Stephen Boyd Tries Theory – Personality First, Acting Second
Indianapolis Star, June 27, 1965
By LOUELLA O. PARSONS
Hollywood – That witty, attractive Irishman and good actor, Stephen Boyd, is a happy man these days. After almost four years of wandering all over the globe making movies he’s finally getting a chance to do two in a row in Hollywood.
His recently finished ‘Fantastic Voyage’ at 20th Century Fox and will shortly start work at Paramount in ‘The Oscar.’ It will be the longest stretch Steve’s enjoyed in his adopted country (he became an American citizen over a year ago) since he made ‘Jumbo’ with Doris Day in ’61.
In the interim Steve’s location travels have taken him to Italy (‘Imperial Venus’), England (‘The Third Secret’), Spain (‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’), Egypt (‘The Bible’) and Yugoslavia (‘Genghis Khan’). The last named, made for Columbia, goes into general release July 4, Steve’s birthday.
But critical and audience reaction to his performance in the spots where it has already opened have handed him a mighty nice advance birthday present.
A little over a year ago Steve told me he had finally come to the conclusion that to be a big screen success in Hollywood an actor had to let his own personality come through any character, rather than submergin himself in the role.
In ‘Genghis Khan’, he plays a long-moustachioed villain called Jamuga, his first heavy since ‘Ben Hur,’ and I asked him if he had applied his new theory. “Yes, “ he said, “If I had played Jamuga normally, with an actor’s approach of going into character, I don’t think it would have come out as well. I got some very nice notices. But the good, truthful job will almost always go unnoticed. I deliberately let my own personality come through the character because I’m convinced it’s the only way you can sell. The public buys known commodities. They recognize outward signs- like familiar labels.
“It’s just the opposite of the stage, where you must create a character, then sell it. In movies you must sell yourself first—your own original personality – then whatever you can add as an actor is a plus value. This is what made the glamour of the movies—personalities. I’m a louse and I let my own self show through Jamuga.”
When I took exception to his description of himself he said with typical Boyd tongue-in-cheek attitude: “Oh, I’m not any more of a louse than the ordinary guy – just a run-of-the-mill louse!”
Continuing about ‘Genghis Khan’ he told me: “The great thing it it’s an epic, but it only lasts two hours. You don’t wind up with sore backsides and you don’t have to take a psychiatric dictionary with you.” Then, in serious vein: “Yugoslavia is beautiful, wild, virgin country. And it’s one of the few I’ve been in where you can see the results of American aid. People come up to you in the street and thank you.
“There’s a marvelous girl in the picture, Francoise Dorleac. And, of course, Omar Sharif, James Mason, Eli Wallach and Robert Morely, among others. Mine is a small part, actually. I felt the role could have been greatly improved, but it would have detracted in time from the story of Genghis Khan. After all when you’re telling the story of a man who conquered a third of the world in his 30s there isn’t time to motivate others characters completely. There were times when I had to be just an animal. I would like to have been a human being first – then an animal.”
Steve spoke enthusiastically about ‘Fantastic Voyage, ‘ which he just finished. It’s a way-out yarn about a team of doctors, a medical assistant (female, of course), and a C.I.A. man (Boyd), who are miniaturized, put aboard a miniaturized sub-marine and injected into a scientist’s bloodstream. They travel to his brain to perform on operation which will keep him from revealing top secret information to the enemy.
“The sets showing the heart and lungs are fantatically beautiful and the whole thing is a unique experiment in picture making. Things went on in this film that have never been done before. It sounds a little icky when you tell people you’re making a trip through the bloodstream, but it isn’t at all- it’s one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.”
Of ‘The Oscar,’ in which he’ll play Frankie Fane, the actor who sets out to sabotage his four fellow nominees for the Best Actor aware, he told me. “I was so excited when I read the script that I couldn’t sleep all night. I honestly believe if I can just do reasonably well – just a cut above had- I’ll be set for life. It’s that good a role.”