Photoplay – March 1980


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MacCORKINDALE – A MAN OF ACTION

If a new vogue should develop for the kind of swashbuckling movie that brought Errol Flynn to fame, nobody would be more delighted than Simon MacCorkindale. This handsome British actor, who has made his presence felt in Death On The Nile and Riddle of The Sands, consolidates his strength in the television’s Quatermass and the adventure epic Cabo Blanco.

Simon is perfectly capable of shinning up chains to great heights, and racing along girders, and he only gives place to stuntmen when his employers consider his feats so risky as to endanger his life and, consequently, the progress of the movie in hand.

This brand of caution has even made inroads upon his off-screen pleasures. “Rugby used to be my major sport,” Simon says. “But alas I’ve had to give it up. After playing on a Sunday, I tended to show up on the set on the Monday morning with black eyes, and that upset the producers no end.”

The man-of-action image is one he is happy to have. “It’s an area I like to work in. And also I believe that physical fitness is an essential part of mental fitness. I’m always rather surprised to come across the mental geniuses who in fact are physically in pretty poor shape. Personally I’m always at my most alert – and, dare I sat it, my most intelligent – when I’m feeling particularly fit.

That feeling is fairly constant for Simon, who makes up for the absence of rugby in his sporting life by playing lots of squash and tennis, swimming regularly, and taking long runs. Additionally, he builds up muscle by weight training.

There was a time, however, when Simon must of thought he had something in common with that weakling who figures in the “Before” part of those “Before and After” muscle-building ads. As a small boy, in Germany, he was attacked by a big dog. “And for years after that, I was petrified by dogs of any kind. If a dog came round a corner of the street, I’d hide behind my younger brother.”

“The dog that jumped on me was probably only trying to play, but, since I was just four or five, I didn’t understand that. It took me all of ten years to get over it.”

“From the time I was twelve, I’d be going around with a group that included some girls, who’d be playing quite happily with a dog while I was sweating and wondering if this thing was going to eat us all.”

“It was terribly embarrassing, of course. Even when I was as old as fifteen, I can remember that a poodle, of all dogs, started yapping at me – obviously sensing that I didn’t like it. And poodles, of course, make a lot of noise. Well, I literally crawled up the back of the big armchair I was sitting in, and started to scream, until somebody came and took the dog out.”

These tales are hard to believe as recounted by the strapping, confident fellow Simon is today. He didn’t overcome his fear by some superhuman force of will, though. “Suddenly I just lost it, and I don’t know why. But whereas once i would cross the street if i was alone and saw a dog coming, now if I pass an Alsatian I just pat it on the head, never stopping to think that it might bite my hand off.”

The hair-raising experience at an early age happened in Germany because Simon lived there for a time when his father, who was in the Royal Air Force, was stationed abroad.

Simon was born in England, of Scottish parents, but his father’s life ensured that he saw a good deal of the world. “in addition to Germany we lived for a time in Belgium, and that was a marvellous base to see Europe, so for holidays when I was a child we went to France, Italy, Spain, the lot.”

One benefit of this has been “a good head for languages. My French isn’t too bad and my German is passable. I only have about seven words in Russian, though, and about eight of Spanish and nine Italian, but i can pick up some more very quickly if the need arises. Enough to get by.”

The place he feels most at home is Scotland. He has lived there on occasion, among all his other temporary residences. And, of course, blood tells.

“I feel Scottish. I think perhaps I can be very dour sometimes, and that’s a Scottish thing. But i get excited, too, if I watch an event that involves Scotsmen. And whenever I leave England and cross the border, I fell different. I tell myself it’s silly, because this bit of the countryside looks very much the same as the bits of Cumberland and Northumbria I’ve just come out of – yet the feeling is different. It’s where I belong.”

Surprisingly, in view of all that, he doesn’t wear the kilt. “My father still wears one, and my mother wears hers quite often. But I don’t suppose I’d wear one often enough to justify the expense. Because to be properly dressed you need not only the kilt but the sporran too, which is quite a costly item, and a dress jacket which is unlike anything you would wear with anything else but the kilt, and the socks and the jabot and so forth.”

Nevertheless he almost splurged once, when he was getting married.

His wife Fiona Fullerton (of Alice In Wonderland and TV’s Angel’s). “I suppose I sprang it on her a bit unexpectedly. I said ‘I don’t want to wear a grey morning coat for the wedding. I’m going to wear a kilt.’ She said, ‘No, you don’t’.”

It was a minor disagreement, and Simon and Fiona are a happy pair. “We get variety within our work, which helps keep the variety and excitement in our marriage. Of course, we have problems like everybody else, but because we’re in the same line of work we understand the other’s problems. The important thing with marriage is that the chemistry should be right in the first instance; and if that is so, a career doesn’t get in the way of happiness.”


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