Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Terence Stamp

stamp.png

Born in London’s East End, Terence Stamp grew up watching Gary Cooper films and eating such delicacies as ‘bacon bones’. In short, Hollywood was in a different galaxy. But, by the time he was 25, he had won an Oscar nomination and shared a flat with Michael Caine. ShortList spoke to the 74-year-old actor about the highs and lows of his career, dating Brigitte Bardot and why filming Star Wars was “boring”...

You’re a difficult man to track down – you don’t have a phone or a computer.

True. I just want to live the life I’ve always lived. Buying a cellphone would be like putting a ring through my nose.

You’re best known for playing Superman villain General Zod – do people still kneel before you?

Rarely a day passes when I don’t have somebody looking at me strangely – to which I say, “Kneel before Zod, you bastard.” It generally gets a big laugh. I haven’t been smacked recently, anyway.

Have you chatted to Michael Shannon about playing Zod in the new film?

I’ve never met the guy. But I was in California recently and somebody told me he had come home to find his girlfriend watching the DVD. She said, “Oh you’ve got to see this guy Stamp playing General Zod.” He covered his face and said, “No, I can’t see Stamp playing Zod!”

Were you asked to participate in the new film?

I didn’t know about it. And to be frank, the first two were the ones. Not just in terms of Superman, but all comic-book films. Frankly, I haven’t seen anything that measures up.

It says on your Wikipedia page that you spent nine years in an Indian ashram during the Seventies.

Absolutely not. There’s a romantic notion that I gave up this wonderful career and went to live in an ashram. It wasn’t like that. The Sixties ended, and I ended with the Sixties. I decided to travel rather than face a silent phone. But it is true that I was in an ashram when I got a telegram asking me to do Superman.

Is it true that you once went on a date with Brigitte Bardot?

Yes, a blind date. I went to Paris to meet her and I was unusually nervous. Nothing much was said until the restaurant. I was a vegetarian and I remember she put her fork in her starter – steak tartare – and said, “I am a cannibal!” I thought, “I bet you are.”

And for dessert?

Fade to black.

It must have been a far cry from your early career in advertising…

I got lucky, because at school I was considered dumb. I left with no GCEs, but advertising suited my street smarts.

Did you come up with any memorable slogans?

“Knit faster with Knitmaster!” I also worked on a campaign for Vedonis women’s underwear. They used these very horny models, and the slogan was “Next to myself, I like Vedonis.”

What was it like sharing a flat with Michael Caine?

One thing I had in common with Mike – and we didn’t have a lot in common – was that we both thought a good address was money in the bank. The problem was when ladies stayed over. But I have to give Mike credit: when he brought a girl back and the time was right, he would go into the bedroom and throw my mattress down behind the sofa. That was my cue.

Why do you think people still fetishise Sixties culture?

It’s just become crap since. When the Sixties happened, London burst into technicolour. The Beatles, The Who and The Stones – you could hear the change in the music.

It’s fair to say you pretty much owned the Sixties…

I used to hang out with my brother who managed The Who. I was in the helicopter when The Who were going to the Isle Of Man, flying over hundreds of thousands of people. I was there the first time Hendrix appeared in London. Momentous.

Describe the atmosphere in that chopper…

With Keith Moon, you were always close to death. There was this plywood cross to indicate where the pilot should land. As we came down, it started getting sucked up towards the rotors. Keith sensed a fraction of indecision and just ripped the headphones off [the pilot’s] ears. The pilot dropped the chopper like a stone. Keith was a lunatic. He wasn’t doing it for effect.

Do you regret turning down the film adaptation of Alfie?

I took the play to the US and we had a successful tour. Then we took it to Broadway and it was a total failure. I got good reviews, but nobody came to see it; I was doing eight shows a week to empty houses. I was so p*ssed off with everything Alfie… [the film] was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do. So I passed.

Why did you find filming Star Wars “boring”?

It was just tedious. I’d just arrived in Australia when I got a call to come back and film Episode I: The Phantom Menace. My agent was enamoured with the big bucks. I flew all the way back, because I was inspired by the idea of doing scenes with Natalie Portman – I could see she was extraordinary. She just had it. But when I got there Lucas said, “Oh, I’ve given her the day off.”

So you ended up talking to a tennis ball?

It was just a bit of paper stuck on a post. So on the first day – I play the president of the universe – I go up to [Lucas] and say, “Got any ideas? How is this guy?” And he thinks and he says, “Beleaguered.” I thought, “Yeah, thanks George.” I guess he’s a visionary, but a visionary about toys and effects. That doesn’t interest me. I’m interested in the feelings between ‘action’ and ‘cut’.

BFI Southbank’s Terence Stamp season runs to 27 May; bfi.org.uk

Comments

More

Exclusive: Sam Neill confirms he's in Thor 3

23 Sep 2016

Chris Pratt is a big deal - and we couldn't be happier for him

Chris Pratt talks to Jimi Famurewa about stripping off, the pay gap and why he’s happy to be a piece of meat

22 Sep 2016

See the hilarious War On Everyone for FREE

ShortList Film Club gives you the chance to catch it first and for free

21 Sep 2016

Morgan Spurlock's 'Rats' documentary is the biggest horror of 2016

If you weren't already terrified of rats then you will be after this by Paddy Maddison

19 Sep 2016

Why does Bill Murray have no friends?

Is there are more sinister side to why Billy 'No Mates' Murray needs to be worshipped? by Tristan Cross

15 Sep 2016

Six reasons new thriller The Clan is unmissable

by Joe Ellison

15 Sep 2016

Daniel Radcliffe has issues in exclusive clip for new Neo-Nazi drama

He's come a long way since Harry Potter by Paddy Maddison

13 Sep 2016

Stylised Sci-Fi posters bring new life to your favourite films

Your favourite Sci-Fi films reimagined by Paddy Maddison

13 Sep 2016

Mad Max without special effects is still incredible

Those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now. by Paddy Maddison

13 Sep 2016

Does this confirm Wolverine dies in the next film?

Boyd Holbrook hints it might be the end of Logan's run

13 Sep 2016