Sleuth Programme – Jan-July 2008

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Andrew Wyke

Simon MacCorkindale is perhaps best recognized over the last few years as Harry Harper, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, in the BBC’s most popular and enduring drama series Casualty. Following his starring role in the successful 2007 tour of Agatha Christie’s Unexpected Guest, he now returns to the stage in Sleuth.

A childhood love for drama led to a place at Studio ’68 of Theatre Arts in London aged 19. On completing the course, he toured in regional rep before his West End debut in the highly acclaimed Pygmalion. He worked extensively on British TV, and in 1976 appeared in the renowned, I, Claudius and in Zeffirelli’s opulent Jesus of Nazareth.

His big screen debut was a fleeting appearance in the 1974 film Juggernaut. Three years later, he won the Evening News Best Newcomer award for performances in Riddle of the Sands and Death on the Nile, which propelled him to international recognition. The early eighties saw him star in a number of major Hollywood features, including Jaws 3, Cabo Blanco and The Quartermass Conclusion, as well as being part of television history by appearing in the first film made specifically for cable, Robbers of the Sacred Mountain. At the same time, he was appearing in some of the most watched television shows of the era, including Dynasty, Hart to Hart, Matt Houston, and The Dukes of Hazzard. He also starred in his own series, Manimal, and played English aristocrat David Clement in the acclaimed mini-series The Manions of America.

His love for theatre undiminished, Simon was one of the first well-known actors to join the burgeoning live theatre scene in Los Angeles, directing The Merchant of Venice at the Globe Playhouse in 1981, and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at the Matrix, which won the 1982 Dramalogue award and received some of the most sensational reviews in the theatre’s history. He also appeared at the Westwood Playhouse in Michael MacLiammoir’s The Importance of Being Oscar. The same year he directed Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth with Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, James Whitmore and Howard Keel all playing the same role in Dallas, Houston and Southern California, respectively. From 1984 to 1986, he starred in the hugely popular Falcon Crest, and directed several episodes.

He returned to the UK in 1986 to fulfill a long-held ambition of creating his own production company with his wife Susan George, and Amy international was formed. In its first three years, the company produced two films, Stealing Heaven and The Summer of White Roses, co-written by Simon, which won five international awards, including the Grand Prix at the Tokyo Film Festival. Both movies were shot in Europe with international co-production partners, reflecting the international nature of the company. With Amy International established, Simon returned to acting in 1990 in the series Countrystrike, in which he starred as ex-Scotland Yard inspector Peter Sinclair in front of the cameras, and acted as executive production consultant behind them. Simon continued running Amy, developing, writing or co-writing several scripts for features, movies and mini-series for television. The first of these, The House That Mary Bought, a psychological thriller based on Tim Wynne Jones’ award-winning novel Odds End, co-written, co-produced and directed by Simon, completed shooting in June 1994 and was released in 1995 in the USA. Between 1994 and 1996, apart from continuing to develop Amy’s projects, Simon starred in several international productions, including The Way to Dusty Death, a four-hour mini-series based on the novel by Alistair MacLean, and No Greater Love, At the Midnight Hour, A Family of Cops, While My Pretty One Sleeps and The Sands of Eden followed, in the latter he also performed in French. Such a Long Journey, a feature he developed for Amy in association with British Screen and TeleFilm Canada, and based on Rohinton Mistry’s Booker-nominated novel, was shot in Bombay and opened in Canada in 1999 to terrific reviews and excellent box office; it was nominated for 12 Genies including Best Picture and won three; it also won Most Popular Film in the Vancouver Film Festival and played for five weeks in the UK, where Film Review described it as ‘a modern masterpiece’. A very successful US release followed in 2001, along with several other awards. 2000 saw him as co-executive producer on The Queen of Swords, a 22-part series. At the same time, he was seen in Running Wild on Showtime; The Girl Next Door and as a semi-regular ‘bad guy’ on Poltergeist. He also starred in The Dinosaur Hunter, a children’s feature which won numerous awards. Alongside his role in Casualty, he has continued his work for Amy International. 2001/2002 saw him as co-producer of the third season of Relic Hunter, another 22-part series. In 2002/2003 he co-produced the 22-part series Adventure Inc. Amy and his new company Portfolio Content Limited currently have several new projects in development. Outside show business, his passion is the Arabian horse and his stud farm in the English countryside, which he shares with his wife of 22 years, Susan George.

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