A Right Royal Knees-Up

A right royal knees-up In 1977, Derek Jarman enlisted a bunch of unknowns for his dystopian satire, Jubilee. Stuart Jeffries tells the story of the film that captured the nihilism of punk like nothing else. 
Thirty years on, many of the film's leading participants are dead (Jarman in 1994, actor Ian Charleson, the future star of Chariots of Fire, who played one of those loose-limbed sex objects, in 1990). Some are uncontactable (Jordan was last heard of living in Seaford, Sussex), and others are making porn (Jubilee's stills photographer Jean-Marc Prouveur's last film was Fuck Fever). One, Toyah Willcox, is cherished by a pre-verbal demographic for recording voiceovers for Teletubbies. 

"For me, working on Jubilee was an extraordinary rite of passage," says Willcox. "I was introduced to Derek through Ian Charleson when we were both working at the National Theatre, and I was asked to go round to Derek's flat. I was a 19-year-old public schoolgirl from Birmingham and I knew nothing about homosexuality or politics. But when I got to his flat, Derek's lover, a beautiful French boy called Yves, was wandering around naked. Derek was completely sexually liberated. He asked me if I wanted tea. There was a script and the film may have been called The Royal Family. I asked, 'What part do you want me to play?' He said: 'You'll be Mad, the pyromaniac.' 

"A few weeks later he got in touch and said: 'I'm afraid I've had to write you out of the script because we can't afford to have your character.' Then he got some more money and it was back on again. It was all hand to mouth, stop-start. Anyway, I did appear in the film, thanks to Derek: I think he had given up his own fee to ensure I survived." The stars of the film were hardly well remunerated. Adam Ant reckons he got paid 40 for his performance as the Kid, a Candide-like pop star lured into Borgia Gins' cynical pop world. 

"A lot of it was filmed in his studio on the Thames," recalls Willcox. It was very open, naked people wandering around. What I became really taken with was Derek's kindness to everyone. I don't think I've ever before come across unconditional love and how powerful that can be. All of us would have done anything for him in the film. I found myself making a film which was a bit like being in a party." 

The Guardian
19th July 2007