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Terence Stamp Talks Destiny, Vanity & His Thoughts On Michael Shannon Playing General Zod In 'Man Of Steel'

Indiewire By Jessica Kiang | Indiewire December 11, 2012 at 10:05AM

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 fellow 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, ranging from “Yes Man” to “Get Smart” from “Wanted” to “The Adjustment Bureau."
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Terence Stamp General Zod
Another cycle that’s happening right now is the “Superman” reboot "Man of Steel." Are you curious as to how someone else will interpret General Zod?
[Long pause] Not really. I mean, I will see it... But for me, it was my comeback movie. I’d been out of work for eight years and living in India. I was a swami in an ashram, with long hair and a beard, and I was in orange. When the work had stopped I kept thinking next week will be a job, next month will be a job. And then I was traveling and learning all these metaphysical techniques and breathing and tantra and finally I got to an ashram in Pune and it seemed like the most beautiful women from every country in the world were there, and they were all totally empowered [twinkle which allows us to know precisely what he means by “empowered”]. So then I let go, I thought no, I won’t go back to showbiz, this is my life now. 

And then I went back to this hotel for a weekend, and I must have sent my agent a postcard from there a year before, and as I come in the concierge hands me a telegram, and it’s addressed to “Clarence Stamp” and it’s dogeared and I don’t know how old it was. And he puts it in my hand and the psychic weight of this telegram! I knew my life was about to change. It was from my long-suffering agent: “Would you consider coming to London to meet with Richard Donner about 'Superman I and II,' you’ll have scenes with Marlon Brando. And on the way would you stop in Paris and meet with Peter Brook about a film of Gurdjieff’s book 'Meetings with Remarkable Men'?" And it was like the universe was saying “You’re back in the market, son.” 

So I went two days later and I was totally confident because I just didn’t care. I had let go of all of it. On the Monday I was General Zod and on the Tuesday I was Prince Lubodevsky -- it was in the same studio!

We read that, what little Michael Shannon has seen of “Superman II,” he was intimidated by how you “nailed” the role. Have you any advice for him?
[Flattered] Oh wow. Well, I’m sure he’s going to be fantastic because it’s a fantastic role. All I can say is he needs to be very present. When I walked onto that set I’d been in an ashram for a year, learning to separate orgasm from ejaculation. I was rechanneling the lifeforce and I hadn’t been working, and when I walked on the set, it seemed like everyone was asleep, but I was so, so ready. The only guy who was really up for it was Brando -- he totally understood where I was coming from. 

Beau Geste
It’s unusual for a male actor to be so forthright about being concerned over your appearance, over aging, clothing, dieting. Where do you think this preoccupation stems from?
[Growing up] we were very poor. And when I was about 3 1/2 my mother took me to see a movie called “Beau Geste” with Gary Cooper, and I just wanted to be him. My whole life I just wanted to be like Coop. And he was a dresser; he was magnificent... Later I found a shoemaker who had made Rudolph Valentino’s boots in “Blood and Sand,” and he was Coop’s shoemaker, and I said, “You shod Coop? Measure me up!”

And so I guess I was always preoccupied with outward appearance, because where we lived, my mother was ashamed of the inside the house, we had a no kitchen, no bathroom, an outside toilet - it was penury. But I was this prince, who’d been brought up by my mother and a load of aunts and my Irish granny Stamp. There’s a Christmas card which is a photograph of me, aged two, holding my grandmother’s hand, and I’m fucking elegant. I’ve got a velvet cap on, and a suit with a velvet collar.

There’s a book [about male elegance and style] called “The Perfect Gentleman,” and you have Byron, The Duke of Windsor, Fred Astaire with all his shoes, and then [proudly] Terence. In a green linen suit and white buckskin shoes which took me ten years to find the skins and a straw fedora. My future ex-wife as she was at the time, had the rather annoying habit of saying about me, “He knows more about clothes than he knows about acting.”

But I’ve become less obsessive. On “Song for Marion,” I just wore what they gave me, and yet men still say “Oh man, that raincoat you wore in ‘Song for Marion’..." And it’s nothing to do with me! So I say, "It’s not the coat, it’s the Stamp shoulders..."

This article is related to: Terence Stamp, Interview, Marrakech Film Festival, Unfinished Song, Man Of Steel

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