personalities of the group begin to merge and Turner starts to regain
his power as a performer, something which he thought he had lost. Chas,
a bisexual, takes to cross-dressing and declares he fancies Turner as
well as Lucy, but almost seems to have absorbed Turner’s own identity.
In the meantime he has attempted to obtain a passport to travel to America
from Tony Farrell (Ken Colley), who double-crosses him and tells Harry
Flowers where he is. Eventually, Flowers’ gang members appear. Turner
asks if he can go with him, but Chas shoots him and is then escorted
to a waiting car by Flowers’ thugs.
In an interview with Time Out, Jagger was to say, “When I look at it now there are so many things I could have done to make it stronger or to make it more real. I think Turner was a bit too much like me in a few ways. But he’s not quite hopeless enough. I found his intellectual posturing very ridiculous…too much intellectual posturing in the bath when you’re with two women is not a good thing – that’s not to be taken too seriously! It made my skin go all funny. I know people like that.”
one point, Turner quotes Hassan I Sabbah: “Nothing is true, everything
is permitted,” at another he says, “The only performance that makes
it, that makes it all the way, is the one that achieves madness. Am
I right?” When Chas. flicks cigarette ash onto a rug, Turner says, “That
rug’s over a thousand years old.” Chas. answers, “Yeah, it looks it.”
This was Mick Jagger’s first dramatic role. He’d previously turned down
the part of Jerry Cornelius in Mike Moorcock’s ‘Final Programme.’ When
Warner Brothers studio heard that Donald Cammell had Jagger interested
in a film, they suggested he create a script which included both Jagger
and Marlon Brando.
Cammell wrote ‘The Liars’, about a Brooklyn gangster called Corelli who arrives in London and takes refuge with a reclusive rock star, Haskin, in the Earl’s Court area of London. Haskin’s girlfriend falls in love with Corelli and the trio go on a tour of London, picking up another girl called Pherber on the way. Corelli ends up sharing a bath with Pherber. When Brando rejected the part of Corelli, Cammell decided to re-write the script and replace the Brooklyn gangster with an East End mobster in what he described as “a poetic treatise on violence” and re-named it ‘Performance.’
part of Turner’s girlfriend Pherber was originally to be played by Tuesday
Weld, but her shoulder was accidentally broken during New Age therapy
treatment. Marianne Faithful was next considered for the part, but as
she was pregnant with Jagger’s child, her doctor advised her against
it. Anita Pallenberg was then approached. Pallenberg was also pregnant
with Keith Richards’ child, but as soon as she was offered the part
she had an abortion. Mia Farrow had been cast as Lucy, but she broke
her ankle just as she was about to fly out to England and the part was
given to Michele Breton.
Certain scenes were so sexually explicit that the developing lab refused to print them, regarding them as pornographic. Fifteen minutes of these edited scenes turned up at a ‘Wet Dreams Festival’ in 1970. Warner panicked when they saw the finished production.
With a film featuring Mick Jagger in his first film role they envisioned another ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ - what they got they considered a nightmare and its release was held up for two years. At a test screening in America in July 1969 one of the executives' wives threw up. There was nearly a riot in the cinema with the audience shouting ‘obscene’ and the studio had to refund the audience’s money. They insisted that the film be re-edited and further cuts should be made.
On hearing this, Jagger and Cammell sent a cable to Warner president Ted Ashley: “You seem to want to emasculate the most savage and most effective scenes in our movie. If ‘Performance’ does not upset audiences, it’s nothing. If this fact upsets you, the alternative is to sell it fast and no more bullshit.”
However, over the years it has gained a cult following and the general verdict is that it was a film made ahead of its time. For part of the props, John Lennon lent some of Apple’s recording equipment and also his Rolls Royce, which was used at the end when the gangsters take Chas away in it to his inevitable fate. When Chas originally arrived at Turner’s house he noticed two Mars bars which had been left by the milkman on the front step. This was a joke alluding to the incident at Keith Richard’s house when Marianne Faithfull had allegedly been caught naked, wrapped in a rug after Jagger had performed oral sex on her with a Mars bar. This is an apocryphal story, and there was also another one associated with the film. When Chas shoots Turner and the camera follows the bullet into his head, it was alleged that the sequence was done by inserting a microscopic camera into Pallenberg’s vagina. Cammell dispelled this rumour saying that the sequence was filmed at a Cancer Research Centre where a microscopic camera was shot into a cadaver’s tubing.
Donald Cammell committed suicide in 1996 by shooting himself in the head. He had studied the art of suicide for quite a while, learning about where the bullet should be aimed to provide not a painful death, but a pleasurable one. He remained conscious for 45 minutes before he died without experiencing any pain. After completing filming Mick, together with Marianne, Keith and Anita, left for South America to look for flying saucers. Marianne had had a miscarriage with Jagger’s child and, together with Anita and Keith, turned to heroin and spent years as an addict.
Mick and The Rolling Stones were to see the Sixties end with the horror
of their Altamont music festival. James Fox gave up acting for ten years
and became a Christian missionary. On her return to Paris, Michelle
Breton became a drug addict and had to have psychiatric care. The soundtrack
album issued by Warner Bros on 19th September 1970 was ahead of its
time, particularly with the introduction of rap by The Last Poets. It
was supervised by Jack Nitzsche and the tracks were:
Female vocalist Merry Clayton handles the tracks ‘Performance’, ‘Poor White Hound Dog’ and ‘Turner’s Murder’ while Jagger has his solo spot with ‘Memo From Turner’ and Buffy Saint Marie sings ‘Dyed, Dead, Red’ with rap introduced by The Last Poets with ‘Wake Up, Niggers.’