Terence Stamp and health foods

He glides across the breakfast room of the Savoy hotel, as if on casters. His skin is brown and buttery and his suit is soft-coloured corduroy. He wears a creamy knitted tie. And though the features are more crumpled, and his hair a little thinner, those are still, unmistakably, the well-hewn cheekbones of Terence Stamp.

"Now listen," he says, and his eyes are sharp little pebbles. "I've only got till one". He removes two sachets of green tea from his rucksack, summons the waiter with a flick of the wrist, and requests a pot of hot water.

Famous for roles in Billy Budd, The Collector, and, more recently, The Limey and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Stamp was one of the most recognisable faces of 60s London. He dated, among others, Jean Shrimpton, Brigitte Bardot and Julie Christie, and hung out with Peter Ustinov and Michael Caine. He worked with Fellini, appeared in Superman II and spent a lengthy sabbatical in India.

In 1994, with his friend Elizabeth Buxton, he launched the Stamp Collection, a range of foods for people who, like Stamp, are intolerant to wheat and cow's milk. Thus far, the range includes everything from organic, wheat-free loaves to spaghetti - via sheep's milk cheese and even a chocolate Santa Claus.

An estimated 5.5m people suffer from dairy intolerance in Britain, where 6m-15m people are also intolerant to wheat. Intolerances occur when the body finds it difficult to digest certain foods and a reaction occurs. In the case of lactose intolerance, the body is unable to break down the sugar lactose, because of a lack of the enzyme lactase. Instead, the intestine will break down the lactose using bacterial fermentation, which has certain side effects. Symptoms vary, but may include headaches, bloating, nausea and dark circles under the eyes.

It was in the late 60s that Stamp discovered his intolerances. Raised on a diet of bread and marge, and eating wheat at least three times a day, he had begun to suffer severe stomach pains and duodenal ulcers. "I diagnosed it myself," he says. "I must have read about it somewhere. I put myself on what they call an exclusion diet, where I ate brown rice for like . . . a month, and then introduced foods one at a time. It just became apparent that the bad boys were wheat and dairy."

He tried conventional medicine. The doctors gave him all sorts of diet charts. He was told to eat nothing with pips in it. Some gave him tablets that tasted "as though they were made out of dust from red bricks". One specialist prescribed petit beurre biscuits and milk every few minutes. Unsurprisingly, they didn't help.

"Eating wheat was like swallowing glue," he says. In restaurants he would quiz the waiter about the menu, asking whether there was any butter in this dish, or cream in the other. It's hard to imagine the young, golden-haired Stamp, out on the town with some young lovely on his arm, worrying about whether to have the soup. "I didn't talk about it much, to be honest. As long as they're enjoying what they're eating, people don't tend to notice what you're eating."

Stamp met Buxton through a somewhat convoluted route. His physiotherapist, upon hearing that he hadn't eaten cake or chocolate for almost 15 years, declared: "I bet Poppy Buxton could make you a cake." Poppy was the daughter of a friend, and seemingly a child prodigy in the world of baking. She called him up and recorded a long list of all the things he could and couldn't eat. Some time elapsed. He had almost forgotten about Poppy and the cake. And then one day he received a phone call: "Hello, this is Poppy Buxton. Your cake's ready." It was decided that Stamp should call to collect the cake after Poppy had finished school that day. "I went to the house, and this nine-year-old Grace Kelly answered the door. And that's how I met Elizabeth, Poppy's mother."

Together, Stamp and Buxton set about trying to create intolerance-friendly recipes. "If you can crack bread, it's like the holy grail," Stamp told her. "I used to love to bake bread," he says. "I tried for 15 years, on and off, to make a bread I could eat. I'd have taste-fantasy memories when I walked past shops which baked their own bread." Buxton went out and bought every kind of grain she could and, after much trial and error, finally produced a wheatless loaf.

The range has been a great success. There are plans afoot to introduce pizzas, and they've been talking to sheep and goat farmers about developing an ice cream. Their aim is that such products should not be seen as a luxury, so they are stocked on the shelves of high-street supermarkets, not just in delicatessens and health-food stores. They do look special, however, with their silver wrapping and muted colours. "There isn't a great deal of thought given to style in modern Britain," Stamp says, sorrowfully. "Look at the modern buses, for example. The Routemasters, at least, used to have a certain style about them. We tried to produce packaging which would reflect the product inside."

His favourite food is Alfonso mangos. Stamp once told an interviewer that he liked to eat them in the bath. "Eating a mango is like having sex," he said. "It has to be dirty to be good."

"What's your favourite food?" I ask.

"I'm very fond of the Alfonso mango," he replies.

"Why?" There is a pause. I sit in the late-morning bustle of the Savoy and wait - as waiters flutter by flourishing trays of hot tea - for Terence Stamp to tell me about dirty sex and eating mangos in the bath. "Because I always say unless you've had an Alfonso mango you've never had a mango."

Stamp goes on to tell me about his most recent discovery, the durian. "It's a big fruit, it's got sort of spikes on it, and it has such an overpowering, pungent smell that it's not allowed on aeroplanes."

The durian is native to south-east Asia, he says, where they have Durian men who stand brushing the outside of the fruit with a hard-bristled hairbrush. Stamp first tasted one in Singapore. "Once I got it into my mouth, I found it was like a sort of sachet of cream, with a stone in the middle - a combination of the first ice cream I ever had after the war, and... toffee."

These days his regime isn't so rigorous, though he is a fan of yoga and Pilates, and he doesn't eat lunch. He spends a lot of time flitting between time zones, falling in love with each new place he visits - Australia, Vancouver, San Francisco. He gave up his house in London some time ago. "I am," he declares, somewhat gleefully, "temporarily homeless." Generally he rises at six or seven and does his breathing exercises. At the Savoy, he says, he falls out of bed and goes to the steam bath. "But I'm a movie actor. I've had to educate myself to be a morning person."

Stamp is one of those infuriatingly viceless people. He sips his green tea, ignoring the chocolate biscuits at his elbow. "I'm quite addicted to coffee," he confesses, "though I try to confine myself to one cup of very good coffee a day." Furthermore, he is a great advocate of "listening to your own body". "If you are suffering, and conventional medicine can't fix you, there's nothing wrong with abstaining from wheat and dairy for a short while," he says. "At 27, it was a revelation to me. It just hadn't occurred to me that I could be my own physician."

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.