Film Review – May 1989

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Susan George

The sex symbol turns movie mogul

(Mainly a Susan George article)

Actress Susan George has been ‘grown up’ for quite a few years now. Yet, despite the fact that she is happily married (to actor Simon MacCorkindale), and has matured into a well-known leading lady, many still associate her with her sexpot image of the late sixties.

Old images always seem to die hard, yet recently Ms. George has embarked on a new career, that of a producer with her own company, Amy International (named after the character she played in Straw Dogs).

With her first feature as a producer, Stealing Heaven, out on April 28.1 met her recently and talked to her about her new ‘career woman’ image.

Settling down over tea and scones, I first asked her if producing was a field she had always wanted to enter.

“No, not really. It was one of those things that evolved. I think I’ve always nurtured the thought that I can do more, and that I’d always go into something else within the business. I didn’t know when I was very young, but I knew I was much more of an achiever than I first imagined. When I was twenty-six, twenty-seven, coming up to thirty, I knew that I wanted to control my own destiny as much as I could. I became an achiever when I met another achiever (her husband Simon MacCorkindale).. . It was in me, but it took another achiever to bring it out and clarify what I was going to do during this growth process. I’m a great believer in growth.

“Simon is the opposite. He planned what he was going to do when he was eleven! He really did. I didn’t know him then, obviously, but I believe he told his mum that he was going to become a producer and a director and own his own company. He knew the lot!

“But once I took on the responsibility of the company, and I have to say it’s an incredible responsibility, I realised the art of planning ahead. One always has to be thinking about the future, though that said I couldn’t tell you if I’d be doing this in twenty years’ time.”

Stealing Heaven, the film that she has co-produced with her husband, tells the famous tale of Abelard and Heloise, a tragic leacher/pupil’ love story set in the twelfth century. Finding the right property is always a long and arduous business, so I asked her how she and Simon had gone about it.

“We were changing agents in California and, like all agents in California do, he had masses of scripts to offer us as we walked through the door. I hadn’t seen so many scripts in California in all my life! One of the scripts he had on his table was about Abelard and Heloise. His literary agent owned the script and thought it would be great for us. Simon wasn’t too old to play Abelard, but I was certainly too old for Heloise, though it was a part I would loved to have played in my younger years.

“But we read it, thought it was beautiful, and I said to Simon we should make the picture ourselves. When I read it through to the end and cried, I said to Simon: ifs too beautiful. We’ll never get it made. Then we started the process of buying the book, and it took us forever to buy this book. Finally, we purchased it and thaf s how it all started. But it seemed so far-fetched that we would get this film made. It was a twelfth century love story. It seemed the most ridiculous thing to try and make, but I’m romantically inclined and fell in love with the story, and that was that!”

And do future plans for Amy International depend on the financial success of her first film?

“No. If they did we’d be in a pretty awful state! That’s the important thing about our company; much that we’re small time, we didn’t put all our financial eggs into one basket. You must always be thinking ahead. We’ve certainly put all our emotions into this picture, though! At the same time we’ve been collating material for our next project. Since Stealing Heaven we’ve made another picture which we’re now doing post-production on, and we’re just about to raise the cash for the next picture. The new film is called White Roses and stars Rod Steiger, Tom Conti and myself.”

So why did they go all the way to Yugoslavia to make Stealing Heaven

“To create the twelfth century look, which obviously would have been impossible in Paris (where the film is set)

“White Roses, however, is actually set in Yugoslavia but, again, its not a commercial choice. We now know that our next picture has to be a commercial choice. We’ve always been very classy – that’s what if s all about for us. We don’t want that to be taken as snobbery, but it takes a lot for us to come down and do something somebody else’s way. We do things our own way, even if ifs to our own deficit. You either serve tea in the best China cups or you don’t, and if you do nobody can ever take that away from you! That’s our style. Whilst ifs just Simon and myself, we’ll make the pictures that we just totally and literally believe in.”

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