LOS ANGELES — Long before the new "Man of Steel," actor Terence Stamp delivered the screen General Zod of a generation. Stamp portrayed Superman's Kryptonian arch enemy opposite Christopher Reeve in "Superman" (1978) and "Superman II" (1980).
"I can't go out on the street in London without somebody saying, "'It's Zod!' It's fun for me," said Stamp in a recent interview, adding he'd yet to see "Man of Steel," which casts Michael Shannon as Zod.
Thirty-five years since "Superman," Stamp returns to cinemas in the dramedy "Unfinished Song," which opens stateside this weekend after an overseas run with an alternate title, "Song for Marion."
Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave play English pensioners Arthur and Marion. He's a codger; she is full of life, but dying. And yet this is no odd couple. They are, instead, something rarely seen in entertainment: earthbound, elderly soul mates. Forget high-flying romance. These two are real.
Eventually, Marion drags Arthur into an over-60s singing group, which has a repertoire including everything from the smoothest Stevie Wonder to Salt-n-Pepa's hip-hop classic "Let's Talk About Sex."
"'Let's Talk About Sex,' I thought, 'Great! Absolutely,'" remembered the 74-year-old Stamp. "(Talk) is all I can do at the moment," he continued, laughing. "I'm past my sell-by date."
In a separate interview, costar Redgrave said, between takes on the set, she loved listening to Stamp's stories. "What I remember most about Terence was his enthralling discussions about all kinds of experiences ... to do with voice."
"I worked with Olivier briefly on my second movie ("Term of Trial," 1962)," Stamp recalled. "And he said to me, 'You should always study your voice.'" Stamp then segued into a spot-on Olivier impersonation, continuing, "'because, as you get older, your looks go, but your voice will become empowered.'"
The London-born Stamp started his film career with 1962's seafaring "Billy Budd," for which he earned an Oscar nomination. Stamp's 50-year filmography is peppered with highlights, including his touching portrayal of the transsexual Bernadette in "The Adventure of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" (1994). Stamp also was widely praised for his lead in director Steven Soderbergh's 1999 crime drama "The Limey."
Now, distributor Weinstein is attempting to generate early award-season buzz for Stamp's work in "Unfinished Song." After this interview, Stamp was off to meet with members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the annual Golden Globes.
Clearly, Stamp already feels like a winner. And it also appears that his landlord is paid in full.
"I don't have any psychological ambitions," Stamp explained. "I've practical ambitions. I don't do crappy movies, unless I haven't got the rent."