Riding the scooter along the clifftop at Beachy Head, I got too close and fell off

Phil Daniels, played Jimmy

I wasnt well when I went for the auditions at Shepperton Studios in Surrey. Id been in South Africa filming Zulu Dawn and got some sort of disease. I looked washed out. When the director Franc Roddam saw how sick I was, he told me to go home, but I was asked back for a screen test. When I heard that Johnny Rotten was no longer being considered for the lead role, I thought: Well, this is it.

Roddam had us hang out for a month before filming started. He encouraged the depraved side of our nature he was not one for tucking us into bed at night. We wore authentic clothes and were given lessons in how to dance and ride a scooter and we got to hang out with some original mods. We were living it, doing all sorts of stuff to get us into the mood. Thats why it looks like we arent acting.

Watch a trailer for Quadrophenia

We shot the end of the film first, at Beachy Head. Riding along the clifftop, I got a lot closer to the edge than I was meant to and fell off the scooter a couple of times. I remember the first assistant director, Ray Corbett, telling me: Listen, its the third day. If you fell off that cliff, dyou know what would have happened? They would have recast you tomorrow.

Jimmys not a hero, hes just a normal boy next door, and thats what makes him work. He ultimately rejects the whole ethos of being a mod making your whole life revolve around sitting on a silly scooter. In the end, he had to jack it in to move on. He couldnt take it any further.

Quadrophenias a difficult one to live down. Over the years, its filled me with horror and joy. At the time, a friend warned me: If its a hit, they may only ever remember you as Jimmy.

It was frightening. I got knocked to the floor Leslie Ash and Phil Daniels on their big day out. Photograph: Allstar/The Who Films

Leslie Ash, played Steph

When I was asked to audition, I didnt know much about mods or their music, but we were all given a copy of the Whos Quadrophenia album, which I really loved. I was 17 and a bit of an airhead, so I didnt appreciate what a remarkable crew we had working on the film. It was a fairly small unit and there was not much of a budget, but we couldnt have asked for a better director in Franc.

Theyd asked scooter clubs and mods from all over the country to come down for the Brighton part of filming. The moment we walked out of the hotel to start shooting, we saw all these scooters and hordes of mods lined up against the seafront. It was amazing. Filming the riot sequences was really scary. It was supposed to be staged but it was chaos, with police and members of the public getting involved. It was like a real riot health and safety didnt come into it at the time. When Franc shouted Action! everyone started running. They made sure Phil and I were at the front so that we didnt get trampled on, but it was so frightening. I actually got knocked to the floor.

Sting with scooterists at Brighton seafront. Photograph: Curbishley-Baird/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

It was shot at the end of September and it was very cold. There were no Winnebagos in those days and we all used to huddle together in someones car or a shopfront. If you look at the pictures of me during the Brighton shoot, Im sitting on the beach wearing a coat with woolly gloves on and smoking a fag. We worked from eight in the morning right to about midnight. I think I was paid about 500. The film company really got their moneys worth.

At the screen test I was just given a story outline, but when I saw the full script I was devastated because there was a nude scene. I said: Theres no way I am going to do that! I was quite prepared not to do the film. They gave me a rewrite of what is now known as the famous alley scene where Phil and I were to stage a love-making sequence. Theres been loads of speculation over the years with people saying: Oh, apparently they really did it. Well, I can honestly say, no, nothing happened it was all acting. Its just a bit embarrassing to watch. Its the only sex scene Ive seen where both actors are fully clothed.

Interviews by Simon Wells, author of The Making of Quadrophenia, published by Omnibus Press 20. The 40th anniversary celebration is on Sky Arts on 21 September.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us


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