News Column

Q&A with Terence Stamp: Being 'ordinary' is the hardest part

June 23, 2013

YellowBrix

June 23--Here's a little show biz secret: Want to make a good movie? Hire Terence Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave.

That's an obvious point, really, but it's a truism proved by "Unfinished Song," a movie now playing at the Paris Theater wherein Stamp and Redgrave play a married couple facing a crisis. Marion (Redgrave) is dying with cancer; Arthur (Stamp) is curmudgeonly and deeply unhappy. The former finds joy in an adult choir, where the seniors sing contemporary "racy" songs such as "Love Shack."

amNewYork spoke with Stamp about the movie and more.

Was it the script, the chance to work with Vanessa, or some combination of the two that drew you in here? Initially it was the script, I was given the script before Vanessa was on board. The truth is about actors and scripts, you just have an intuitive feel if they're good and for you. And I really loved the script -- I had my doubts about whether I could pull it off, but when I heard she was doing it, I'd missed playing with her, I'd turned down "Camelot" in my youth and so I thought, "She was the wife. She was married to King Arthur. Now she's married to another Arthur and I have to sing," so it just seemed like the boat had come for me, really.

Why did you have doubts about whether you could pull it off? Fundamentally, it's a love story. It's a kind of twinfold -- it's just a man and woman who've only ever been in love with each other, never wanted anybody else. But they're working class. They're not like Romeo and Juliet. There's nothing extraordinary about them. They're ordinary. I just thought that gave it an added beauty. I don't do ordinary very well, to be honest. That was my initial reservation. ... And then I was concerned about the song. Because it wasn't just singing; it was the climax of the film.

In many ways, this is a movie about music's healing powers. What role does music play in your life when you're feeling down? If I'm in grief or if I'm feeling loss or if I have to spend a long time particularly alone, I find that what music sits well with me is different. And I guess, if I had to put it in a couple sentences I would say that there's a feeling deep inside me, it's like homesickness, nostalgia, and it's not exactly a bad feeling but it's sad. ... What I find is if I can find music that I feel happy with, then it kind of connects with that feeling, it changes the color of that feeling.

What made the Richard Donner "Superman," in which you played General Zod, unique in the world of comic book movies? That set the tone really. Richard Donner had the vision; he had the comedy, he had the irony, it was his vision. And it was unbelievable really that he got fired before he completed "II." ... I would say, it was just a wonderful moment in my life, it was such a wonderful movie to be in and we'll probably never see the likes of it again. I haven't seen the new one, but everybody tells me there's not a lot of humor, there's not a lot of irony, and it's loud and action, whereas Donner's movie really captured the comic book tenor of things.

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