We could name a few famous Mods, but there’s really only one poster boy for the 1960s scooter generation. Phil Daniels, otherwise known as (and to some eyes still indistinguishable from) the character Jimmy in cult Mod movie Quadrophenia.
Phil’s at Revival this year, reprising that role as part of Goodwood’s celebration of 50 years since the height of the Mods and Rockers era, which also includes a ‘Brighton Pier’ installation.
This morning, you would have seen him leading a procession of around 100 period scooters around the circuit to mark the start of the Goodwood Revival Meeting 2014. GRR caught up with him beforehand for a chat, as he practised for the big day on a loaned Lambretta in perfect period order.
“I could have had my scooter from the film for 200 quid,” he told us, somewhat wistfully. “I let somebody else have it who was a proper mod. Then one day I saw it had sold for thirty six grand…”
So did Phil have any Mod-ish or scootering credentials that helped to land him the Jimmy role?
“No, I first started riding on a proper motorbike, so don’t tell the Mod lot that. It was up at Hendon Police College, on their private track. The instructor was a funny old boy who I remember just wanted to get Lesley Ash on the back of his motorcycle.”
“I’ve done a lot of films since. Can’t seem to get away from this one though. There aren’t Quadrophenia reunions or anything like that, but I still get loads of letters telling me how I changed their lives – unfortunately they’re all from middle-aged men,” he jokes.
And what does Phil make of the Revival Meeting itself?
“I’m not a serious petrolhead, but I do like watching bike races.” Since Quadrophenia there have been various two-wheeled encounters. “I did a film called Freebird in the 1990s when I rode a Moto Guzzi 850, and I used to ride scooters in London if I was doing voiceovers. I had a Honda C90 and a Peugeot moped when it was free to park a motorbike in London, but you have to pay now so I take the tube. Anyway, the Peugeot was nicked and the insurance wouldn’t pay up.”
And today? “I’d like a BMW. I’d have a 1000cc one, or 1300cc… whatever the biggest one is, but my daughter won’t let me. I also love the old style BMW boxers like the R80. They’re great looking bikes.”
So what of the other delights Goodwood has to offer?
“I’m a member of Highgate Golf Club and have a 16 handicap, but I don’t like flying, it looks dangerous. I’m not really interested in horse racing either.” Well, you can have a round on us anytime Phil!
So tell us a bit more about doing Quadrophenia? Phil ponders for a moment, then pushes up the sleeve of his trademark – and quite Mod-ish – suit. (“I’ve always worn a suit, I guess I’m traditional.”)
“Helmet law was out, so I think we just flouted it. I’ve still got a scar on my wrist when I fell off while filming the movie.
“After the film I was actually Mod for about six weeks, because I suppose I’d been living the role. That would have stopped when the next part came along.
“I’ve still got a suitcase full of gear from filming Quadrophenia, but it’s all a bit moth-eaten and I don’t think I could do the jackets up these days.” There’s probably a vintage vendor ‘over the road’ at Revival whose eyes will light up at that news…
So what about the day job? Phil is fresh from a successful run at The Globe Theatre in Anthony and Cleopatra playing Enobarbus. “I do those famous ‘age cannot wither her’ lines, he explains helpfully.
In spite of his film successes, Phil is at his happiest playing theatre roles, he tells us. So what’s next?
“I’m doing a comedy at The Globe. It’s called Knight of the Burning Pestle, it’s from the 1600s and is a satirical ‘play within a play’.
“It’s been revived a few times since the 1600s, usually unsuccessfully, but we’ve tried it out at The Globe before and it was very successful so we’re playing it over Christmas. It’s a bit like doing a panto without the money!”