Film Review – January 1984

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Simon MacCorkindale as Philip FitzRoyce in Jaws 3LIFE’S FAR FROM SIMPLE FOR SIMON

IAIN F. McASH interviews SIMON MacCORKINDALE, a star of ‘JAWS 3-D’, who hasn’t stopped working since he went to Hollywood three years ago

Husky British actor Simon MacCorkindale denies he has any affinity for sharks, yet admits that the voracious creatures have loomed large in his flourishing career these past twelve months.

He stars in Jaws 3-D which opens in Britain in time for Christmas, and he has the name part in a new American tv series called “Manimal” as a crime-busting professor with the advantage of being able to catch the bad guys by transforming himself at will into a panther, snake, bird – or even a shark!

I have known Simon for six years, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he would be cast as anything but he-man heroes.

Simon, 31, has never stopped working since moving his base of operations from London to Los Angeles three years ago. When he was in London recently for business discussions, I caught up with him to get the lowdown on his latest activities, starting with the shark movie.

“It has the same elements for success as its predecessors,” he told me, “except that it’s not set in Amity. It takes place in an underwater marine complex at Orlando, Florida. I play a photographer sent to get film footage on the new complex. The guy who runs it is played by Louis Gossett Jr who was the drill instructor in An Officer and a Gentleman. Also in the cast are Dennis Quaid and Bess Armstrong. A white shark escapes from the sea and gets into the complex.”

Simon MacCorkindale as Philip FitzRoyce in Jaws 3Although he’s a strong swimmer, Simon ends up as a meal for the 35-foot shark.

“I had a lot of underwater sequences,” he told me. “Filming in 3-D doesn’t make any difference from an actor’s point of view except that it’s slower and we had to re-shoot a couple of scenes for technical reasons. The film was directed by Joe Alves who was art director on the two previous Jaws films and on Spielberg’s Close Encounters, so he knows the background.

“I also played a photographer in ‘Falcon’s Gold’, the first feature film made for cable tv, which has already been shown seven times in the States. It’s a Raiders of the Lost Ark type story shot on location in Mexico, where I made Cabo Blanco with Charles Bronson about four years ago.”

Simon runs his own production company which at present has several film projects in active preparation.

“I’m Los Angeles based now,” he told me, “and my London firm is dormant. I live in California because Englishmen are in short supply there, but I wouldn’t recommend the place for everyone. I made a conscious effort to change my way of thinking – when in Rome do as the Romans do, so when in Los Angeles do as the natives do.

“I have developed a fairly good business sense, which means wanting to understand and explore everything. I’m not showing off, but I need to know. I won’t accept anything without asking a lot of questions first.”

As if all these involvements weren’t enough for one man, Simon is also writing his first novel.

Simon MacCorkindale as Arthur Davis in Riddle Of The Sands“The difficulty is finding the time,” he told me. “I’ve sent the manuscript to a literary agent in New York for an advance to finish it, and now I’ve got to sit down and complete it. Even though I live in Los Angeles and filmed Jaws 3-D on location in Florida, that’s why I’m not looking as sun-tanned as you might expect. I’ve been spending time on the typewriter rather than on the beach.”

Simon says that, now he has a house in California, he would like to marry again. He was formerly married to British actress Fiona Fullerton who, since the divorce, has also packed her bags and had lucrative offers of work in Los Angeles.

Even close friends of the couple were amazed when what seemed like the perfect partnership broke up two years ago, especially as the wedding ceremony took place in the crypt chapel of St Paul’s Cathedral, a privilege granted to few members outside the nobility or closely related titled families.

Simon’s driving ambition and pursuit of his Hollywood career were partly blamed for the marital split-up. Since uprooting his life-style for the sunnier climes of California, he has been going steady for some time with another famous English actress, Susan George. Now the current show biz buzz is that Simon and Sue are expected to announce their wedding plans almost any day. (Since this interview, the couple have not only announced their marital plans but are now officially Mr and Mrs MacCorkindale! – Ed.).

Work, meanwhile, continues to preoccupy Simon’s attention. We saw him recently with David Soul in the tv mini-series “The Manions of America”. He makes regular guest appearances on most of the top-rating Los Angeles tv series (including “Hart to Hart” and “Dynasty”). And his one-man show, “The Importance of Being Oscar”, is always a sell-out that receives standing ovations from the audience.

He also loves directing stage plays. He has directed different versions of “Sleuth” in three cities, each with a different leading man – James Whitmore, Howard Keel and Douglas Fairbanks. “I’m not overawed working with big star names,” he told me, “because I have the confidence to know what I’m doing. But if I haven’t won them over by lunch time, then I’m in trouble!”

He was looking forward to being a guest director at the Burt Reynolds Theatre in Jupiter, Florida. He loves classical music and says that “an opera is also on the cards”.

“I really love beating the schedule and working at full stretch,” he said. “Even if that’s a sure formula for a short life, let it be merry, rewarding and fulfilling with every day counting.

“Otherwise, I don’t think I’m all that talented as an actor but I capitalise on what gifts I have and make the most of them. I work diligently and concentrate through hard work and effort. If I slowed down, which might happen some day, or if I had an accident (God forbid!) and had to give up acting, I would fall back on my other talents as a writer or director.

Simon MacCorkindale as Simon Doyle in Death on The Nile“I have no particular favourites among my films. I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons, especially Death on the Nile and before that The Riddle of the Sands which I did with Michael York and Jenny Agutter.”

Like most actors, Simon keeps fairly athletic and in good shape. “I love rugby, but I don’t play much now as it’s not a game for actors. I run, ride, swim, fence and play cricket in the summer. I also have regular keep-fit sessions in the gym.”

Travel also appeals to Simon, no doubt linked with the fact that as a boy his family traveled extensively with his father who was a Group Captain in the RAF. All good preparation for his future nomadic life as an actor.

England’s loss is clearly Hollywood’s gain. Simon is rock solid in the best British tradition, unruffled and always dependable in a crisis, just the type of masculine hero the screen needs today.

“I still have lots of ambitions,” were his parting words to me as he prepared to catch the plane back to California. “To get my book published and to have my own theatre some day. I hate to see potential talent go to waste. I’m a go-getter and believe you must always keep busy and go after what you want to achieve.

“As an actor, I’d like to broaden the spectrum and get more variety in the parts I play.”

I remarked that surely his two current assignments must supply him with all the contrast he could wish for.

“I’m very grateful for the leading roles in Jaws 3-D and ‘Manimal,” he assured me. “They provide just the kind of boost my career needs at this point.”

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