Stephen Boyd (4 July 1931 – 2 June 1977), born William Millar, was an Irish actor from Glengormley, Northern Ireland, who appeared in 60 films, most notably in the role of Messala in the 1959 film Ben-Hur.
One of nine siblings from a Protestant family from County Antrim, Boyd was originally named William Millar. He starred in a radio play in Belfast and worked as a commissionare at a cinema in London. Some sources state that he was discovered by actor Michael Redgrave while working as a hotel doorman. He began acting in British films, notably as an edgy Irish spy in the 1955 World War II film The Man Who Never Was. It was his role in a 1957 French film, The Night Heaven Fell opposite Brigitte Bardot that got him noticed.
He went to Hollywood and appeared as second 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. 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. In 1962 Boyd appeared in the film The Inspector opposite starlet Dolores Hart, who later left Hollywood to join a Roman Catholic convent in Connecticut. The two actors developed a friendship that lasted Boyd's lifetime.
Boyd 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).
Boyd also appeared in John Huston's Biblical epic The Bible…in the Beginning (1966) and was top-billed in another epic, Genghis Khan (1965), filmed in Yugoslavia. He appeared in the French-produced Napoleonic epic Imperial Venus (1962), playing opposite Gina Lollobrigida.
His non-epic roles included the musical Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962) the melodrama The Oscar (1966), the sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage (1966), the spy thriller Assignment K (1969) and the international Western Shalako (1969), shot in Spain. His career declined in the 1970s and he appeared in several European potboilers before making a comeback in Michael Apted's British gangster thriller The Squeeze (1977).
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 was married twice: briefly 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.