10 Minutes with Phil Daniels

Best known for being the hero of legendary mod flick Quadrophenia,

Best known for being the hero of legendary mod flick Quadrophenia, 'geezer' icon Phil Daniels has only just got his bike licence...

So, you're appearing in Freebird, the first British biker movie. What's it about?

Well, it's a bit of a mad comedy about a group of three motorcycle couriers who decide to spend the weekend in Wales after picking up a load of marijuana which they're planning to bring back to a friend in London (played by Peter Bowles of To The Manor Born fame). Anyway, it doesn't quite go according to plan and they find themselves in the middle of a battle between two motorcycle gangs, the Wessex Bikers and the Welsh Bikers. Then lots of mad things happen concerning drugs. Mushrooms, dope, all sorts. It becomes a bit of a free-for-all, really. It all ends happily though.
It's not like an Easy Rider set in the Brecon Beacons. We don't get our heads blown off or anything like that. It's light-hearted.

Tell us about Grouch, your character in the movie.

He's just an old bike courier who likes his drugs. Mushrooms, dope, everything.

I notice in the film that you and your courier buddies ride your bikes while under the influence of magic mushrooms. That's not very responsible, is it?

Well, it's just a comedy, isn't it? You can't take that kind of thing seriously.

Have you ever ridden a bike under the influence of drugs for real, then?

F**k off.

So, did you hang out with scabby couriers to get a feel for playing the character?

No. My research was based on some I knew in the past who I used to get drunk with. I didn't consult them though. I just sort of remembered my time with them.

You play one of three couriers. What kind of machines got the biking star roles?

We've got a knackered 1996 Kawasaki GT550 and a streetfighter-style '99 Bandit. I ride a '78 Moto Guzzi T3 California which the producer bought on eBay for £1500. It's a great bike and I love it but it keeps breaking down. We've had a mechanic on permanent standby for the past couple of weeks. The bloody thing is eating through the budget.

You look like you're pretty much at home on the Guzzi in the film. How long have you been riding?

I've been riding since I was about 17. Just little 50cc bikes and 125s, though. When I was a kid you could ride them without a licence. And I've got a Peugeot scooter now that I use to get around town. I've never had a proper bike though, as I only passed my test just before filming on this movie began, believe it or not. So I've had my licence for seven weeks. The test was bloody hard. I did one of those five-day courses with the test at the end. The U-turn was a real bugger. So the Guzzi is the first proper bike I've ever ridden.

That's a surprise. So how are you enjoying riding it?

Oh, it's great. I'm really getting into it. Bigger bikes are kind of easier for me than riding smaller ones. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that I don't have a crash. As far as me riding the Guzzi in Freebird, I hope it upsets all the mods out there.

Did you do all the riding in the film or was it done by stand-ins?

I did all of it. But bear in mind that the bikes were trucked down to Wales, where we shot the film. So I've only ridden about 30 miles in total for the duration of filming so far.

Are you going to be tempted into big bike ownership?

Oh yeah. I'll have to get myself some kind of GSX-R Superbusa or something. I don't know that much about them yet. But I'm sure I soon will. Something big. Or I might just get a trials bike. I don't know yet.
You're obviously very well-known for your role in Quadrophenia. Were you really into scooters and the mod scene?
Nah. The scooter I've got now, the Peugeot, is the first one I've ever had. I was never really into them. I just use it as a way of
getting from A to B as quickly as possible. I could have had loads of scooters after doing that film but I just didn't want one. I had a lot of little Hondas, the odd trials bike as well. I was never a mod.

Do you think the hardcore Quadrophenia devotees will be disappointed to see you on a bike rather than a scooter?

They can think what they fucking like. It's a good film, but life moves on. I wasn't a mod or a rocker. I was a 'mocker'. There was a bit of a mod revival after the film came out, but I was never involved.

Whatever happened to the scooter that was used by Jimmy in the film?

I don't know. It wasn't mine. It was someone else's. I let him keep it.

The big question: did Jimmy die after going over the cliff in Quadrophenia?

No! Everyone knows he didn't. Watch the film. The very first shot is of Jimmy walking back from the cliff. I know there's this school of thought that says he died, but he didn't. You've just got to pay attention at the beginning.

Join the conversation!

Let us know what you think, just sign up for a free account, leave a comment and get involved!
Register Now