Like a latter-day Superman supervillain General Zod, British actor Terence Stamp materialized Friday evening at the Castro Theatre, special guest star in the ongoing flow of San Francisco International Film Festival special events. You perhaps know him from the frail youth of his 1960s heyday in films such as Billy Budd, The Collector, Teorema, or Fellini's 40-minute fantasia, Toby Dammit, centerpiece of a three-story omnibus released in 1968 as Spirits of the Dead. Or central to your Stamp collecting are perhaps his latter-day character turns Superman, The Limey, or most particularly The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert -- clips from which drew volcanic applause from the Castro crowd. Stamp was given the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting. The star did not disappoint in person, relaxed and confident onstage at the Castro, quizzed gently by film critic Elvis Mitchell, and quizzed again by fans from the floor.
In Toby Dammit
-- screened as the evening's capper -- Stamp plays a haggard celebrity haunted by paparazzi, shellshocked by journalists' queries, and tormented by visions of the devil as a ball-bouncing little girl. Four decades and change later, Stamp was fit, relaxed, and far from tormented by the imperative of answering questions from a theater full of fans about his life. Particularly funny were his take on his role in Superman
as Zod -- opposite a Marlon Brando, whose vocal inflections he easily captured -- and another on Joshua Logan begging him to appear in Camelot
. (He turned down Camelot
because he couldn't sing, yet he realized after seeing the movie he still sang better than Richard Harris.)
A wonderful raconteur, Stamp could easily have a second career rolling out tales from his youth as a one-man show. Indeed, a great many of his recollections seemed smoothly practiced, worn from multiple tellings, perfectly timed for his payoff lines. It was two hours of live theater, an oasis of civilized chat in the midst of a film festival.
The San Francisco International Film Festival continues through May 5.