There’s been a flurry of articles about Terence Stamp in the English press over the last few weeks coinciding with a scheduled BFI (British Film Industry) retrospective of his movies throughout May.
Terence Stamp was born in 1938 in Mile End, East London. As a young actor, after his screen debut in Peter Ustinov’s film Billy Budd in the sixties, he was nominated for an Oscar. Another well-known movie he starred in at the time was John Schlesinger’s Far from the Madding Crowd; soon he was a movie icon and was seen around with many beautiful women, including July Christie and Jean Shrimpton. He was even contacted by producer Harry Salzman in 1967 to take over the role of James Bond after Sean Connery stepped out. Terence Stamp remembers with humor, “Like most English actors, I’d have loved to be 007 because I really know how to wear a suit… But I think my ideas about it put the frighteners on Harry. I didn’t get a second call from him.”
He lived in Italy for several years and in 1967/68 worked with Federico Fellini on his ‘Toby Dammit’ section of the Edgar Allan Poe portmanteau film Histoires extraordinaires/Spirits of the Dead and with Pier Paolo Pasolini on Theorem (keystone of the BFI retrospective). It was Fellini who introduced Terence Stamp to J. Krishnamurti in 1968, which sparked his interest in spirituality.
After filming The Mind of Mr. Soames in 1970, movie offers began to cease. In 1975 he filmed Hu-Man which for him “was the only serious film I did [during those years], and that was really independent. We’d get some money, shoot for a few days, use the money, ‘See you a few months later!’ – it was that kind of thing. So I travelled. I thought I’m not going to stay around here facing this day-in-day-out rejection and the phone not ringing… I went from being a lead actor to nothing. I was devastated. My agent told me people were now looking for a young Terence Stamp.”
He went to Egypt and then “wound up in India and that opened a whole new world to me – that was an amazing thing to happen to a young performer. It’s quite widespread now, but to go there as a very young man and to meet great thinkers and great sages and to learn about breathing and movement and the whole canvas of mysticism…”
And then there is a gap – the time he spent at Shree Rajneesh Ashram in Poona where he became Swami Deva Veeten in 1976. It is interesting to note that none of the newspapers mentioned that.
Returning to his acting career in 1978, he played the Kryptonian super villain General Zod in Superman. Nick Curtis, in the London Evening Standard writes, “The ashram filled the gap when work dried up for him in the 1970s, and he was changed after his return. The BFI season feels like a vindication of his decision not to do ‘crap’ films for money, he says. He is philosophical about not having children, and about being single after his six-year marriage to Elizabeth O’Rourke, a Singaporean-Australian pharmacist 35 years his junior, ended in 2008. ‘I was married and I can’t call that a mistake,’ he says. ‘But I am set in my ways. I have never been in a relationship where the silence was mutual. And being lonely for me isn’t the same as other people understand it.’”
In 1979, Peter Brook directed the movie Meetings with Remarkable Men that many of our readers are familiar with. Brook tells the story of Asian mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, with Terence Stamp playing Prince Lubovedsky. Film critic Hal Erickson states that Terence Stamp “briefly retreated from his career after this picture, in favour of Eastern meditation.”
Among his later key movies are The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Limey, and Bowfinger. His most recent film, Song for Marion, is a touching story about ways of letting go – of life, of self-consciousness, of inhibition, a comedy-drama about death, loss and choral singing. It was nominated for three awards at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards: for Best Actor, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. At the 2013 Beijing International Film Festival Song for Marion was awarded with Best Actor for Terence Stamp.
Terence Stamp answers questions at the British Film Awards for 2012
Nick Curtis concludes in his article, “The greatest example of how Stamp differs from your average film star is that he is technically homeless. In America, he stays in a friend’s guest house in Ojai, California, or in the New York flat and Hamptons house owned by his brother Chris, who used to manage The Who and Jimi Hendrix, and who died last November. Stamp also has the use of properties in Geneva and Gstaad owned by Chris’ Swiss widow. In London he stays with two friends, in Notting Hill and Knightsbridge, or in hotels: ‘My favourite is the Savoy, but I often can’t afford it,’ he says. ‘The absolute, honest truth is I would love to come back to England, but my taste has exceeded my earning capacity by so much that whenever I see something I like, I am millions short. And I can’t really go back to Plaistow [where he lived as a child], you know.’
“That said, whenever he’s in London, he goes back to what used to be ‘the old Green Street Market’ on Barking Road, which is now ‘Little Bombay’, and the only place he can find a particular mango he got addicted to in India. Last time he visited, a porter greeted him with: ‘Allo Terry, what the f*** are you doin’ here?’ He always walks or takes the bus, and laments the passing of the Routemaster, and the fact that the No 15 doesn’t go as far as it used to.
“‘I feel I’m kind of an urban icon,’ Stamp says, ‘that I’ve earned my place, because, you know, what the English love best is longevity. I will be 75 this July. I am five years away from being 80. That’s ridiculous. But it’s all still working, so I’m delighted.’ He puts on his hat and walks into the Waterloo sunset.”
Way to go, Terence!
Bhagawati, Osho News
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