‘Noblest Roman of Them All’ – Stephen Boyd talks about Riding Chariots

Boyd’s Aim: Shine in Scene- and Save Skin, Too!

Salt Lake Tribune Nov 16, 1963

Stephen Boyd is at his physical peak for the most important role of his career. And the virile actor proved it by staging an impressive demonstration of muscle-taut fitness on the snow-blanketed mountain slopes near Madrid where Anthony Mann is directing the popular Hollywood actor in the Samuel Bronston production “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

With fellow cast members Alec Guinness, James Mason, Christopher Plummer and mel Ferrer watching anxiously from behind cameras, Boyd opened his seven-month film assignment braced firmly in a quarter-ton chariot as he galloped up the treacherous trails of the Sierra Guadarrama range, rendered almost impassable by snow and ice.

Heightening the visual excitement, the rugged star then raced his stallion team up the slippery ramps of the fortified Castrum Romanum to make a dramatic bow in a role he believes will dwarf his outstanding effort as Messala in ‘Ben-Hur.’

Boyd attributes his opening day chariot performance to an intensive preproduction training program he initiated a month and a half before shooting started. Mornings were devoted to chariot racing and horseback riding; afternoons were given over to swordplay and physical exercise. At every stage of training, he called on specialists to perfect technique and to supervise progress.

“Chariot racing,” Boyd says, “cannot be mastered without complete muscular control. Enormous pressures challenge the driver every second of the way. To pull of galloping horseflesh, the weight of the Roman two-wheeler and unpredictable terrain features constantly threaten the charioteer. He must be prepared to react with violent resourcefulness to stay alive.”

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Stephen Boyd
Stephen Boyd during the filming the movie ‘The Fall of Roman Empire’, Navacerrada 1964, Directed by Anthony Mann, Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Gianni Ferrari/Cover/Getty Images)

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