Not Just Another Pretty Face
“I’m here,” says Simon MacCorkindale, “to offer something different.” He says this standing against the backdrop of Los Angeles, the twinkling lights of the city spread below him like so many Christmas trees, A slight, self-deprecating smile humbles the theatricality of the moment. “There are only a few English actors who can capture an American accent and pull it off. Peter Ustinov is one, I’m another. But if I used an American accent, I’d be just another American actor. So, I’m holding onto the English accent. At least for now.” It should serve him in good stead. As Boston-bred, English-educated lawyer-on-the-rise, Greg Reardon, Simon is currently appearing as one of the newest and more continental additions to the wicked wine country of “Falcon Crest.”
“Greg’s very much like me,” admits Simon, “in that I’m basically playing myself. Pleasant, charming, English, but (and this is a pointed ‘but’) he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” Ensconced in the MacCorkindale home, a lovely high-rise one floor short of the penthouse and one block shy of Beverly Hills, it’s easy to discern that Simon is far more complex than the lazily handsome young bon vivant his onscreen image might present, uecorated with a variety of Pastels which offer a soothing halo, MacCorkindale’s home is an eclectic but comfortable mix of styles strung neatly together by Simon’s professed (and apparent) love of art and design. There’s also his extensive collection of elephant figures which dot his home. This is definitely not a room at the “Y.”
It’s not a bachelor pad either. Not anymore. After a year and a half engagement, Simon married actress Susan George, who is both known for combat art like “Straw Dogs” (with Dustin Hoffman) and one of the most popular chase films of all time,”Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.” More demure than her on-screen roles suggest, Susan appears to be both wife and best friend, an observation with which Simon readily concurs. The two met years before on the function circuit in England, a circuit not unlike the various press gatherings, openings, un-veilings, etc. in this country. While Simon admits that their transatlantic relationship made for some rather expensive phone bills, they are now happily situated in the same city and are prepared to make concessions for each other’s career. “You go where you have to to work,” remarks Simon. “And where one goes, the other follows if he or she can. It’s not unlike a lot of other professions – used car salesman, for example. A salesman has to go wherever there are cars to sell. We’re the same except we have to do it more often.”
It should be noted that Simon and Susan are not only united in marriage but in business as well. They have formed a production company and their first feature film, a metaphysical chiller entitled “Dragon Under The Hill,” is slated to roll sometime in the spring of 1985. While chances are good that Susan may appear in the movie, Simon maintains that on this project he’ll stay behind the camera. For not only is MacCorkindale an accomplished actor, he is a budding director, as well.
Perhaps “budding” isn’t quite the right word. Simon has already directed a good deal of theater, the majority of it in the Los Angeles area, all of it superlatively reviewed. He will also direct an episode (possibly more) of Falcon Crest” next season. If Simon brings an English sensibility to his American acting, what does he bring to his directing? He laughs and runs a strong hand through his rainbow blond hair. Everything,” he answers, “I’m not an expert on cinematography, but I know people who are and, really, that’s what a good director should have access to. Either he has the necessary talents or he finds access to the people who can take his direction and provide him with what he needs. A director should be able to have a handle on every component, from the tempo of the scene to what an actor should be wearing, and I dare say if a director doesn’t know what an actor should be wearing in a particular scene, he’s not much of a director.”
Simon’s urge to direct came at an early age. Born in Cambridge, England into the home of Peter and Gill MacCorkindale, Simon lived the life of an air force brat, moving from home to home. Always fascinated with the theater, Simon wrote his first play at age eight which he remembers as unproduceable because “it required an enormous cast and a considerable amount of rum drinking.” Despite his affection for make-believe, his mother remembers a solitary boy who was as independent as he was inventive. “My mother told me that when I was four years old I had a friend named Nick. My best friend. Well, we moved and that broke that. When we arrived in our new home, my mother suggested I go next door because there were children there and perhaps I could make some new friends. I turned to her and said, ‘What’s the point? Either I’ll go or they’ll go.'” Simon pauses with a trace of a forlorn smile on his lips. “It made me very independent.”
That sense of independence served Simon well during the next few years. He paid his dues as an actor in the provinces and toiled in relative obscurity (with the exception of several forays into television such as “Jesus of Nazareth”), when he was suddenly plunged into “Death On The Nile,” a sumptuous all-star murder mystery in which he held his own with such scene-stealers as David Niven, Angela Lansbury and Bette Davis.
“I was the murderer in that one,” Simon comments gleefully. It’s amusing to note that in almost every film in which he’s appeared, MacCorkindale has had a devil of a time. “In ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ (his favorite film) my hand was smashed, in ‘Caboblanco,’ I was shot in the shoulder, in The Sword & The Sorcerer,’ I was hung in chains and tortured, and in ‘Jaws 3-D,’ I was devoured by a thirty-five foot shark.” He’s hoping for a less taxing stay on “Falcon Crest.”
“My character, Greg Reardon,” explains Simon, “doesn’t like the way Angela Channing does business and, unlike the rest of her staff, he tells her so. Granted, he’s indebted to her, but I think you could count him as one of the good guys.” Romantically, the writers have put Simon to work overtime. “When I started on the show, I had an affair with Ana Alicia’s (Melissa) character, then I moved on to a brief flirtation with Sarah Douglas’s (Pamela) character and by the time this is in print, I should be heavily involved with Laura Johnson’s (Terry) character. It’s hard work,” he jokes, “but it beats getting eaten by a thirty-five foot shark.”
“The wonderful thing about Simon,” exclaims his fan club president, Lonna Poland, “is that he’s so down-to-earth. Don’t get me wrong. He’s got this screen magnetism that makes him stand out, even in small parts, like in The Manions of America’, where I first saw him. And his screen presence is magnified in person, but when we met – I think he was in town directing a play – he was helpful and very involved, just a super person. I’ll give you an example.” She laughs at the memory. “Our first meeting was at a Jack-in-The-Box! Like I said, very down-to-earth and a thoroughly delightful person.”
While Lonna enthuses over Simon, MacCorkindale admits that, “I’m sort of confused about my appeal. So much of what I do just seems to be me naturally. Every now and then I surprise myself. My concern is that I’ll become known as a personality rather than as an actor. By the same token, I realize that the audience must know who you are before you change. That’s the reason I did ‘Manimal,’ to introduce myself to the television audience. While I can’t say that I care all that much about ratings, it is a wonderful feeling to be on a show as watched and enjoyed as ‘Falcon Crest,’ and I’m hoping that whatever success I’ll have there will help me continue with the work I want to do. Now yes, the first film will be a horror film (‘Dragon Under The Hill’), but that’s not my main interest. I like people pictures. I suppose along the lines of something like Terms of Endearment,’ but really, anything that has a good solid story.”
If Simon is in search of a “good solid story” either to direct or to act in, he states that he need look no further for a good solid marriage. While Simon doesn’t appear the type to paw his wife in public, there’s a charming connection between the two of them that is both obvious and subtle at the same time.
“I don’t allow too many people to get close to me,” admits Simon. “I have friends, of course. Close, good friends and if they need me, I’m always there for them. Sometimes, though, I do need someone, but I’d never even think of going to them. That ‘independence’ thing again. Susan has helped fill that void for me. We’re a team,” he adds, gently touching her hand. “We’re going to do some wonderful things together.”