Simon MacCorkindale and Lois Chiles, who play husband and wife in the new blockbuster film Death on the Nile, specially featured in Monday’s Clapperboard, talk about the shattering experience of working alongside the greatest names of the cinema
Simon MacCorkindale has been told many times to change his name. It’s unwieldy, hard to remember and won’t look good in lights, are some of the arguments he’s heard and rejected.
No one has ever suggested that he change his face. It’s literally his fortune in Death on the Nile. MacCorkindale, however, is less convinced about his appeal.
“I look at myself on the screen and I’m never totally happy with the result, but I think that’s true of most actors. If there’s a quality in me that people happen to like, I’d be the last to know. The day I saw it, I’d probably lose it through sheer self-consciousness.”
The son of a Group Captain, MacCorkindale looked set for a career in the Services. But he kicked against convention and persuaded his parents—”with difficulty”—to invest in his drama training.
“I’d been mucking about with the theatre since I was a kid, getting involved with stage management and direction at school. I decided to go to drama school to learn to act so that I could be a better director; that was my real aim.”
But his early days at drama school were depressing. “I was thoroughly miserable. All the other students were more extrovert than I. I’d never dressed up in a leotard before or done a movement class. I was like a fish out of water.”
It wasn’t long, however, before he had conquered his early inhibitions so convincingly that he played Shakespeare in The Dark Lady of the Sonnets and discovered he’d developed a love for acting. He won television roles in I, Claudius, Within These Walls and Jesus of Nazareth and after Death on the Nile he is due to play a radio astronomer in the new Quatermass TV series due on screen next year.
The star line-up in Death on the Nile might have made some young actors hand in their Equity cards, but the 26-year-old MacCorkindale found it an impressive experience.
“They were all marvellously encouraging. They were all people I’d admired for years and in every way lived up to my expectations. There were no ‘egos’ or temperaments. Bette Davis would occasionally watch a scene I was in and tell me if she thought it was good. She was so professional and disciplined. If Bette Davis turns up for a scene 10 minutes early, then that must be the way to behave. I didn’t find the discipline of a film set difficult, probably because of my upbringing.”
There’s certainly a touch of class about MacCorkindale, an aura of “tea at the Ritz”. It’s no great effort to imagine him tossing his coat across a puddle or offering a seat to a lady. He admits he likes doing things the “right way”.
When he met the girl he wanted to marry, actress Fiona Fullerton, it never even occurred to him to dash for the nearest register office. They courted, became engaged and were married in the chapel of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
“Because my father has an O.B.E. we were able to marry there. I wanted the tradition and ceremony as much as the family. I enjoyed every minute of it.”