Sting on 'Brimstone & Treacle'
"I'd heard about the project because it had been going for years. It started off as a TV play, it was banned, then they tried to make a movie out of it and various people were up for the part - Mike Palin for one and David Bowie. A year ago - I was one of the list of people to play Martin, Malcolm McDowell was the other - I met the director in New York at about four in the morning. I think his powers of judgement were a bit impaired at the time and I managed to convince him that I should be Martin Taylor. We never looked back. Martin is kind of evil but he's also good in a way, a good boy, and I liked that quality in him - shifting from one to the other, from genuinely religious to demonic - it's much more interesting than the average cinema character, who is either totally good or totally evil. I think there is some genuine religious fervour in him, kind of twisted up. He's an interesting person, there's something of him in me. I sometimes feel like that. I'm either cast as a goody-goody or a bad boy."
"I've sort of come in from the underside and played in films that were left field. I was surprised 'Brimstone And Treacle' was even screened in America, much less distributed. I want to continue to approach it that way. So, in a sense, I don't want to use my name, 'cause it's an albatross around my neck."
Rolling Stone, 9/83
"When I made 'Brimstone and Treacle', I was the golden boy of English pop. I was the George Michael-Simon LeBon of the time. I had blond hair, a family. Everything was nice. So I took this role as a f***ing pervert who screws paraplegics. Suddenly it's "Ugh!" I love playing the bad guy. It frees me. The role of pop star is the troubadour, the good guy. You're on the side of wholesome things; it's boring. After a whole day of being good and liberal and wonderful, it feels so good to be able to take your shoes off and be downright evil."
Rolling Stone, 5/88
In one of his more substantive roles, Sting gives a seductive performance as the devilish intruder to a suburban English family's home in 'Brimstone & Treacle' (1982). The grand prize winner at the 1982 Montreal Film Festival the film has a theatrical feel, which is not surprising considering that it was adapted from a controversial play of the same name by Dennis Potter (who also wrote the film screenplay). The film version is directed by Richard Loncraine and stars veteran British character actors Denholm Elliot and Joan Plowright (Thomas and Norma Bates) as a couple whose marriage was fallen into a paralysing rut, in large part because their lives must revolve round the perpetual care of their daughter Patricia (Suzanna Hamilton) who was rendered a physical and mental invalid by an accident four years earlier. Enter Sting. His character (Martin Taylor) cons his way into the Bates' home and wreaks havoc on the Bates family with, as the title hints, an alternately angelic and demonic charm that a television evangelist would envy (check out his fervent Swaggartesque prayer at Patricia's bedside). Martin exposes the family truth lying behind Patricia's "accident", and provides a decidedly non-medical "cure" for Patricia in a climactic scene so controversial that Potter's play (which like many of his works was written for television was banned by the BBC from 1976 till 1987). Sting also made musical contributions to the film in what was essentially his debut as a solo artist. An instrumental arrangement of I Burn For You emerges recurrently, faintly underscoring Martin's lustful intentions. Also, Sting's gleeful rendition of 'Spread A Little Happiness' can be heard over the closing credits, as an ironic postscript to the film. With an accompanying video that features Sting as a frolicking priest 'Spread A Little Happiness' became his first solo single (released in the UK in 1982); its b-side, 'Only You' is also part of the 'Brimstone & Treacle' soundtrack.
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