Forty years ago, Cannes awarded Terence Stamp the best actor prize for “The Collector.” Just one thing spoiled the occasion for the London-born thesp. He wasn’t in Cannes. “They couldn’t get me on a flight in time to collect the award,” he recalls, with a rye smile. “So they mailed it to me.”

He did get to Cannes though with “The Hit,” “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “The Limey,” and this year he is here with “These Foolish Things,” a $10 million drama by debuting helmer Julia Taylor-Stanley that screens today.

“It gets more frantic every time I come,” he comments. “What I enjoy doing is spending time with the other artists here, but it is just too busy.”

Although Taylor-Stanley had not directed before, Stamp says he had no hesitation in taking the part. “She has such a good energy that I knew she would be fine,” he says.

The journey to Cannes for Taylor-Stanley’s movie, which she describes as “the little movie that could,” has been a long one — nine years working on the script. Despite the long gestation, the support of the pic’s backers, lead by London jeweler Nigel Milne, and producer Paul Sarony (associate producer on “Mrs. Brown”), has never wavered. “People have a tendency to stick by me,” she says. Storm Entertainment is selling international rights on the pic.

Taylor-Stanley is now working on a $20 million pic about Chicago blues musicians, “Nothing But the Blues,” with producer Lynn Hendee (“Country of My Skull”). The pic shoots in Chicago and London’s Pinewood next year.

“These Foolish Things,” set in the world of the London stage in the 1930s, stars an ensemble of young British talent, including Leo Bill (“Vera Drake”) and Mark Umbers (“Color Me Kubrick”), backed up by established names like Lauren Bacall, Anjelica Huston and Stamp.

Stamp plays an insouciant butler who knows it all. “What intrigued me about the part,” he says, “was that he is not so much a butler as an actor playing a butler. He is all-things to all people.”

The threat of war hangs over the characters in the play. “I was drawn to the idea of men about to go away to war,” says Stamp. “I remember my dad going off to join the navy when the war started. The memory is tattooed on my mind.”