The BFI Southbank’s retrospective film seasons often allow us a chance to see cinema icons discussing their career in conversation. This week it was the turn of that quintessential Sixties icon, Terence Stamp. Now in his 70s, he retains much of his youthful charisma and charm (and of course, those amazing eyes) and if this discussion with Geoff Andrew was measured and cautious at times, Stamp displayed a wicked sense of humour when discussing his father’s views on acting, Marlon Brando, James Bond, and his role as transgendered Bernadette in ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.’
Throughout the event, which ran close to two hours, clips from Stamp’s career were shown (‘Billy Budd’, ‘The Collector’, ‘Superman II’, ‘The Hit’, ‘Priscilla’, and ‘The Limey’) with accompanying comments and anecdotes about those who have mentored and influcenced him (Peter Ustinov (his first director and “a genius”), Anthony Newley(his advice to Stamp was to “do nothing” to be an effective actor), Robert Ryan (who only interacted with his co-star before the camera), Suzanne Cloutier (Mrs Ustinov and Orson Welles’ screen Desdemona), William Wyler (“the greatest director who ever lived”), Fellini (“I see my career as before Fellini and after Fellini”), Michael Caine (his former flatmate when starting out), Brando (a spot-on impersonation and filthy story), and others). More personal material was skirted over (a sole mention of Julie Christie related to a planned ‘Limey’ sequel, ‘Waterloo Sunset’ rather than their well-publicised relationship in their youth), although Stamp explained his philosophy of life during his journey from East End working class boy to Indian mystic drop-out. Now he seems content, smart, fashionable, and assured.
Questions from the audience ranged from the usual fan gush through to an observation that young Stamp was ‘so little’ (in ‘Billy Budd’, presumably). Many of us were just content to watch, listen, observe, learn and admire one of the last characters of the British screen. I haven’t yet seen ‘Song of Marion’ but it is now on my list – and it gladdened my heart to hear Stamp describe ‘Priscilla’ as “a perfect film, a gem”. I absolutely agree.