On September 19 1982, a strange assortment of individuals invaded a north Dallas jack in the Box. Carrying cassette recorders, cameras, notebooks and assorted personal paraphernalia, they all gathered attentively around a good-looking man in the corner by the window.
Nursing a very large cup of Jack in the Box coffee, this man seemed perfectly ordinary to the casual observer. He was wearing a blue and white stripped T-shirt, dark blue jeans, and he sported a several days growth of beard. So what was all the commotion about?
To those of us who were seated there, this was no ordinary gathering of friends. For amidst us few fortunates that day was one of renown, none other that Simon MacCorkindale, star of stage, screen and TV; and we were conducting the very first official meeting of the Simon MacCorkindale Fan Club.
Simon had graciously taken time from his busy schedule (directing “SLEUTH” at Granny’s Dinner Theater) to meet with us, and for the next hour and a half we were alternatively impressed, enraptured and amused, as our guest of honor sipped his coffee and answered every question we could think of, while giving us an exclusive taped interview. we were delighted with his openness, and captivated by his wonderful ability to put things into words. So here for your enjoyment is part 1 of that very special interview.
LP: Tell us a little bit about your background, Simon. Where did you grow up?
SM: A very good questions! My father was in the Air Force, so I was born in a little town called Ely, in Cambridge, grew up all over England basically. I think my mother had something like 21 homes in the first 17 years of marriage, in which I came along in year two, so I must have had something in the much the same order.
We lived in Scotland for awhile. We lived in Germany for awhile, and then when I was about 16 we lived in Belgium for three years. During that time we traveled all over the length and breadth of England, and I got to go to Malta and Cypress and pretty much all over Europe.
I went to two schools, main schools, obviously not counting the ones when I was pre-school age. At eight I went to a place called Orley Farm school, which was in London, and I was there for five years. And then I went to Haileybury College, which is in Hertfordshire, about an hour and half north of London, and I was there for another five years – – ten years of boarding school.
LP: Ten years of boarding school. Where did you learn to ride horses so well, like you did in “THE MANIONS” and other films?
SM: Where did I learn to ride horses so well? Well, I cheated a little bit. When I had been in the business for about a year I think, I was called by my agent who asked me whether I rode a horse, because there was a job for me with the BBC to do a play, in which they were going to do most of it in the studio, but a little tiny piece on film, and I had to ride.
So I said, “Yeah, of course I ride!” Well – I had declined riding lessons as a child, thinking that was a sissy thing, that’s what girls did. At that point I finally thought, “My God, I wish I’d been a girl!”
I then, in fact, was living at the time, right next door to a farm, and we did know very cordially, the lady who ran the farm. So I quickly went next doors and said, “Please, can I have riding lessons – Fast!” So she chunted me round the field about five times – I couldn’t walk for a week – got down to the location to film, and the produced for me a big Hunter, that had not actually been out of the stable for several weeks, least of all had a really good gallop!
LP: More mayhem!
SM: Bloody nearly more mayhem! As soon as we got there they decided that they would try and do the simple stuff, the ride-ups and all that kind of thing. Of course this horse just wanted to run, and that was a bitch, but we managed to get through it. Then we got into the galloping stuff and it was amazing, because we were off like the wind. I came away with chucks of mane in my right hand – knees aching! We got through the sequence, and in fact it ended up looking quite respectable. People thought that I was a rider!
Then after that, I really didn’t again, do very much. I went out a few times whenever I got the opportunity, and it wasn’t again, until “DEATH ON THE NILE” that I got asked to do it again at all seriously. And I then took some lessons, some proper lessons in an equestrian school, that EMI, who made the film, paid for. And I also got some more practice through some friends, and went out there.
Of course, there, this time, we were dealing with little Arabian stallions, which are much smaller that the English horses. You can virtually put your legs underneath and cross them over. They’re really quite little, but they’re very feisty. Fortunately, the stunt people on that were very good, and they knew how to teach people to ride really quickly to make them look good on film. I just obviously took to it quite well cause it all worked out fine, providing the horses I had to handle weren’t too overly excitable, and they managed to find me good horses.
That ended it again for just a bit on and off, finally getting “MANIONS”. The again we went a week early and rode for a whole week prior to starting the film, and I had a fabulous horse. She was an absolutely gorgeous horse, a joy to ride, and the combination of that and what I’ve done before helped me a lot. I’ve ridden again only a few times since, and I love it. It’s just one of those things you don’t get around to doing too often.
LP: You like animals then?
LP: Do you have any pets at home?
SM: I do, I have two cats, but I’m about to get rid of them. They are a bit of a nuisance.
LP: They’re a bit of a nuisance?
SM: Well, I’m away for about six months of the year, and it just means that someone’s got to come in to feed them, etc, and I don’t like leaving them on their own.
LP: Do you have a housekeeper or someone who keeps your house while you are gone?
SM: I have somebody who comes in once a week, and I have a secretary who come in, and will be coming in now much more frequently. But I think it’s not fair to ask her to have to do that, particularly since they are outdoor cats and they tend to leave presents all over the house, and she’s a little squeamish.
One time she’d been away for four days, and she came back and the place was just a mess! She thinks they’d gotten a hold of a rabbit or squirrel or something, as well as a couple of birds, and I mean, this was like mayhem – again. So I think I’ve decided that I’m going to try to get rid of them if I can. It’s not very good having a pet when you travel too much. It’s not fair on them, and it’s not fair on your friends either.
LP: You attended drama school at Studio ’68 in London. How old were you then? Was it after college?
SM: It was after I finished at my public school which was Haileybury College. And instead of going to college, (I finished there at 18 1/2), so instead of going to college, I went to drama school. I went when I was 19 1/2 and stayed there for one year, at the end of which I did a show with some professional actors, one of who, was an elderly actress who introduced me to her agent who liked what I did in the show, and suggested that I came out of the drama school and finish my training actually in the business, which is what I decided to do.
LP: So you went ahead and went professional after that?
SM: Yeah, I came out of drama school. That was in 1972 I came out, and for six months I went around doing auditions and meeting people, doing photographs and all that kind of stuff, and I got my first job on my 21st birthday in 1973. I did the audition on my 21st birthday and actually did the job the day after. It was a one day commercial. And then about two days after that I got an assignment to go to Coventry Rep. for four months, and that was the start.
LP: Did you do any other kind of jobs beside acting?
SM: While I was waiting, between the period of leaving drama school and going to do the commercial and subsequently Coventry Rep. I did work for an estate agent, which is a realtor, in York.
LP: You sold real estate?
SM: I wasn’t on the selling side. I was on the management side. The company owned a lot of properties which they rented out and I went in to go talk to the tenants and that sort of thing, to make sure their hot water was working.
LP: You are a handy man, it said in your biography. So you fixed their hot water?
SM: Yeah, sometimes, or I just got the plumber in. I’d always done handy kind of things, decorating etc. And about a year and a half later when I hit a slightly quieter period, I did go back to literally decorating houses. So that was what I used to to if ever I needed an occasional penny.
Sometimes even if I didn’t, if someone just called and said we’re decorating a house, will you go along. So I’d go along and help, and earn a little bit on the side to augment my income. Fortunately I have done it only to my own house since.
Diana: My apartment needs some help!
SM: You’re on your own, kiddo!
Continued next issue