Terence Stamp: Out of the Phantom Zone

Since starting this blog I've wanted to do some research on actors who appeared in superhero films, and post some thoughts regarding their influence on or importance to the genre. I'm choosing actors that I've always wanted to learn more about, but in no particular order. In looking at the entire history of superhero films, Terence Stamp seemed like the perfect starting point for this little endeavor. His portrayal of General Zod in Superman II(1980) is still regarded as a high point of the genre, and one of the two or three most memorable villains in superhero movie history.

Stamp's Zod is a classic villain because he possesses the inflated ego and air of superiority that a world-dominating dictator should have. However, the brilliance of Stamp was in his entire approach to the characterization. The way in which he underplays many scenes fits perfectly with Zod's back story of a military ruler accustomed to having his orders followed without question. He hardly raised his voice in much of the film, except in certain key scenes. (The oval office scene included in an earlier post is a perfect example of this.) Instead, he used an icy stare and simply exuded a sense of power and ruthlessness. That performance in II has always been a favorite of mine, and yet until now I knew nothing about the man behind the role.

Stamp's career spans nearly fifty years and 70 film roles, therefor the list below only includes some highlights of that huge body of work. In conducting this research, one of the things I found interesting in his filmography is that his roles in the first two Superman films were not his only connection to the superhero genre. Until I read his Internet Movie Database profile, I was unaware of the amount of work he has done in superhero or science fiction films. Besides his 2005 appearance in Elektra, he's appeared in two Star Wars prequels, Alien Nation and has done voice work on the TV show Smallville. Interestingly, on Smallville, he voiced the character of Zod and Superman's father, Jor-El.

Even though this article was tougher to write than I expected, I'm really glad I put the time in. I learned so much about an actor whose work any movie fan should be familiar with. The most significant knowledge I gained from doing this research was discovering not only the impressive quantity of films Stamp has appeared in, but also the critical praise he has garnered over the years. I look forward to searching out these noteworthy films and acquainting myself more with his filmography.


Important Dates

July 22, 1939 born in Stepney, England

1962 - Makes film debut as Billy Budd in the film of the same name, receives Academy Award nomination for Best Actor

1965 - Again, won critical acclaim for his role as the psychopathic Frederick Clegg, in the thriller, The Collector
1969 - Moves to India, allegedly because of the breakup with his girlfriend, Jean Shrimpton

1969 - 1977 - semi-retirement- appeared in a few small films

1978 - Appeared briefly in Superman: The Movie as the villain, General Zod

1980 - Reprised his role as Zod in Superman II

1981-89 - Appeared in Legal Eagles, Wall Street, Young Guns, Alien Nation

1994 - Co-starred in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

1999 - Appeared briefly as Supreme Chancellor Valorum in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

2000 - Garnered critical praise for his work in the crime-drama, The Limey

2002 - Another brief appearance in Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

2003 to the present - Has performed voice work on the television drama, Smallville (as both Superman's father, Jor-El and General Zod

2005 - Appeared as the martial arts master, Stick, in Elektra

2008 - Appeared as Ludwig Beck, one of the key figures in the plot to kill Hitler in Valkyrie

This article is based on content from the following sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_Stamp
Image: Superman II publicity still, Jack O'Halloran, Terence Stamp (center), Sarah Douglas- Warner Bros. Pictures

Comments

  1. Stamp, along with his once-girlfriend, actress Julie Christie, was long thought to be the inspiration behind the classic Kinks song, Waterloo Sunset:

    "Terry meets Julie
    Waterloo Station
    Every Friday night"

    The song's writer, Ray Davies, has since denied this, but it's a nice image.

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  2. Yeah, that would've been cool if it were true. Still, quite a coincidence with the names.

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  3. who doesn't love Stamp?

    To this day I still rank him as the best superhero movie of all time. Zod and Superman II are both classics.

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  4. Nick- couldn't agree more. I even felt a little sorry for Zod at the end of II. I guess that's a sign of a great actor.

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