Quadrophenia at 40: Stars reminisce about the film for 'every generation'
Released in 1979 and loosely based on The Who’s album of the same name, Quadrophenia’s coming-of-age tale of a young mod is very much a cult classic.
Forty years on, a new documentary for Sky Arts, Quadrophenia – Our Generation, explores the style of filmmaking and the movie’s themes.
But for the cast, who reunited at a screening for the documentary, the film’s wider impact could never have been predicted.
“I’ve run out of emotions really on that period of time,” Phil Daniels, who played main character Jimmy Cooper, tells Sky News.
“I can’t remember much about doing the film to be honest, which is a bit strange.
“Other people remember – I just remember it being kind of hard work, really, and us just getting on with it.”
Toyah Wilcox, who played Monkey in the film, says it was emotional to look back at when it was being made.
“You’re just thinking, ‘my God, it was so special’,” she says.
“It was such an opportunity and a privilege because we were treated as serious actors at a time when we could have been treated very differently.
“So watching the documentary, I just thought, ‘wow, I’m just so pleased that was in my life’.”
Director Franc Roddam says filmmaking has changed a lot since Quadrophenia was in production.
“With films now everything is, you know – a storyboard and a green screen and blue screen.
“We would go out, we said that’s the location, these are the actors, this is the weather, we’ve got this much time – what shall we do boys?
“And we would play with it. It was much more playful, I think.”
Leslie Ash, who played Jimmy’s love interest Steph, agrees it was a unique experience.
“It was the first thing I’d ever done, really, so working with Frank, it was a completely new way.
“We had a script but we didn’t really use it… we basically improvised a lot.
“So after the film, my first job afterwards, I turned up on the set and I expected the director to be like Frank and it really wasn’t – I didn’t know my lines, I didn’t have a script, I was totally unprepared.”
Phil Davis, who played Chalky, puts the film’s longevity down to its relatability.
“There’s something magical about this story that speaks to adolescent boys and I think it’s because of the struggles of Jimmy, the main character Phil Daniels plays,” Davis says.
“Because he isn’t the coolest kid on the block, he’s not someone you aspire to be. He falls in love with a girl who can’t love him back and he’s struggling with identity issues.
“He doesn’t want to be like his mum and dad – he’s like every adolescent boy and I think because of that it speaks to every generation and not just the generation around when it was first made.”
Trevor Laird, who played Ferdy, believes if it weren’t for the band behind the rock opera the film was based on, it wouldn’t have had the success it did.
“I think what made it so special at the time was The Who themselves.
“In 1978, when we made this film, The Who were massive – they still are – but at that time they were a massive band; rock and roll English music was the music.”
And despite the varied careers of the film’s stars since, it is Quadrophenia they say are remembered for.
“We’re not allowed to forget it by the general public,” says Mark Wingett, who played Dave.
“I did 21 years in The Bill, I made 787 episodes, I was Jim Carver in The Bill and [people say], ‘ah yeah, The Bill’s alright but Quadrophenia – that’s where it’s at’.
“I’ve had that for 40 years – this year’s been extraordinary because of the amount of work we’ve done around Quadrophenia because it is the 40th anniversary and I think we’re all a bit Quadrophenia-d out at the moment.”
But for Wilcox, the magic lives on.
“I’m not, I want us to make a Netflix series about the characters now, I want us to have eight series.
“I know Phil Daniels would hate that but I just think this is a story waiting to happen – I am not quite Quadrophenia-d out.”
Whether the cast are getting Quadrophenia fatigue or not, for fans of the film its 40th anniversary is cause for celebration – and maybe an excuse to watch it once again.
- Quadrophenia – Our Generation will show on Sky Arts as part of its evening of celebrations of the film on 21 September at 9pm.