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'Unfinished Song' puts Redgrave, Stamp together on screen for first time

Filmmaker Paul Andrew Williams poses for a photo as he promotes the movie "A Song for Marion" during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto on Saturday Sept. 15, 2012. When director Paul Andrew Williams first met with screen legends Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp to begin work on the new film "Unfinished Song" he had to remind himself it was business as usual. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
June 26, 2013 - 8:32 AM

TORONTO - When director Paul Andrew Williams first met with screen legends Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp to begin work on the new film "Unfinished Song" he had to remind himself it was business as usual.

"You're always a bit intimidated when you meet any actor because you don't know what you're going to get," the director said at last September's Toronto International Film Festival (where the movie was titled "Song for Marion").

"And obviously, these guys have done loads of movies before, worked with massive directors. After the first meeting with both of them I was just (thinking): 'Just be yourself.' And I think very soon Vanessa picked up on that and very soon Terence picked up on that ... (that) we're working together and that actors want direction if they trust a director ... They were a joy to work with actually."

In "Unfinished Song," Stamp plays Arthur, a cranky retiree who is unable to understand the joy his ailing wife Marion (Redgrave) derives from a local singing group.

Young choir leader Elizabeth (Bond girl Gemma Arterton) tries to entice Arthur to join the elderly performers, who gamely attempt the robot dance, and have a decidedly modern repertoire that includes Salt-n-Pepa's "Let's Talk About Sex."

"There are choirs who do that kind of stuff all the time," said Williams. "It's actually something that's very popular ... The idea was to make something that was celebratory of that generation and what they do."

The bittersweet film is reminiscent of British titles such as "The Full Monty" and "Calendar Girls." Williams said he wanted to illustrate the "incredible" love between couples of Arthur and Marion's generation.

"The love between two older people is much more solid," he said. "So when there's a problem, it's like 'we're married, so we're going to work through his problem' ... whereas nowadays that sort of love is much harder to find."

Amazingly, Stamp (who received an Oscar nomination for his screen debut in 1962's "Billy Budd") had never been in a film with Redgrave (who won an Academy Award for 1977's "Julia"), though they had worked together on a play.

Stamp says Redgrave is one of those rare actors who can excel both onstage and in film (he does not count himself in that category), and that he was happy to work with her in the medium where he is most comfortable.

"It's the first time for me that I've had her in my arena and that was wonderful," the 74-year-old actor said at the festival. "That's what was magic."

Stamp said he was keen to sing in "Unfinished Song" because he'd passed up a chance in the 1960s to star in the film version of the musical "Camelot" and always regretted it. Richard Harris went on to play King Arthur in that movie, with Redgrave, incidentally, as Guinevere.

And so when the chance to play a character named Arthur in "Unfinished Song" (opposite Redgrave!) presented itself?

"I can't spit in the face of the universe a second time," said Stamp, whose screen credits also include "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace," and "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert."

"Although I had great trepidation."

"Unfinished Song" opens Friday in Toronto and is set to open in Montreal and Vancouver on July 5.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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