Author Topic: How we made Quadrophenia, by Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash  (Read 401 times)

The Laird of Enfield

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The Laird of Enfield

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Re: How we made Quadrophenia, by Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2019, 09:48:38 PM »
Phil giein' us mair reminiscences in The Times.


Quadrophenia at 40 — Phil Daniels: ‘I rode too close to the Beachy Head cliff’
The actor, who played a tortured mod in the iconic film, recalls his time on set

I was a suedehead for about six weeks once, but I was never a mod. I was never into the Who before their album Quadrophenia. But there was a booklet that came with that LP and, reading the story of Jimmy the troubled mod in the 1960s, from London to Brighton, I remember thinking how clever it was, how clever its writer, Pete Townshend, was.

I was in a band too in the 1970s, so when casting for the film of the album came round late, I got what the film was about, musically, but I nearly didn’t get the role. When I did my first audition I was ill. I’d been away in South Africa shooting Zulu Dawn and I picked up a virus. I’d found out about getting an audition while in a mud hut. It was the only one with a phone because it was Bob Hoskins’s hut. As soon as I got back to the UK I did my audition for the film’s director, Franc Roddam, but by then my tongue had split [from the virus] and I just wanted to lie down and die. Somehow, I got another go, and this time I was much more me.

They screen-tested six of us. John Lydon did a scene with Toyah Willcox. She would eventually play the part of Monkey, but I don’t really know why Lydon didn’t get the role of Jimmy Cooper. The Who would sit round, watching the screen tests and go, “Not him, man, don’t think that one’s streetwise,” or whatever. Luckily they liked me the best.

After I got the part we were all carted off to the studios in Wembley to meet the Who, our heroes. It was all a bit strange because, well, they were rock stars in the old-fashioned sense and Keith Moon had just died, which also meant that the film nearly never happened. Ultimately, the Who felt the show must go on.

I was in awe of Townshend and what he’d written, but confident enough to not worry about playing a version of him. Unlike the visionary album, we were making a gritty film — about this kid who lives with his mum and dad and goes off to Brighton and takes pills and finds out that being a mod isn’t so great after all.

Roddam made sure that the young cast got to know each another before filming. We weren’t given scooters but motorbikes, so we drove round learning how to ride them. I did actually go close to the edge of the cliffs during the shoot at Beachy Head; I was told off every time.

The original script was by David Humphries, then Roddam got Martin Stellman on board, who whipped it up. The party scenes were allowed to develop in their own way, and the scene when Jimmy’s beloved motorbike is crushed wasn’t even meant to be a scene. I started shouting at a stunt driver and he started acting, and they ended up with: “You killed me scooter!”

The cast was young and cheap. Mark Wingett, who played Jimmy’s mate Dave, was real fresh, a 17-year-old punk rocker from Portsmouth. Ray Winstone (Jimmy’s rocker friend Kevin) I knew because we had just done Scum together — Ray’s hair was a bit dodgy, a bit coiffured.

Leslie Ash, who played Jimmy’s crush, Steph, was good as gold. Our sex scene in the side alley gets talked about, but consider there was no female nudity in the film, only male nudity, which was quite groundbreaking in 1979. The swearing is very bad, which helped to make the film an X certificate. I don’t think any language like that was accepted again until Trainspotting. Sting played the Face, of course. It was early days for the Police, they were just about to get big. A few of us went to see them at the Rock Garden, doing Roxanne and all that. And during filming, one of their songs came on in the car and he was all: “Our song is on the radio!”

Roddam always tells how he explained to some of the mod extras that the stunt boys on horses were taking the piss out of them for not fighting properly: “Go and get them!” So it got quite real. Whether the mods were ever really big enough to take on the rockers is something I’ve wondered about. These little skinny guys going, “C’mon, let’s go and get ’em” to these big rocker blokes in their leathers.

Jimmy is a modernist, but everything is in its place: the scooter, the girlfriend on the back. When Jimmy stops conforming to being a mod, things go wrong for him. I think he has a breakdown. Dodgy “blues” (speed pills) and gin — it’s not a good place and he ends up at Beachy Head on that cliff.

The film had quite an effect on people, but I don’t think it was critiqued very well — “a load of yobs on the screen”. But it endures because it’s about rites of passage, whether you’re a mod or not. It’s about being young and about friends. It feels real. People think I’m Jimmy.

I knew, even when I was doing it, that it was going to cost me. Somebody warned me at the time: “People will always remember you for it.” For years I’d say, “I’m not signing any more bits and pieces” [autographs] and then I gave in, observing the adage “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”.

We’ve done a few Quadrophenia events this year. I saw Sting for the first time in a long while at a charity event for Teenage Cancer Trust where I auctioned Jimmy’s brown suit for £10,000 — 26in waist I had back then. Guess who bought it? Pete Townshend. He said, ‘I’ll give it to [the Who manager] Bill Curbishley to put it on at the V&A Museum.’”

Jimmy Cooper was part of my youth, and sometimes a nuisance that won’t go away, but I’m proud of what we did.

As told to James Jackson

The Quadrophenia 40th-anniversary celebrations are on Sky Arts on September 21, from 9pm



greenstreet

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Re: How we made Quadrophenia, by Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2019, 10:16:01 AM »
Nice one, Laird

Martin G

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Re: How we made Quadrophenia, by Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2019, 12:48:02 PM »
A great little read. Cheers mate. Looking forward to the documentary tomorrow night. I went to one of the 'celebration' events with cast and crew earlier this year and been to a few similar events previous and it is lovely seeing these people now so comfortable now embracing something they shunned for years. People really do feel something for the movie and as noted ain't really a 'Mod' film at all but a film about youngsters and their ups and downs.

The Laird of Enfield

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Re: How we made Quadrophenia, by Phil Daniels and Leslie Ash
« Reply #4 on: September 23, 2019, 10:34:54 PM »
A great little read. Cheers mate. Looking forward to the documentary tomorrow night. I went to one of the 'celebration' events with cast and crew earlier this year and been to a few similar events previous and it is lovely seeing these people now so comfortable now embracing something they shunned for years. People really do feel something for the movie and as noted ain't really a 'Mod' film at all but a film about youngsters and their ups and downs.