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Stars reunite to celebrate 40 years of Quadrophenia

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of cult British film Quadrophenia, there's a brand new documentary and a recording of a live performance of a table read of the original script. Georgia Humphreys hears more about the reunion from some of the stellar cast members

Looking back: Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia — Our Generation
Looking back: Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia — Our Generation
Who’s who: (from left) Phil Daniels, Leslie Ash, Mark Wingett and Garry Cooper

By Georgia Humphreys

Forty years since Quadrophenia was released in cinemas, Phil Daniels still finds the film looms large in his daily life. The London-born actor played the lead role in the cult classic - Jimmy Cooper, a London Mod.

Disillusioned by his parents and his dull job, he finds an outlet for his teenage angst by taking amphetamines, partying, riding scooters and brawling with their rivals.

"It's a strange thing to have a whole group of people who think I am Jimmy, which I've sort of come to terms with a bit," admits the 60-year-old star, whose other famed roles include crime drama Scum and animation Chicken Run.

"There was a point in my life when I wasn't interested at all, but now I don't mind. That's life - que sera.

"But it is a bit of a strange thing, but a nice thing, to have such a following."

The success of Quadrophenia - which is set in 1964 and is loosely based on The Who's 1973 rock opera of the same name - has grown and grown.

"For many years after we did the film it was quite quiet and I think after, I don't know, 10, 15, 20 years, it started getting a cult following," says Daniels.

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"People became Mods and I think DVDs helped and things like that. It's an interesting phenomena."

To celebrate the anniversary of the drama's release, Sky Arts are airing an evening of celebration.

Hosted by Lauren Laverne, Quadrophenia Reunited - 40 Years On involves a recording of a live table readthrough with the original cast, while there's also a new documentary called Quadrophenia - Our Generation, which looks at the maverick filmmaking, the complex themes within the film and the Mod movement in general.

Plus, the original film will be shown, so once again we will be able to follow Jimmy and his Mod friends Dave (Mark Wingett), Chalky (Philip Davis) and Spider (Gary Shail), as they travel to Brighton, where they clash with the Rockers.

It's nice to hear the esteemed cast have remained close since shooting together in the Seventies. But reuniting for this event was emotional, nonetheless.

"I don't think any of us have changed, we are still very much the same people, but obviously time has affected us, and to watch the documentaries and the work we have done in the last 12 months, I find it profoundly moving," confides Toyah Willcox (61), who plays Monkey.

Did they have a sense at the time that the relationships they formed on set would last four decades?

"We were all very passionate, and protective," recalls the Birmingham-born actress, who's also a Brit Award-nominated musician, famous for songs such as I Want To Be Free.

She then explains her co-stars Wingett and Shail were like her "bodyguards" when they'd go and watch her gigs.

"I was a punk rocker. I was the subject of quite a lot of physical aggression... Punks always got beaten up by teddy boys or whatever. Even as a woman on my own... A gang tried to throw me through a chemist window on the King's Road, when I was about 20.

"It was quite interesting back then because fights did break out, but no-one pulled a knife on you, no-one pulled a gun on you."

She elaborates: "Punk threatened everyone. But what's really interesting looking back at the film and you've got these riot sequences where the mods and rockers are fighting as part of their bank holiday enjoyment - I think that element has always been there.

"I think there was a pride back then in using your physical strength, using your fists, or being able to run quick enough to get away."

Steph - Jimmy's love interest in the film, who he meets in Brighton - is played by Leslie Ash.

It was the first major role for the 59-year-old, who went on to star in hit TV shows such as Men Behaving Badly and Where The Heart Is.

"I just look and think, 'Oh my god I wish I looked like that now!'" quips the star, who was born in Henley-on-Thames, when asked how she's found watching the film back.

"But obviously 40 years later it's a full-time job trying to live up to that sort of character, that look, because people love that film so much, and they come and tell me how much they loved it.

"It's just a lovely thing, to be able to say, 'Yeah I was in that film, and I look great'. Everyone looks fantastic."

Ash wholeheartedly agrees that Steph was a ground-breaking character in terms of the way women are portrayed on screen.

"It's funny, I was just saying to Phil, at the time it was a fantastic job to get - I was modelling at the time so all I was focused on was I wanted to look good," she says.

"And I loved the whole fact that it was improvisation, working with Franc (Roddam, director) and it didn't seem like work. Every day you looked so forward to getting into work and working with these guys.

"But it was afterwards that I found out it was so groundbreaking. Women were being stronger and out there and they could go out, they weren't tied to the kitchen The whole world was opening up for women."

As the plot develops, we see what's perhaps perceived as traditional roles in a relationship reversed; Steph is the more sexual of the two, while Jimmy's more emotional.

"I suppose it always went on but it wasn't seen, and I think the whole thing in the 60s was that it just came out - women could be promiscuous just like a man. Although they probably got called names for it," Ash adds.

It's impossible to talk about Quadrophenia, which also stars Sting as a Mod leader, and not mention the soundtrack.

Songs from several of the biggest artists and bands of the time feature, but particularly The Who.

When Daniels is asked about how he related to the themes of the film, it's clear the music was a huge part of his experience on set.

"We just sort of put the Parkas on and the gear and got on our scooters and did the scenes that were in front of us," he notes.

"And because it was The Who's music, it was really quite exciting. I think we were all at that age that meeting The Who was more exciting than being in the film!"

Quadrophenia's 40th anniversary celebrations airs on Sky Arts and Now TV tomorrow. The original film will also be screened in select cinemas this autumn

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