Terence Stamp

One of the most whimsical and enjoyable interviews of our time at the Marrakech International Film Festival came courtesy of iconic British actor Sir Terence Stamp (“Superman II,” “Far from the Madding Crowd,” “The Limey,” among many others), who was in town to present his latest film “Song for Marion” (our review from TIFF is here), in which he stars with Marrakech jury member Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave. Stamp’s career stretches back to the early ‘60s, when his otherworldly handsomeness saw him teamed, professionally and romantically, with some of the most beautiful women of the age. And in recent times, he's become a reliable presence in Hollywood, in supporting roles ranging from “Yes Man” and “Get Smart” to “Wanted” and “The Adjustment Bureau." 

Julie Christie once said to me -- she’s an Aries, so she’s very forthright -- she said ‘You think you’re a great actor, but you’re a better storyteller,' ” Stamp said at one point, and we certainly agree he’s got the raconteur thing down. Below are the highlights of our talk, during which Stamp not once but twice removed his shoe (made by the shoemaker to the Royal family in Fez forty years ago) and banged it on the table to make a point, and promised to mail the photograph he refers to below to our postal address. (I gave him my mother’s address. If it happens, she will faint).

Song For Marion
I read that you turning down King Arthur in the musical “Camelot,” because you were afraid to sing, was one of your greatest regrets. Was “Song For Marion,” in which you do now sing, an exorcism of that regret?
It was more than that. I so admired [“Camelot” director] Josh Logan, and Josh Logan so wanted me for “Camelot” that he went down on his knees in a restaurant called the Trattoria Terrazza, begging me. And I was just so frightened, I believed I could never sing it. I was young and I thought if I do this and I’m revoiced, my career’s over -- probably not true, but still. I should have known it was my destiny, but I was frightened and I turned him down and finally he took Richard Harris and he cast Vanessa [Redgrave].

And then the film came out and I thought “Well, I could have done that” -- it wasn’t like Mario Lanza. Now in a long career, I’m not sure how other actors are, but certain things that I passed on or lost or gave up for the wrong reason, come back to me. And “Camelot” comes back to me more than all the others. I still think about it.

When this movie [“Song For Marion"] came up, I didn’t want to do it. I thought it was a wonderful script, but I thought it would be more beautiful if the character had been very ordinary. And I don’t want to sound vain but, well, I can do ordinary, but it’s not my best thing. 

Anyway I had reservations, but I met the director, and he was very rough, all tattooed, but he said to me, “Are you worried about your looks?” And I couldn’t believe he saw right through me. Because that was my major worry. I thought, “I’m going to look silly playing this role.” I don’t think of myself as the age I am, and it meant I was going to be opening a door I couldn’t close. Everyone’s gonna know how old I am -- I can’t go back to being a romantic lead after I’ve done the OAP [Old Age Pensioner]!

But he said, "Don’t worry it’s based on my grandfather who was a lovely looking man." And then, the big thing, he cast Vanessa [Redgrave]...the universe is giving me this, am I going to turn this down and regret it for the next ten years? So I just jumped into the void.