of Ben-Hur’s house ( opposite Moon in the 4th ). Gratus is thrown from his horse and nearly killed. Although Messala knows this was an accident ( apex Uranus ), he condemns Ben-Hur to the slave galleys and imprisons his mother and sister, Miriam and Tirzah ( Moon in Pisces opposite Neptune ). By punishing a known friend and prominent citizen, he hopes to intimidate the Jewish populace ( Sun in Cancer opposite Saturn ). Overcome by thirst when his slave gang arrives at Nazareth, Ben-Hur collapses. A local carpenter (who the audience realises is Jesus) gives him water ( Moon in Pisces in aspect to Neptune ).
After 3 years Ben-Hur returns to his home in Jerusalem. He visits Messala and demands his mother and sister’s freedom. The Romans discovered that Miriam and Tirzah contracted leprosy in prison, and expelled them from the city ( more Moon opposite Neptune ). The women concealed their condition ( even more Moon opposite Neptune ) from Ben-Hur who believed that his mother and sister had died. Ben Hur decides to seek vengeance on Messala by competing against him in a chariot race.
Its important to note that the film Ben-Hur had the largest budget and the largest sets built for any film produced. The nine-minute chariot race has become one of cinema’s most famous sequences. This race is the culmination of the film and a suitable visual interpretation of the vicious and gladiatorial apex Uranus in Aries. The fact that this placing is in the 5th house shows that chariot races are essentially leisure pursuits but this one turned extremely nasty.
During the chariot race, Messala drives a chariot with blades on the hubs to tear apart competing vehicles. In the violent and grueling race, Messala attempts to destroy Ben-Hur’s chariot but destroys his own instead. Messala is mortally injured, while Ben-Hur wins the race.
Stephen Boyd was honored for his work by receiving a Golden Globe for Ben Hur but was surprisingly by-passed on Oscar night. Pluto was opposite Boyd’s Moon and conjunct his Neptune in the 10th house of career in 1959 when Ben Hur was released and this seemed very appropriate as it was obviously the turning point in his life, but it also described the film very powerfully.
Pluto is about total and complete transformation, it is the phoenix rising from the flames and its role with the Pisces Moon / Neptune opposition shows the return from slavery via the gift of water from Jesus to the ultimate victory.
In a peculiar personal theme Stephen Boyd married Italian-born Mariella di Sarzana which only lasted officially two weeks during the filming of Ben Hur. This also reflects Pluto’s transit as a Moon / Neptune opposition is bound to create confusion around one’s personal life.
In 1964, Stephen Boyd escaped the charms of Elizabeth Taylor to play the part of general Livius in the Fall of the Roman Empire. Pluto was conjunct his Mars at the time, a suitable transit for a military role.
Boyd married for a second time to Elizabeth Mills, who had been his personal assistant and secretary for years. This one only lasted about ten months before his untimely and tragic death. Boyd died of a massive heart attack whilst driving a golf cart in June 1977 at the age of 45.In 1977, Pluto made a Grand Cross, that most difficult of all astrological patterns in square to his Sun and Saturn but also opposite Uranus. This was the only time Pluto transited any of these points in his life and it triggered another major theme from his T Square.
Stephen Boyd’s Sun is in the 8th house of death and it’s opposite Saturn, so any readers of other articles on this site would be seriously worried about a Pluto transit to this combination. Of course Uranus is the apex planet that receives all the tension from the Sun / Saturn opposition so Boyd died ( Sun in the 8th opposite Saturn ) suddenly ( apex Uranus ) whilst driving ( in Aries ) during a leisure pursuit ( in the 5th house ).
Stephen Boyd’s chart would have had much to say about his character and his life but it particularly described both his greatest triumph and his ultimate fall in incredible detail and there is a symbolic similarity between the two events. Granted a golf buggy is not quite the same as a chariot with protruding knives, but both events were supposed to be leisure pursuits and both ended with Boyd’s death.