Terence Stamp facts: Films and romances of the ultimate on-screen bad guy turned Smiths cover star

15 December 2023, 16:08

Superman - The Movie trailer

By Mayer Nissim

Nobody does villain like Terence Stamp.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Some movie stars were born to play the hero. While we loved him in Elvis, it was still a bit of a struggle to see Tom Hanks playing the less-than-squeaky-clean Colonel Tom Parker.

On the other hand, some actors have VILLAIN running through them like the writing on a stick of rock.

Terence Stamp is a good enough actor to play any role you could possibly imagine, but over the decades he's carved out an incredible niche as the ultimate bad guy.

Ever wondered how a lad from Stepney became the go-to for Hollywood directors looking for a bit of steely-eyed gravitas?

Read on for everything you need to know about Terence Stamp.

When was Terence Stamp born and where did he grow up?

Terence Stamp on the cusp of fame
Terence Stamp on the cusp of fame. Picture: Getty Images

Terence Henry Stamp, was born on July 22, 1938 in Stepney, London, to tugboat stoker dad Thomas and mum Ethel Esther.

A proper cockney, he grew up in Canal Road, Bow in the East End of London, before moving to Plaistow, where he attended Plaistow County Grammar School.

Stamp survived the Blitz and went on to work in advertising agencies, and as an assistant to pro golfer Reg Knight at Wanstead Golf Club.

How did Terence Stamp get into acting?

Terence Stamp
Terence Stamp. Picture: Getty Images

Terence Stamp was a fan of the silver screen and its icons from a very young age.

His mum took him to see Beau Geste when he was just three years old, which led to him idolising Gary Cooper. He later took inspiration from James Dean, one of the new wave of actors trained using the method.

Stamp trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, having won a place there on a scholarship, and went on to perform in a number of productions at provincial repertory theatres.

How did Terence Stamp become friends with Michael Caine and help him become a superstar?

Michael Caine and Terence Stamp
Michael Caine and Terence Stamp. Picture: Alamy

It was while he was on the theatre circuit that Stamp rubbed shoulders with fellow up-and-coming cockney actor Michael Caine.

They both appeared in a national tour of Willis Hall's The Long the Short and the Tall and moved in together soon after, living in a house in Wimpole Street.

Both men were out and about on the party scene and struck up a friendship with Peter O'Toole, which won't have harmed their profile.,

A key sliding doors moment happened later down the line when Stamp was offered the role in the movie adaptation of Alfie, having already impressed in the role at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway.

Stamp turned it down in favour of Modesty Blaise, Caine took the job, and the rest is history.

Caine later quipped it in his memoir What's it All About: I still wake up sweating in the night as I see Terence agreeing to accept my advice to take the role in Alfie."

When did Terence Stamp become a film star?

Billy Budd (1962) Official Trailer - Terence Stamp, Robert Ryan Movie HD

Terence Stamp's very first movie role was in 1962's Billy Budd, which was produced, directed, and co-written by Peter Ustinov, who also starred in the film.

Stamp played the title role and was an immediate hit, being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor gong at the Academy Awards and Most Promising Newcomer at the BAFTAs.

He also won the Best Newcomer award at the Golden Globes.

What are Terence Stamp's biggest movie roles?

Terence Stamp in Wall Street
Terence Stamp in Wall Street. Picture: Alamy

Terence Stamp has been in the movies for over six decades and has never wanted for work, so it's hard to pick out his most significant work in just a few paragraphs, but we'll give it a shot.

He starred opposite Laurence Olivier in Term of Trial in 1962 and Modesty Blaise in 1966, before a 1967 double-header of John Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd opposite Julie Christie, and Ken Loach's feature debut Poor Cow.

Then came a move to Italy and roles in Fellini's Toby Dammit and Pasolini's Teorema.

Superstardom and comic book immortality came with 1978's classic Superman: The Movie, which cemented Stamp's position as Hollywood's go-to baddie.

Superman II (1980) - Kneel Before Zod Scene (5/10) | Movieclips

He played General Zod in the movie and in its 1980 sequel Superman II, with this "Kneel before Zod!" command in that second movie becoming one of the all-time classic lines in cinema.

After that the successes kept coming in roles large and small, with turns in The Hit, The Sicilian and Wall Street, before an against-type acting masterclass in the award winning 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Steven Soderbergh directed Stamp in the critically acclaimed 1999 movie The Limey, which cleverly included footage from Loach's Poor Cow to show Terence's character as a younger man.

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Official Trailer #1 - Terence Stamp Movie (1994) HD

The same year he appeared in comedy Bowfinger and Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as Chancellor Finis Valorum, which he didn't much enjoy, but likely helped bring him to a new audience.

He's not really slowed down since, with roles in Valkyrie, The Adjustment Bureau and two Tim Burton films: Big Eyes, and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Not a movie, but we can't not mention Terence's appearance in the music video for Hot Chip's 'Night and Day', which was directed by comedy icon Peter Serafinowicz.

A classic late-era Stamp performance came in Edgar Wright's timehopping 2021 movie Last Night in Soho.

Why did Terence Stamp never play James Bond?

Terence Stamp in Paris
Terence Stamp in Paris. Picture: Getty Images

Before he'd fully established his bad guy credentials, Stamp was in the frame to play one of the ultimate British good guys, albeit an occasionally morally ambiguous one, in James Bond.

He was approached about playing 007 when Sean Connery stepped down, but after a first call from producer Harry Saltzman he didn't get a callback.

"Like most English actors, I'd have loved to be 007 because I really know how to wear a suit,” he told the Evening Standard.

“But I think my ideas about it put the frighteners on Harry. I didn't get a second call from him.

“He took me out for dinner at the White Elephant in Curzon Street. He said, 'We're looking for the new 007. You're really fit and really English'. I was very shocked but I thought it was great."

But it seems as though Stamp's plan to have Bond "disguised as a Japanese warrior" for the first part of the film, as he is in the novel of You Only Live Twice didn't impress the producer.

Has Terence Stamp ever been married?

Terence Stamp and Jean Shrimpton in 1966
Terence Stamp and Jean Shrimpton in 1966. Picture: Getty Images

Despite high profile 1960s romances with Julie Christie and Jean Shrimpton, Stamp didn't marry until New Year's Eve in 2002.

The then 64-year-old Stamp wed the then 29-year-old Elizabeth Rourke, but the couple divorced on the grounds of his "unreasonable behaviour" in April 2008.

How did Terence Stamp end up as a cover star for The Smiths?

What Difference Does It Make? 12" sleeve featuring Terence Stamp
What Difference Does It Make? 12" sleeve featuring Terence Stamp. Picture: Alamy

The Smith's frontman Morrissey, who picked the "cover stars" for group's records, is known to be a big fan of classic British cinema, with a number of its key figures appearing on the sleeve of the band's music.

Moz chose a creepy picture of Stamp holding a chloroform pad, taking on the set of The Collector, as the sleeve for the band's third single 'What Difference Does It Make?'.

What Difference Does It Make? sleeve featuring Morrissey
What Difference Does It Make? sleeve featuring Morrissey. Picture: Alamy

Initially Stamp refused permission, and you can find some pressings featuring Morrissey himself re-enacting the scene with a glass of milk in place of the chloroform.

Eventually though Stamp was won round and Terence appears on the cover we all know and love.

His liking for Stamp continued, and his classic 1994 solo album Vauxhall & I featured a track called 'Billy Budd', Stamp's debut movie role.