Terence Henry Stamp is an English actor who has appeared in over 90 films and television projects in his nearly six-decade-long acting career. Originally from London, Stamp grew up in Bow, East End, before moving to Essex. He was a student at Plaistow County Grammar School, and after graduating, was employed at various ad agencies. He enrolled at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art on a scholarship. Following the completion of his training, he began his career as an actor in London in 1962. He was active in the city’s theatre scene before making his screen debut in the drama film ‘Term of Trial’. In the ensuing years, he has played a variety of characters in projects like ‘The Collector’, ‘Superman II’, ‘The Limey’, ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’, and ‘Smallville’. For his work, he has received a Golden Globe, a Mystfest, a Cannes Film Festival Award, a Seattle International Film Festival Award, a Satellite Award, and a Silver Bear.
Childhood & Early Life
Born on July 22, 1938, in Stepney, London, England, Terence Stamp is the oldest of five children of late Ethel Esther (née Perrott) and late Thomas Stamp. His father worked as a tugboat stoker.
He spent parts of his childhood in Canal Road, Bow, East End and Plaistow, West Ham, Essex (currently Greater London). As his father was rarely home because of his work, he was predominantly raised by his mother and other women of the family. He studied at Plaistow County Grammar School.
Inspired by the likes of Gary Cooper and James Dean, he developed an interest in acting early on. However, after he graduated, he started working in the advertising sector.
After he came to realise that he did not have to enlist in the British military for the two-year mandatory service, his passion for acting reignited. He subsequently enrolled at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art on a scholarship.
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After graduating, Terence Stamp started working as an actor in London. He appeared in various provincial repertory theatres, including in a national tour of Willis Hall's play ‘The Long the Short and the Tall’, in which he co-starred with Michael Caine. They later became flatmates, and along with Peter O’Toole, gained some notoriety in the city’s party scene.
He had his screen debut opposite Laurence Olivier in the drama film ‘Term of Trial’, which was released in August 1962. Some sources erroneously claim that ‘Billy Budd’ was his first film, but it premiered three months after ‘Term of Trial’, in November.
In the 1965 psychological horror film ‘The Collector’, Stamp portrayed a young, alienated, and psychopathic young man named Frederick "Freddie" Clegg, who stalks and abducts a beautiful art student named Miranda Grey (Samantha Eggar). His performance in the film earned him the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival.
He played Willie Garvin opposite Monica Vitti’s Modesty Blaise in the spy action comedy film ‘Modesty Blaise’ in 1966.
Stamp made a brief appearance as General Zod in Richard Donner’s 1978 superhero film ‘Superman’ and reprised the role in 1980 in ‘Superman II’. He won a Mystfest for Best Actor for portraying Willie Parker in the 1984 road crime film ‘The Hit’.
In 1990, he co-wrote and directed the thriller film ‘Stranger in the House’. In 1992, he received a Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 42nd Berlin International Film Festival for playing Darman in the 1991 Spanish crime-thriller film ‘Beltenebros’.
For his outing as the drag queen Bernadette Bassenger in the 1994 Australian comedy-drama film ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, he received the Seattle International Film Festival Award for Best Actor and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.
In Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 neo-noir crime film ‘The Limey’, Stamp was cast as the English career criminal Wilson who comes to Los Angeles following the death of his daughter. He won a Satellite Award for Best Actor for the role. That year, he also portrayed Supreme Chancellor Finis Valorum in ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’.
In recent years, some of the films Stamp has appeared in are ‘Get Smart’ (2008), ‘Valkyrie’ (2008), ‘Song of Marion’ (2012), ‘Big Eyes’ (2014), and ‘Murder Mystery’ (2019). He is set to star in the upcoming horror thriller ‘Last Night in Soho’.
Stamp’s first small-screen appearance was in the 1978 telefilm ‘The Thief of Baghdad’. Interestingly, he returned to the world of DC Comics to portray General Zod’s arch-rival Jor-El in The WB’s superhero series ‘Smallville’ (2003-11).
Terence Stamp portrayed the humble, optimistic, and innocent titular character in the 1962 adventure war drama ‘Billy Bud’. He received widespread critical acclaim for his performance as well as a Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and a BAFTA for Best Newcomer.
Family & Personal Life
On New Year’s Eve 2002, Terence Stamp married Elizabeth O'Rourke, a woman 35 years younger than him. They divorced in April 2008 citing his “unreasonable behaviour”.
One of Terence Stamp’s younger siblings was the music producer and manager Chris Stamp, who passed away in 2012.