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New Ben-Hur will be dedicated to late star Stephen

By Eddie McIlwaine

Published 20/08/2016

Great friends: Eddie with star Roma Downey
Great friends: Eddie with star Roma Downey

Mine host Michael McAdam at Movie House in Glengormley, will ask executive producer Roma Downey to dedicate the new Ben-Hur blockbuster to the late Stephen Boyd when the film opens there on Tuesday, September 6.

For Boyd (real name Millar) was a star in the original 1959 version and Roma from Londonderry has remade the epic in Hollywood with her husband Mark Burnett as a tribute to the actor who played Messala and was the only celeb in the cast, which included Charlton Heston and Jack Hawkins, not to receive an Oscar.

Stephen who died in 1977 at only 49, grew up in a terrace house at Antrim Line, Glengormey, only a mile away from the site of the Movie House, which his brother Alex Millar, now also deceased, declared open in 1978.

"It will be appropriate that the new Ben-Hur should be dedicated to Stephen who had an association with the district, attended Carnmoney Presbyterian Church and was an old boy of Ballyclare High School," explains Mr McAdam, who has a vintage copy of the book Ben-Hur, written by a Lew Wallace in 1880, to present to Miss Downey.

I got to know the charming lady well before she left Derry to seek her fortune in Hollywood where she became a star. We are pictured here together at the BBC in Belfast on one of her trips home.

Ben-Hur in 1959 was a big hit in Belfast and the province largely because of Boyd's presence in the cast and the 2016 film with Morgan Freeman in the line-up will have a similar impact because Boyd is still held in high esteem.

Charlton Heston, who took part in the first Ben-Hur's unforgettable chariot race with Boyd, once told me that Stephen's omission from the Academy Awards was a terrible slight on a great actor who should have got his reward.

Roma is still my favourite angel. In other words, I never missed an episode of her television series Touched By An Angel. Her angelic Monica was always popping up to help someone in trouble and the American production earned the young lady Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

She later gave an outstanding portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the series A Woman Called Jackie.

Roma has now joined Marilyn Monroe and Errol Flynn and other film legends on the Hollywood Walk of Fame where her star was enshrined.

Ben-Hur has being directed by Timur Bekmambetov for Paramount/MGM whose executive Gary Barber says he is thrilled by the way this new version turned out.

Belfast Telegraph

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