Interview: THE SUNDAY MAIL (1988)

July 02, 1988

The following article by Steve Turner appeared in a July 1988 issue of The Sunday Mail magazine...

Strip-happy Sting says some things are just not in the act with a married woman - A week in bed with Kathleen (ho-hum)...

Former teacher turned pop musician Sting spent a week writhing naked on a bed with Kathleen Turner for his new film 'Julia and Julia'. His verdict? "Not arousing in the least."

And the United States critics' verdict on the film? "Hopelessly silly, third-rate." But Sting isn't out for Hollywood stardom. He just wants to be a better actor. Sting, 36, likes stripping off. The Englishman who made his name and fortune with rock group The Police may have an image as one of pop's more cerebral stars - he alludes to Shakespeare, Brecht and Jung in his songs - but he's never underestimated his beefcake quota.

In a concert at New York's Madison Square Garden this year he stripped off his shirt, to the screams and whoops of 20,000 fans, and gyrated and writhed like a seasoned burlesque dancer.

"I think people get a thrill," he said. "They seem to. Once you've made the decision to strip off, then you're talking about sexuality... eroticism if you like."

In Julia and Julia, which opens in Brisbane on July 22, he was in bed with Kathleen Turner (of Body Heat and Prizzi's Honor) and naked "whenever necessary". Whether she whooped and screamed is doubtful. As Sting says: "You're acting. It's hard work. You're thinking, 'What is the function of my character? What am I doing here?' You can never give yourself totally to the scene. You have to think about it constantly. Then there are certain things you can't do in bed with a woman if you're acting with her. I mean, she's a married woman!"

This married woman, one of Hollywood's most bankable female leads, was a fan of Sting's music and acquainted with his films. He in turn was attracted to the project because of the skill she showed in 'Body Heat' and 'Peggy Sue Got Married'. He now describes her as: "A film star in the true sense. She's larger than life and she's incredibly vivacious. Everything works around Kathleen."

In his management office on Broadway in New York, Sting is fully clothed in a black rollneck, brown chamois leather jacket and grey jeans, with his girlfriend Trudie Styler and two-year-old son Jake in tow. Sting and Trudie also have a daughter, Mickey, who's three, and Sting has two other children, Joe, 11, and Kate, 7, who live with their mother Frances Tomelty in London.

He casually picks up a copy of a review which refers to his character in Julia and Julia as that of "a hyper-intense photographer" and concludes that no one will notice that it is the first film shot on high-definition videotape, "because they will be too busy scratching their heads and just trying to figure out what's going on". The star chuckles and lets the magazine drop on to a nearby sofa.

The daily papers are similarly confused by the tale of a woman who lives in two parallel realities, one as a childless widow and the other as a two-timing wife and mother. Sting's face may be selling the product, but is anyone noticing the craft?

He looks good. His hair may be receding fast but his body is as lean and fit as it was as a teenager when he was as a 100 yards sprint champion at district level. He's proud of his achievements: "No one gave me a silver spoon. I'm a guttersnipe.''

The lad who thought he'd get found out for attending the Minors Club (the children's matinee at his local cinema) because his dad was a milkman - "I thought you had to be a miner's son" - is now worth $50 million. He lives in a Georgian mansion in London's Highgate (the house used to belong to Yehudi Menuhin) and he owns a loft in Malibu which he bought from Barbara Streisand.

Sting remains untroubled by the reaction to 'Julia and Julia', if only because his own review of the finished cut is every bit as harsh as the professionals. "It was boring," he says, matter-of-factly. "I thought it was a very good story which wasn't realised in a very good way in the film."

The translation of rock stardom into film stardom has proved notoriously difficult. Some of the most influential and charismatic rock performers, including Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Madonna and Bob Dylan, have tried - with disastrously uneven results. But Sting has shown remarkable persistence. Since his minor role as a bleached-blond mod in 'Quadrophenia' in 1979 he has appeared in nine dramatic roles; he played opposite Meryl Streep in 'Plenty', and was described as "spellbinding" by the celebrated New York critic Pauline Kael for his brief appearance in the science fiction 'Dune'.

"I think it's amazing how someone without any training can do it," says Sting. He didn't even make it into his school play. He entered the big screen almost haphazardly, as the result of a script sent him by the agent of his then-wife, actress Frances Tomelty. "I became an actor by accident,"' he admits.

So is Sting doing something right or is he simply looking right? "I think that if you're famous anyway it helps," he concedes. "But at the same time these people know that I do the work, that I understand that my job as an actor is to tell a story and not to look pretty or be myself. I've been in good films, bad films and indifferent films. I've performed well, badly and indifferently. But the people in the industry are aware that there is a seriousness about my work. They know that I'm not just cashing in on fame."

Doggedness is one of Sting's greatest qualities. He is amused by a scathing review of his recent record album 'Nothing Like the Sun'. It calls him "a fake... living in the shadow of his ego". His great delight in life has always been to determine his own path regardless of criticism. His amusement has been justified now the album has been voted Best British LP in recent rock industry awards.

He talks proudly of recent achievements in wind-surfing and tennis and how he can now play passable Mozart on the piano. His music is pop but he flits casually from jazz to pre-war popular music to Jimi Hendrix tributes. In concert, he noticeably doesn't perform 'Every Breath You Take', his best-known and most played song. It's his attitude, more than public demand, that has kept him in front of the cameras: "I've been willing to put down the mantle of star, and work. That's the only way you can learn. Mick Jagger has only done two films so how can he be expected to know how to act?"

Two or three scripts are sent him each week. Last year he regretfully turned down the role eventually taken by Peter O'Toole in The Last Emperor after director Bertolucci saw him in the documentary 'Bring On The Night'. But Hollywood stardom? Forget it, says Sting: "I have enough ego-massage for one person in another area of my life. The thing about film for me is that it brings me back down to earth."

© The Sunday Mail



Mar 2, 1988

A loud screech interrupts Sting's sound check in the empty auditorium at New Mexico State University. Sting performed a concert here last Thursday night, much like the one he and his eight-piece band will stage at the Sports Arena tonight. "Who is that on the sound board?" Sting shouts in a mock off-with-his-head voice. A roadie had stepped in for the usual sound man. "You're terrible," Sting says with a laugh, as the band titters behind him...

Mar 1, 1988

Hell, at least he's trying. Plenty have called him pretentious - quoting Shakespeare to drunks, diddling Jung, sporting philosophers and musicians like designer accessories - and I'll happily accept that he may well be. But his music isn't asinine, it's sensuous and clever. He's not a guru, he's an ex-schoolmaster from Newcastle, and if he likes to teach the world to whatever, that seems admirable to me. "I'm 36," says Sting, "I'm still asking questions." Here's some of the answers...