Terence Stamp should have been in more movies. I’m not willing to relinquish this unquestionable truth in favour of diverging opinions on the matter. Which basically means: if you disagree, get the hell out of my blog.
(Or stick around and let me change your mind. You choose. You won’t regret it, I promise.)
Terence Stamp is a fine actor. For the past four decades, he’s been mostly known and recognised for being a character actor, and for his roles in such movies as “Superman” and “The Limey”, films that are polar opposites, but they both showcase his acting chops and his ability to get the audiences to ultimately like – and root for – the bad guy.
But that is just one side to Mr. Stamp’s long lasting career – one that actually started in the late fifties, when he was close friends with Michael Caine and they both travelled throughout Great Britain playing soldier roles in small theatres while getting frisky with girls. Terence Stamp is also the actor who marvelled movie goers in the sixties with his earnest, poignant performance as a young merchant seaman in “Billy Budd”; a terrifying, yet disturbingly attractive sociopath in one of the greatest, most underrated movies of the 1960s, “The Collector”; the highly seductive, and highly deceiving, sergeant Frank Troy from “Far From the Madding Crowd”; and, lastly, a personal favourite: Toby Dammit, the disgruntled actor who falls from grace with the movie industry – and ultimately, with life as well – in Federico Fellini’s small masterpiece of the same name.
Terence Stamp is an actor of incomparable talent, and also of great magnetism and this has been true even of his first appearance onscreen – as juvenile bully Mitchell in the little known “Term of Trial”. Since day one, anyone could have predicted that his was a face destined to great roles, and huge, unquestionable stardom. But something happened between the middle and the end of the sixties, and his career stalled, despite his talent and his looks (which, to be honest, are still breathtaking to this day). He admits to it in his autobiography (a must read, even for non-fans, for the valuable life lessons one can get from Mr. Stamp’s impressive existence), and he even offers something in lieu of an explanation – but the question still remains. Why such a talented, handsome actor, one who could have been the name and the face of a generation, fell off the radar at such a crucial point in his career?
He was a movie star ready to happen, with looks and the type of physicality and presence made to be in front of a camera. The perfectly shaped head, the piercing blue eyes, the headful of very dark, shiny hair, the face that looked (and still does) as if sculpted by a highly talented, highly inspired artist – all courtesy of his parents, who, by his own account, gifted the world with “lookers” (I’m willing to bet he was the ‘lookingest’ of the bunch). Not to mention the unequivocal talent and his ability to lose himself and become one with his characters – he was The Collector, he was Toby Dammit (in more ways than one), and he was Frank Troy. He was the innocence and the earnestness personified in ‘Billy Budd’. He can convince you that British thugs can be friendly, even loving; he can sing, and make your heart melt, as the grumpy senior citizen he plays in “Song for Marion”. He can be all of those people, and still be very much himself – an actor, and a human being, ready for everything. A man who is always in the moment, very present and very aware of his surroundings – an ability he further developed during long stays in ashrams in India.
I’m sure Mr. Stamp doesn’t regret anything in his past, and – judging by his own words – he is content with the life he carved for himself. I, for one, am happy to the see him alive and kicking, as talented and handsome as ever, and probably much wiser. Watching his interviews is a serious delight – sensibility and patience ooze from him. I can’t help but wish, though, that he had made more movies at that moment in his career when he had everything going for him. I’ve lost count of the times I have watched “The Collector” and “Toby Dammit” just so I could satisfy my craving for Mr. Stamp. That was a face – and the kind of unmatched talent – that I wish I could see more of, in a variety of incarnations.
I admit: I wish there was more “1960s Terence Stamp” for me to binge on.
Not that I don’t admire the current Terence Stamp, or the one from 20 or 30 years ago. But it’s such a beautiful thing to see an artist, or any incredibly talented person, at the height of their transforming power. I honestly believe that very few actors reached the same level of ingenuity as Mr. Stamp did at any point of his career. Still, I’ll always wonder what happened at that junction in his life. I’ll always wish for more vintage Terence Stamp.
Yet, I’ll always welcome a new movie with the older, wiser, Terence Stamp.