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Stephen Boyd

Stephen Boyd
from the trailer for the film Ben-Hur (1959).
Born William Millar
(1931-07-04)4 July 1931
Glengormley, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Died 2 June 1977(1977-06-02) (aged 45)
Northridge, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Heart attack
Resting place Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery
Occupation Actor
Years active 1955–1977
Spouse(s) Mariella di Sarzana (1958-1958; divorced)
Elizabeth Mills (1977-1977; his death, 10 months later)
Parent(s) James Alexander Millar (father)
Martha Boyd (mother)

Stephen Boyd (4 July 1931 – 2 June 1977) was an actor from Glengormley, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.[1] He appeared in some 60 films, most notably as "Messala" in Ben-Hur.


  • Biography 1
  • Death 2
  • Personal life 3
  • Partial filmography 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Boyd was born William Millar in 1931.[2] One of nine siblings, he attended Ballyclare High School. He starred in a radio play in Belfast and worked at a cinema in London. He is said to have busked outside the cinema to get money.[1] He began acting in British films, notably as an edgy Irish spy working for the Germans, in the World War II film The Man Who Never Was (1956). It was his role in a 1957 French film, The Night Heaven Fell opposite Brigitte Bardot which gained him critical and public attention.

He went to Hollywood and appeared as 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.[1] In 1962 Boyd appeared in the film Lisa opposite starlet Dolores Hart. He later played another Roman leader 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.[3] He was originally chosen to play Mark Antony opposite Elizabeth Taylor in 20th Century-Fox's epic production of Cleopatra (1963) 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.)[4]

Boyd also appeared in Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962), Genghis Khan (1965), The Bible: In the Beginning (1966), The Oscar (1966), Fantastic Voyage (1966), Shalako (1968), and Assignment K (1969).[4]

Author Joe Cushnan (Stephen Boyd: From Belfast To Hollywood[5]) quotes from a letter from film producer Euan Lloyd (who produced such films as Shalako, The Man Called Noon and The Wild Geese), stating: Stephen Boyd was one of the nicest, kindest people I have met in my lifetime, rare in this profession.


Boyd 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.[6] Boyd was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.[7]

Personal life

Boyd was married twice: for three weeks in 1958 to Italian-born MCA executive Mariella Di Sarzana, and subsequently to Elizabeth Mills, a secretary at the British Arts Council, 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.[4][8]

Partial filmography


  1. ^ a b c Stephen Boyd: The Busker Who Became a Screen Idol BBC News; retrieved 14 April 2014.
  2. ^ Profile,; accessed 28 June 2014.
  3. ^ IMDb profile,; accessed 28 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Stephen Boyd at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ Cushnan, Joe ; ISBN 9781782990864Stephen Boyd: From Belfast To Hollywood
  6. ^ Euan Lloyd interview, Cinema Retro #1
  7. ^ Stephen Boyd at Find a Grave
  8. ^ Stephen Boyd infosite; accessed 28 June 2014.

External links

  • Stephen Boyd: The Busker Who Became a Screen Idol BBC News; retrieved 23 July 2011
  • The Man Who Never Was? Literary Belfast; retrieved 23 July 2011
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