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Terence Stamp managed to fulfill a longstanding dream to sing onscreen when Song for Marion closed the 37th Toronto Film Festival in 2012 — and in doing so, he was able to put a lingering regret behind him.
In Paul Andrew Williams’ comedy-drama, which was released by The Weinstein Co. in the U.S. under the title Unfinished Song, Stamp, then 74, played a curmudgeonly pensioner who reluctantly agrees to take part in a chorus of senior citizens who perform pop hits. “I’ve never sung publicly,” Stamp confessed as he met with reporters at that year’s festival (though he did prove himself adept at lip-syncing as part of the drag act in 1994’s Priscilla, Queen of the Desert). But, he recalled, back in the 1960s, “I was begged publicly in a restaurant in Soho by [director] Josh Logan as he went on his knees and begged me to play King Arthur in Camelot, and I was just too fearful. My main fear was that I would be revoiced, which for a young actor is like the end of your career as a serious performer, you know? And so I turned it down.”
The role in the movie version of the Broadway musical went to Richard Harris, and, Stamp continued, “I’ve always regretted it. I can’t explain it really. It’s something that has returned to me over the years. I thought, ‘My God, what a mug I was to turn down King Arthur.” So when Williams approached him about Song — as fate would have it, his character would be called Arthur and he’d be starring opposite Vanessa Redgrave, who also headlined Camelot — Stamp thought, “Well, he’s called Arthur, Vanessa Redgrave is playing the wife, and I have to sing. I can’t spit in the face of the universe a second time, though I had great trepidation.”
He needn’t have worried. Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post said, “The formidably talented duo inject so much humanity into their characters that all of the other overly sentimental elements — even the title sounds like it belongs on the Hallmark Channel — seem utterly reasonable.”
Now, Stamp just has to hope that Edgar Wright’s time-traveling psychological horror tale Last Night in Soho — in which he will be seen at this year’s festival as part of a cast that includes other Swinging London icons as Rita Tushingham and the late Diana Rigg — doesn’t trigger any further flashbacks to that Soho meeting when he turned his back on Camelot.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter’s Sept. 11 daily issue at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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