William Stephen Millar was born in Glengormley, Ulster, Ireland on July 4, 1931. One of nine children, 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. 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 then 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 and garnered him a Golde n Globe Award. 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 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”.
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).
Author Joe Cushnan in Stephen Boyd: From Belfast To Hollywood 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. Boyd was interred in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.
BOYD, Stephen (William Stephen Millar) [7/4/1931, Glengormley, Ulster, Ireland - 6/2/1977, Granada Hills, California, U.S.A. (heart attack)] - stage, TV actor, singer, married to MCA executive Mariella di Sarzana (1958-1958), married to British Arts Council secretary Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Mills (1976-1977).
Shalako – 1968 (Bosky Fulton)
Hannie Caulder - 1970 (‘The Preacher’)
The Man Called Noon – 1973 (J.B. Rimes)
Those Dirty Dogs – 1973 (Captain Chadwell Willer)
Montana Trap – 1975 (Bill Ardisson)