Chris Hall and Alex Godfrey
February 2, 2013
Born in London in 1938, Stamp received Oscar and Bafta nominations for his debut film, Billy Budd.
He has starred in over 60 films, with highlights including The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994.
His latest project is the Paul Andrew Williams film Song for Marion.
‘Two performances led me to become an actor.
‘The first one was the first movie I ever saw; my mother took me to Beau Geste in Plaistow, starring Gary Cooper. I was nearly four – I didn’t understand anything really; I just wanted to be him.
‘The second was when I was 18: I went to see East of Eden and I totally identified with James Dean. I thought, “I feel like that, but he’s doing it.”
‘My dad said people like us don’t act; we don’t do things like that.
‘I wasn’t allowed to discuss it at home – he would say, “Son, I don’t want you to talk about it.” He wasn’t being wicked; he was just trying to save me a lot of heartache.
‘But it didn’t deter me, so I left home, moved into a basement in Harley Street with some other boys and set about getting to drama school.
‘The rumour among the girls at drama school was that I’d do anything for a bowl of soup, which wasn’t completely untrue, because I was hungry all the time.
‘Financially life was very hard, but things improved when I got a scholarship to a drama school in Gloucester Road.
‘I was unknown when Billy Budd came out, but it was so successful I remember thinking, “If I can do this, I never have to do anything else.” I started living my life with the intention of making this as easy and as long-lived as possible.
‘Back then I was frightened that I couldn’t do the singing and that I’d be re-voiced. That would have signalled the end of my career as a serious actor.
‘When I heard that they cast Vanessa (Redgrave, who plays Guinevere in Song for Marion), that the character is called Arthur and I have to sing, it seemed to me like the universe was giving me a second crack.
On The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: ‘Filming that was the hardest thing I’ve done. The initial song-and-dance sequence was shot in a bar in a town called Broken Hill in the Australian Outback’
‘Of course, I later had to do plenty of singing and dancing in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Filming that was the hardest thing I’ve done. The initial song-and-dance sequence was shot in a bar in a town called Broken Hill in the Australian Outback.
‘Guy Pearce, Hugo Weaving and I were on top of a big bar, all dressed up in black fishnets, and the place was filled with out-of-work miners who were plied with drink so they wouldn’t get bored. It was a very frightening, intimidating atmosphere, and we had to dance and lip-sync in 100-degree desert heat.’
BEST FILM ‘I don’t really see as many movies as I used to. I saw a documentary in Marrakesh called Me and Me Dad, about (director) John Boorman. It was very, very interesting movie-making.’