30 Years of Quadrophenia - Director Franc Roddam, from Teesside, speaks

If you would like to sponser us please contact us
30 Years of Quadrophenia - Director Franc Roddam, from Teesside, speaks

30 Years of Quadrophenia - Director Franc Roddam, from Teesside, speaks

Posted: 01 Jan 1970

30 Years of Quadrophenia - Director Franc Roddam, from Teesside, speaks

Hollywood director Franc Roddam - from Norton, Stockton-on-Tees - made his name with the iconic 1979 movie Quadropenia. A new stage play celebrates the 30th anniversary

Exclusive interview by Michael Hamilton

MH: How did you get involved with the movie?

Franc: I’d directed a film for TV called Dummy which won a Prix Italia drama prize, and the producer of Quadrophenia, Roy Baird, was looking for someone to direct it. David Puttnam and Alan Parker both recommended me for it.

I remember meeting Roy and the manager of The Who and they gave me a script which ran to 220 pages – usually they are 120 pages maximum. It had been written by a Who fan – believe it or not – and it just wasn’t usable.

So I sat down and started writing it, and had to think about casting it. I wanted to use unknowns.

MH: And one of those was Sting?

Franc: For the suave Mod in the film – called Ace Face – we needed someone very striking. I had actually already given the part to another actor when someone said we had to see this guy who had been a teacher but now was a musician making a name for himself in London. And he had a great look.

When I saw him he looked so different I immediately gave him an audition to see if he could be the toughest, coolest guy. Sting was very cool.

So I got the two toughest street actors in the cast to intimidate him in an improvised scene. And I told Sting I wanted him not only to resist the intimidation but to turn it around. He outcooled them completely!

He actually played the part extremely well. Some people complained that his hair wasn’t right or his coat was wrong but my job as a film-maker was to make him look different from everybody else and he did.

We retained a relationship after the movie too. The next film I tried to make was Rainforest so I was down in the Amazon for six months. I remember telling Sting about what I was doing and it seems to have influenced him because he took up the conservation cause.

MH: Do you think the movie stands the test of time?

Franc: It’s not really for me to say, but it obviously does because so many different generations relate to it and enjoy it! Even my teenage kids and their friends love it. It has become something of an iconic piece, which speaks to different generations.

The actors were great. Phil Daniels put in a mesmerising performance as this scruffy little kid (Jimmy) who totally engages the audience.

The film is about losing. Ninety-nine per cent of movies are about winning whilst life is 99 per cent about losing so maybe that’s the reason it appeals. It’s OK to fail. You don’t have to be the biggest stud or the best fighter.

I was at a screening in Brighton about ten years ago and this huge guy comes up to me and corners me in this alleyway. I was getting a bit nervous at this point and he said: “Thanks. That movie saved my life.”

A New York taxi driver told me he had seen it 200 times. There are even Mods in Mexico City. Every year fans have Quadrophenia conventions in different countries.  It’s got that universal appeal.

MH: The Who’s album (of the same name) was Pete Townshend’s creation.  Did you work with him on the script?

Franc: No, but Pete and I met early in the project. He had originally arranged the movie soundtrack with strings and a big orchestra like his stage musical Tommy, which was phenomenally successful.

I said I didn’t see it that way at all. I told him I saw it as a street movie. “It’s got to be rock and roll. I want to use guitar and drums. This is a completely different animal.”

He’d spent a lot of money rearranging it but he agreed immediately. He said: “OK, it’s your movie, you’re making it.” That was incredibly gracious from the man who is the creator of the piece.

MH: Were you a Who fan?

Franc: I’ve always been a fan of The Who. I remember seeing them live in Liverpool in the Sixties. They were an hour and a half late and they were booed when they came on stage. The drummer Keith Moon tried to hit someone in the audience with a cymbal. Then the bass player John Entwistle was spattered with a cream cake and played the whole set with cream dripping from his strings. Then Roger Daltrey came on and swore at the audience and they went into this barnstorming 11-minute version of My Generation. They were fantastic live. And I think Pete is an outstanding composer and social chronicler.

MH: Keith Moon died just weeks before the movie. Did it affect the project?

Franc: It was only three weeks before the shoot. Everyone was devastated. Strangely the guy who discovered The Who – Pete Meaden – committed suicide around the same time. I thought: “My God, they are going to can this.” But they talked the record company into letting it go ahead

MH: Have you been involved in the new stage play?

Franc: I haven’t. It’s strange for me. The movie is my creation and when I think of Quadrophenia I think of the film, not even Pete Townshend’s album. There was talk of doing a Quadrophenia II sequel at some point but I never wanted to get involved in that either. The original is a classic little film and I’d like to leave it at that. I’m intrigued as to how it will adapt to the stage though. I haven’t seen it yet. We know it has a great score, of course.

That's Living Alright!

Franc Roddam based the smash hit drama Auf Wiedersehen Pet on his lifelong Norton-on-Tees pal Mick Connell

MH: Tell me how the idea for Auf Wiedersehen Pet came about.

Franc: I based Tim Healy’s character Dennis on Mick. In fact he was the whole inspiration for the show. My life and his went in completely opposite directions. I left the shipyards and went on to do arts A levels then film college.

He went the other way. Stockton was a tough town and Mick wanted to be a tough guy. I came from a tough street but I wanted to be sophisticated. 

