Film Review – December 1981

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Simon MacCorkindaleI Don’t Wait For The Phone To Ring

Says Simon MacCorkindale who believes in making things happen himself. And happening they are – in America.

Simon MacCorkindale breezed into the London hotel where we’d arranged to meet. He was dressed in a navy blazer, open-neck shirt and pale blue trousers, apparently oblivious to the cold and rain outside.

He hadn’t eaten lunch that day and, as he tucked into a large plate of sandwiches, I remarked that British film producers have so far neglected to offer him the type of leading parts his talents and virile image obviously demand. A couple of years ago he starred in EMI’s Death on the Nile and Rank’s The Riddle of the Sands, since when he has spent more time in America in pur­suit of his movie career than at home. In the USA he has made Cabo Blanco with Charles Bronson which is still awaiting release in this country even though it opened to good business in America, and when I met him he was preparing to go back there to appear in The Sword and the Sorcerer with David Soul and George Maharis. “Frankly, I’m the archetypal English­man,” he told me (although he’s actually a Scot). “I’d like to broaden the spectrum and get more variety. In films today there are very few parts like those David Niven [another Scot] used to play.”

With his good looks, a moustache that gives him a devil-may-care appearance, and a strong physique, Simon is the type that at one time would have been very much in demand by film makers. He is hoping that The Sword and the Sorcerer will give his career the boost it deserves.

“It’s a tale of witchcraft set somewhere in the age of knights and barbarians,” he told me. There’s plenty of blood and action in the Excalibur mould. I play the hero, Prince Mikah. Although he is hanged in chains and tortured, he still survives all to win the crown of the kingdom. The producer, Brandon Chase, gave me the part after seeing me in Death on the Nile. The director is Albert Pyun, an American who worked with Japan’s great director Kurosawa for several

Simon MacCorkindale as Arthur Davis in Riddle Of The SandsSimon is so busy on the other side of the Atlantic that he moved his base to Holly­wood almost a year ago. On tv he has played a French cavalier, complete with beard and moustache, in “Paradise Island”. He was more recognisable – clean-shaved, in fact – in “An Outpost of Progress”, a combination of two short stories by Joseph Conrad. In it he plays a highly moral man at the turn of the century who goes off to the Congo to trade with the natives but loses his reason in the process. Simon made his stage directing debut in Los Angeles with “The Merchant of Venice” and toured in the one-man show “The Importance of Being Oscar”, a tribute to Oscar Wilde.

I was meeting Simon during one of his frequent transatlantic trips to London for discussions with Pendant Entertainment Productions, the company he runs with his brother Duncan and fellow-thespian Gareth Thomas. Pendant is currently handling as many as 18 projects which Simon is either commissioning, developing or writing.

“With all this coming and going,” he said, “that’s not why I’m looking as sun-tanned as I might even though I’m based in California. I’m spending time on the typewriter rather than on the beach. But I manage to keep fairly athletic and in good shape,” he added. “I love rugby but it’s not a game for actors. I rarely play these days. If you get injured playing it, you could hold up a whole film or tv series.”

Although not injured in real life, most of the characters he’s played have had nasty accidents at some point. “Last year,” he told me, “I was killed and beheaded in ‘Macbeth’ which I did at the Ludlow Festival. In Death on the Nile I was shot in the leg and later killed. In The Riddle of the Sands my hand was bandaged throughout the picture. In Cabo Blanco, which you won’t have seen yet, I’m shot in the shoulder. And it’s much the same in television. In the ‘Quatermass’ serial I suffered a heavy blow and went around with a bandaged head before dying from gun wounds. In ‘The Gayden Chroni­cles’ I get hanged. And in ‘The Manions of America’ I’m shot in the shoulder.

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on The NileI reassured Simon that I’d never seen anyone looking so fit after all the mishaps that had befallen him on stage and screen. “The Manions of America” is a multi-million tv serial with a large cast including David Soul, Kate Mulgrew, Nicky Henson, Steve Forrest, Barbara Parkins, Anthony Quayle and Peter Gilmore.

“The action covers a span of thirty years beginning in 1847,” Simon told me. “I play a lieutenant in the Royal Hussars on detach­ment to Ireland. I have this pistol duel with David Soul in which he wounds me in the shoulder. I prefer swordfighting with rapier or foils. You must never lose eye contact during a sword fight, which is something I had to remember when playing Macbeth on stage last year.”

Simon was educated at Haileybury public school. “I was in the Cadet Force and discovered I had the ability to be a leader of men. I wasn’t good at dancing or singing or paint­ing but I became vice-captain of the rugby team and head boy of the school.

“I used to get very frustrated with boys who wouldn’t train properly for rugby. They just couldn’t be bothered to make the effort. I was so incensed at seeing all that potential talent going to waste. My academic work wasn’t all that marvellous, but for my own self-respect I worked hard at it, feeling I owed it to myself to make an attempt to meet the world head on.

“I believe you must always keep busy and not sit down and moan about things. Last year I lost a part in Ricochet, a film to be made in Zululand with John Mills, but I didn’t fret. I knew something else would turn up. I don’t wait around for the phone to ring. I believe in making things happen.” With things now happening for him in America, Simon stands a good chance of his career taking off at last.

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