You can only find it as a dodgy bootleg on YouTube, because paedophile Gary Glitter’s appearance in 1997′s ‘Spice World’ was cut before the film was released. Here, we talk to the movie’s producer Barnaby Thompson and its editor Andrea MacArthur about what really happened behind-the-scenes.
How Glitter’s appearance came about
“The whole idea was the movie would be quite post-modern and have lots of pop cultural references and have it be clear the girls were not taking themselves too seriously,” remembers producer Barnaby Thompson, thinking back to a lunch he had with Simon Fuller on 1 November 1996 to talk about a possible Spice Girls movie. “Gary Glitter seemed to be perfect fit for all that.”
With a minimal plot based around preparations for the group’s biggest live gig at London’s Albert Hall, the goal was to release the film the following Christmas – a tight production schedule – and feature a series of songs performed by the band as well as a host of celebrity cameos.
“We almost got Tony Blair,” says Thompson. “We had this sequence where it started off outside Number 10 and Tony Blair came out very seriously in front of the press corps and said something like, “I’ve given it a lot of thought and I’ve decided my favourite Spice Girl is…” And that was going to be the start of the movie. [But] he was Prime Minister and he felt he couldn’t do it.”
The Glitter scene itself
One of the tunes chosen for the movie was the star’s hit ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang (I Am!)’, which the girls sing on an amphitheatre-style stage during a concert in Italy, surrounded by backing dancers in assless purple chaps. The finale of the song featured Glitter in full gold costume, emerging from behind the band to lap up the applause.
“It’s a great song and it had a great kitsch value to it,” says Thompson now.
In bootleg backstage footage from the shoot, you can see Glitter (whose real name is Paul Gadd) joking around with Victoria Beckham calling himself ‘the leader’, while in a press interview (shot during filming), Mel C tells the interviewer, “It’s just like history doing that song, do you know what I mean?”
The sequence was completed and the film was delivered to the studio at the start of November 1997, almost a year to the day since its inception.
Then two weeks later, Glitter was arrested after technicians fixing his computer at a Bristol branch of PC World found 4000 indecent images of children on his hard disk.
What happened next
Editor Andrea MacArthur remembers receiving a call.
“It was like, ‘hey Andrea, guess what?’ And I’m like, ‘I guessed, don’t you worry,’” she says. “It just seemed like, what else is going to happen?”
Glitter’s appearance was cut, though the song remained in the film. “It was pretty obvious he would have to go,” she says. “I believe there might have been [discussion about removing the song in its entirety]…[but] I think that would have had knock-on effects in other areas. We found we could just remove him rather neatly without knowing he was ever there.”
Thompson remembers the arrest being a particularly big deal, coming years before the public grew more accustomed to the uncovering of historic child abuse by celebrities in the wake of Jimmy Savile and others. The producer – who did have a brief but unmemorable meeting with Glitter on-set – recalls the dilemma was the singer had been arrested but not yet charged or convicted, so as such was presumed innocent. Nevertheless, it was vital to future-proof the movie.
“I think in the end we thought it was enough to excise him,” he says.
There were also problems because Princess Diana and Versace jokes originally appeared in the film too
Intriguingly, the appearance of Gary Glitter wasn’t the only thorny issue the filmmakers had to deal with in post-production. Gianni Versace was murdered on 15 July 1997, while Princess Diana followed on 31 August – both of whom had jokes made about them in the film.
“It just seemed like, ‘what else is going to happen?’” recalls editor Andrea MacArthur, who was tasked with cutting both gags out. “Then the whole Gary Glitter thing exploded, so there were a few chunks missing.”
Thompson admits it’s the reason Elton John’s cameo is so brief – the Diana and Versace mentions both came during his scenes.
On 12 November 1999, Gary Glitter was jailed for four months after pleading guilty to 54 counts of downloading child pornography and was placed on the sex offenders’ register. He was also cleared of sexually assaulting an underage fan during the 1970s.
He subsequently fled abroad, where he was convicted in 2006 of underage sexual offences in Vietnam and imprisoned there.
On 27 February 2015 at Southwark Crown Court in London, he was sentenced to a further 16 years for sexually abusing three young girls between 1975 and 1980.
‘Spice World’ came out on Boxing Day 1997, making £53million worldwide.
Image credits: Rex_Shutterstock, Columbia Pictures