He went off to Germany to find work because there was precious little back home. So we crossed over but we stayed great friends throughout our lives. I was best man at his wedding and he was best man at mine. 

MH: How did you meet?

Franc: I met him on Stockton High Street. I was on day release to the college from the shipyard to do my diploma in engineering.

I was standing at the bus stop near Nelson Terrace and there was this guy standing next to me. He had tight short dark curly hair, striped shirt, detachable starched collar and studs, double-breasted suit with a waistcoat and watch and chain and a very chic duffle-coat.

I thought: ‘Wow, that guy has style.’ I found out that he worked as a dental technician for an ancient dentist who was about 85 and dressed that way. Mick decided to dress like him. He had one foot in Victoriana.

I had my own style, which was very Mod. We started hanging out and going to folk clubs together and ‘Ban the Bomb’ marches.

MH: Are you still in touch?

Franc: Mick died 10 years ago from lung cancer. It was very sad for me because we were lifelong pals. But he smoked Woodbines from the age of about nine and smoked all his life like many of that generation from that background, so it was hardly surprising.

He was a great man, a terrific character, one of my great teachers and I owe him a great debt of honour.

MH: Do you get back to the North East these days? 

Franc: I still have three brothers living in the area and I still support Middlesbrough for my sins. I was back in Norton last year with my wife Leila after my mother died. I wanted to show my little girls Sidoni, 12, and Zazou, eight, their grandmother’s grave and the streets where I grew up. We had a day around Whitby and the Dales, went up to Durham and Bamburgh. The girls loved it. They have grown up in Hollywood and Australia so it was a real eye-opener for them.

MH: It’s 25 years since Auf Wiedersehen Pet started on TV. What’s the appeal of the show?

Franc: It’s about working class morality at its best. Mick and I had that relationship. I became a Hollywood director and he worked on building sites and we treated each other exactly the same.

It was an era when there was this transition from blue collar to white collar and some people were getting lost in the melee. I thought this great Northern industrial age with all that dignity is going to be trashed.

I thought this was a defining moment. It was affecting my friends and I decided I was going to write about it.

MH: You were also instrumental in bringing it back for the successful third series set in Arizona.

Franc: After the 16-year absence when we decided to bring it back there were a few catalysts that made it all happen. The first two series in Germany and Spain had been done with Central TV and screened on ITV. In 1999 I found the rights came back to me after all this time and approached the BBC about bringing it back. 

MH: The following year the ‘Geordie mafia’ Jimmy Nail, Tim Healy and Kevin Whately did a hugely successful ‘Sunday for Sammy’ benefit at Newcastle City Hall.

Franc: For the stage show they revived the characters Oz, Dennis and Neville. Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement – who wrote the TV series – had written the sketches for it and the crowd went nuts for the characters all over again.

MH: So it was that easy?

Franc: Not really. Jimmy Nail’s agent said there was no way he would do it but I bumped into him in Notting Hill, he was coming out of a guitar shop and he said: “Yes I’ll do it.” There was an appetite for it again. Jimmy and I wrote a ‘bible’ a 160-page book that provided the basis for any scripts. 

MH: Whose idea was it to move the Transporter Bridge to Arizona?

Franc: I had the idea of moving the Transporter Bridge and uniting the lost tribes – native Americans and British working-class men.

I felt we were also entering a new age, an electronic age and it was going to leave people behind all over again. So we very deliberately turned Dennis, the confident leader, into the dinosaur. He was left driving a minicab while Oz had learned IT in prison and became the leader.

You May Also Be Interested

You May Also Be Interested

On the road with Anastacia

On the road with Anastacia

Singer/songwriter Philippa Hanna is supporting Anastacia on her UK tour and you can catch her at Sage Gateshead on 10 May. The new tour comes hot on the heels of her tour opening for Leona Lewis – and now the Barnsley-born performer has her sights set on breaking the US market as she moves out to Nashville this summer.  Meanwhile Philippa’s fifth studio album 'Speed Of Light' has been released. It blends the pop and electronic of Taylor Swift, swerving away f...

Read More



Focus Sage Gateshead 28 October Thijs van Leer always reminds me of Slade’s Noddy Holder. I think it’s the sideburns. If former Slade front-man Holder is something of a national treasure, Focus founder van Leer is the Dutch equivalent. He’s been at the forefront of music in his country for approaching half a century and as founder of ‘Prog-rock’ band Focus he is responsible for some of rock’s finest tunes. Focus have always been strongly ...

Read More

AC/DC superstar Brian Johnson is a rock n' roll doctor

AC/DC superstar Brian Johnson is a rock n' roll doctor

Tyneside singing legend Brian Johnson has received an honorary degree in music from Northumbria University. The AC/DC frontman - born and raised in Dunston - said: "Its a wonderful thing to be recognised this way. I'm so proud and honoured." Brian, who lives in Florida these days, is about to take AC/DC back on the road after the band completed their 15th studio album. He added: "I know you are not supposed to shout about this kind of thing but when I get bac...

Read More

Audio Interviews



Thea Gilmore

Thea Gilmore...

Image by Idil Sukan 30 May Thea Gilmore opened a short tour at Sage Gateshead three days before the launch of her fourteenth studi...

Whats on

She got soul!

She got soul!...

Sweetly soulful singer Lauren Ray is supporting Lucy Spraggan on her UK tour this autumn, with one gig in the North East and two just outsid...