The Complete Works Of Susan George
Susan George, fed up with being known more for who she’s going out with than the work she’s doing, wants to put the record straight – she’s happily married and has just produced a limited and illustrated edition of her poems
(Mainly a Susan George article)
Susan George sprawls against a sofa, mug of tea by her side, and squints slightly into the glow of the sinking sun. From outside, over the backwater of the Thames that slips by the bottom of the garden, come the muted sounds of dusk in semi-rural Berkshire. Comfortable in jeans and sweatshirt, happy in such a domestic setting, this surely cannot be the sex siren Susan George who paraded her nakedness across the cinema screen and pouted a path through the clubs and bachelors of London and Los Angeles.
Close inspection, however, shows that it is. But the nightclubs have been replaced by nights in, the West End by this village life and the bachelors – the Prince of Wales among them – by a husband.
It is two and a half years since she married the similarly glamorous Simon MacCorkindale, two years since she last dropped into Tramp and a year since she last presented her small, lithe form to the cameras. ‘I don’t want to say I’ve changed; it’s an evolution,’ she says solemnly.
The semantic distinction is one of several, as she engages happily in a self-analytical review of her past, punctured, when it threatens to get pompous, by a self-deprecating laugh. She laughs enough, indeed, to suggest a real person has survived the years of Hollywood and hype. If Miss George does not exactly gush, she clearly finds little difficulty talking.
She has not been acting these past 12 months but she has not been idle. Her self-confessedly considerable energies are now directed at Amy International Production – named after ‘that little gold light in my life’, her part in Straw Dogs – which she runs with her husband, ‘We plot and plan pictures. We take them from the beginning up to the point of being made, at which point someone else takes over with the big money.’
It can’t be as easy as it sounds because after two and a half years Amy hasn’t got a film to its name. The latest favourite, for which Simon MacCorkindale is on a recce of Yugoslavian scenery, could start shooting in the autumn. It is one of five current projects.
So what exactly is her role? Miss George manages to be both candid and confusing. ‘When Simon is here he goes into the office and sits at the desk and makes the phone calls. I go in about two or three times a day for specific meetings. He calls me the figurehead and himself the grafter.’
Fortunately the responsibilities of being the figurehead -‘it doesn’t mean I swan in and out’ – have left time for her other major project, a limited edition of her poems, illustrated by the artist Andrew Hewkin and published by the book trade’s leading connoisseur of pretty women, Nairn Attallah.
For £75, friends, fans and others with the money and inclination to share Miss George’s ‘very personal and private thoughts’ will get a hessian-bound volume the size of a shirt box together with a cassette recording of the writer singing three of her works.
She shares none of the reticence of fellow-writers in assessing her talents. ‘I don’t put myself in his bracket by any means because he’s such a fine talent, but as Paul McCartney once said, writing is God’s gift. I don’t know where it came from, I only know He gave it to me. One morning I woke up and I wrote.’
Faced with such a pleasant and disarming manner, it is impossible to do anything but nod, puppy-like, even at the nonsensical. Miss George is the sort of woman who has no difficulty getting people to do things for her.
Only on the sort of details from which actresses traditionally flinch is there the slightest sign she can be less than frank. A suddenly-remembered recent birthday – actually it was last summer – makes her amend her age from 35 to 36. Then a sudden coolness intrudes over the subject of Prince Charles and the Christmas card, reputed to arrive by royal appointment every year. It is a taboo subject – pause – not something she would ever talk about. But, yes, a card does come, actually. ‘I think he’s very special and I think we can be considered very good friends.’
On men, in general, she is as open as everything else, bearing the press little ill-will for linking her with so many. The Jimmy Connors thing was nonsense, she explains. She’d only gone to watch tennis and didn’t so much as kiss him good night. Rod Stewart is a friend and John Lloyd is a sweetie.
It was the realisation of what would be expected that prevented her co-operating with a biography. ‘I wasn’t going to start saying this one was and this one wasn’t.’
While she insists she has no regrets, there is little doubt that her social activities eclipsed her professional achievements. She became Susan George, famous for being famous, rather than Susan George, veteran of 25 films. ‘I’d love them to say Susan – Straw Dogs, Mandingo, Dirty Mary – George but they don’t. They’ll say Susan – Jack Jones, Rod Stewart – George.
‘Every time it’s said it hurts Simon so badly he could kill. He really does get furious about it,’ she says, clenching her small fists.
This much-publicised, initially will-they-won’t-they marriage seems to have worked wonders. It brings Miss George to her most lyrical. Mr MacCorkindale, putting her unexpectedly in mind of things biblical, is her rock, her foundation. ‘When I’ve loved I’ve loved so powerfully and passionately that it’s all-encompassing to me. I just love with everything and therefore I must have and be and give and take and everything right there and then.
‘The thing that I’ve realised is to stand back] and allow time from one another. I always lead with my heart, not with my head. For the first j time in a relationship my head is very much involved.’ She exudes a happiness that stops! decently short of self-satisfaction.
At the moment the main worry is finding a new house big enough to accommodate the cook she thinks she needs. For despite signs to the contrary, the domestic woman is not her role. ‘You’ve really got to have someone else do the running of the house so you can channel all your own energy into alternative things.’
One planned alternative is a family. But not yet. Children will have to wait their turn behind film production, an album of songs and a good film role. ‘There’s a great hunger in me to act,’ she says. Like Cleopatra with her immortal’ longings, there is something pretty deep still! stirring in Susan George