We’ve looked into the riddle of Simon’s career and now it’s easy to see why his popularity is on the up and up and success is following success.
Simon MacCorkindale admitted cheerfully that he quite like Arthur Davies, the character he plays in his new film, The Riddle Of The Sands. In the film, Simon shares the honours with Michael York and Jenny Agutter and the result is a stylish thriller set in 1901, in which two splendid, young Englishmen manage to foil a dastardly German plot for the invasion of Britain.
Before this, you might have seen Simon in Death On The Nile, in which he played another stiff-upper-lip Englishman or on TV, where he has had a variety of parts, including a Roman centurion in the epic programme Jesus Of Nazareth. “I don’t intend to allow myself to get type-cast, though it could happen,” said Simon. “I’d like to do a few more physical, swashbuckling roles and it would be great to play a real villain.” Simon thinks that there is a trend towards more family entertainment in the cinema at the moment and it’s something he welcomes. “I’m sure films like Star Wars were so popular because they appealed to the whole family,” he said. “People like to go to the movies as a family, but it’s so long since they were able to! If The Riddle Of The Sands is as successful as we hope it will be, it could be a blue-print for a few more films of that type. It’s pure escapist entertainment.” All the same, Simon does believe that there’s a place for more serious films with a message. “The cinema has two functions, I think,” he said. “One is to provide entertainment and the other is to reflect real life, so something like Midnight Express is every bit as valid. Both kinds of films have their place in the cinema.” Any film like The Riddle Of The Sands always looks like great fun to make, so I asked Simon how he and his co-stars coped with all the sailing involved. “I loved being on location and playing around with the boats!” he smiled. “I had done a little bit of sailing before and I’d always wanted to have a proper go! Jenny Agutter and I went on a week’s course at Cowes to learn how to do it properly. She mastered it a lot more quickly than I did; I nearly capsized the thing !” In the autumn, we’ll be seeing Simon on TV as he stars in a version of the Fifties sci-fi serial, Quatermass. He has also made a film with Charles Bronson.
“It was another action-adventure film and I played a clean-shaven Englishman — just the kind of part I’d like to get away from!” he said. “However, when American companies, as this was, employ an English actor, they expect him to play a real Englishman !” Although Simon enjoyed filming in Mexico, where that particular movie was made, he says he wouldn’t want to live in Hollywood as many British actors and actresses do. “There’s not that much work for the British in Hollywood, unless you play character parts,” he said. “Besides, I like it here!” Simon has also been a keen rugby player ever since he was at school and wouldn’t want to give it up! “I play as often as I can, though it can be difficult when I’m filming,” he said, with a grin. “If I turn up for work with a black eye or a limp, the director isn’t too pleased! I play cricket in the summer, and I like to swim and run and play squash, too.” Simon lives in West London with his wife, actress Fiona Fullerton, who was one of the stars of the TV series Angels. I asked Simon if he thought there were any difficulties in being married to someone with the same career.
“In some ways, I think it helps that we both have the same career, especially as it’s something so different with so many extraordinary pressures. We do understand each others’ problems. “If Fiona had a nine-to-five job, she’d be stuck at home when I was away filming. Being an actress, she can take holidays when she likes, which means that if I’m working abroad, she can come and join me for a week or two. Of course, it’s also possible that we’ll both be working thousands of miles apart, but that’s the way it goes, I’m afraid!”
An actor’s world is notoriously insecure and, as Simon pointed out, when he finishes a film or TV play, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be offered another part! “Even really great actors have their bad patches,” he said. “I had a period of struggle when I started out, as I’m sure everyone does. If I did six months’ work in a year, it counted as a good year!”
Despite the problems, Simon loves his work and sympathises with actors and actresses just starting out. “Everyone believes that they are going to be one of the lucky ones who never has to struggle,” he said. “At school, an actor, who was also an ‘old boy’, gave us a talk and it was so depressing! But everyone knows what the glamorous side of films is like, so young hopefuls should be made aware of the rough side, too. It’s crazy to neglect your studies – it’s important to have something to fall back on.” Simon feels that British actors are the best in the world, particularly in the classical theatre. “I believe that the Americans handle film acting better than we do,” he said, “but they don’t seem to have quite the training or discipline that we do! The theatre isn’t just a glamour industry — it’s a very dedicated business, too!”