Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale
Wedded to the Screen and Each Other
Celebrities come and go in Hollywood. Those who stay possess something unusual, something more than just talent. Wits may call it luck, and perhaps sometimes luck does make a difference. But mostly what makes the difference is business smarts talent plus an ability to grasp the complex imperatives that drive both the industry and careers.If any two people working in the entertainment industry possess that extra “plus” it’s Susan George and Simon MacCorkindale, whose 1984 marriage on the island of Fiji made international headlines. MacCorkindale, who first drew major audience attention in Death on the Nile, has labored as lawyer Greg Reardon on the hit nighttime soap Falcon Crest for the last two years. Susan George has been delighting audiences worldwide from her debut in Michael Game’s Billion Dollar Brain through over two dozen screen appearances to 1984’s hit film The Jigsaw Man, also with Michael Caine.
Together they are planning a series of ambitious projects in which both will participate. The first, a film, Woden’s Day will be directed by MacCorkindale and is to star Susan George. In a recent and far-ranging conversation, the pair spoke with LOS ANGELES DRIVE GUIDE editor-in-chief Hank Stine about the rewards and difficulties of working together, the business of acting and their hopes for the future:
GUIDE: Do you think working together so closely is a plus or minus in a relationship?
MacCORKINDALE: I don’t think it’s a simple cut and dried answer, actually. I think there are advantages and disadvantages, as there are in any situation. The clear advantage is that you are sharing something together, which I think is very healthy for a relationship. So often, you find people who are going off on their own tangents and doing then-own thing don’t even have time to communicate and share those things. There’s something really very exciting about working on a project together, since we are able to share that and communicate that all the time. But by the same token, you can’t get away from it and that’s the down side.
It certainly balances out, particularly in a business like this one, where if both of us are making pictures at the same time, we’re absolutely miles apart. But if we’re making the same picture, we’re together. So from our point of view, the ideal is being able to produce our own pictures, which Susan would star in and I would direct, or whatever the specific creative balance might be.
GUIDE: Ms. George, you produced a stage version of a one-man show about Oscar Wilde that your husband starred in. Do you enjoy producing?
GEORGE: It was a difficult job and one that requires a lot of decision making, which is my pet hate. And I had to make each and every one of them. From my point of view, I was having to handle everything that was not creative. There was always one extra light that we needed to make things exactly how we wanted it. There were times when I had to say to people that you can’t squeeze anymore out of it. The money was coming out of our own pocketbooks and we couldn’t extend ourselves any farther. When you are doing such a small production it was literally Simon and I there is no one else to talk to. The responsibility was all mine.
I think it was terribly good for me, all the organizing, all the decision making. And I said as much to Simon afterward. It’s not something that I would leap up and down about having the opportunity of doing again.
GUIDE: Mr. MacCorkindale, you are best known in the country for your role on Falcon Crest, how does an actor who has played Oscar Wilde feel about appearing on a nighttime soap?
MacCORKINDALE: I think we all have reasons why we do things and that is the little secret that you carry to work with you. For my purposes, I went into Falcon Crest so I would be able to maneuver myself into a different arena of audience perception. I’m not known in middle America, and it’s a useful exercise to get out there. Plus the fact that it leaves me with a lot of time to get on with the projects we have in development. During the course of the 18 months I have been on the show, I have written a screenplay, and brought it to the point where it is very, very close to going in front of the cameras and have also been able to buy a couple of other good scripts that are beginning to maneuver themselves in the marketplace. I also got to direct on the show this year, which is another reason why I do it. So I am now able to go out there and pitch myself as a director for hire. Which, as you may know, is a very difficult transition for an actor to make. You can only get a job if you become a member of the Director’s Guide, and you can only become a member of the Guild if you get the job.
So those are my little secrets which make it very easy to suffer the stuff that one doesn’t necessarily like on a day to day basis.
GUIDE: Are there any other plus sides to working on the soaps?
MacCORKINDALE: I think it’s very good exercise for an actor. The hardest exercise you can give an actor is to say, “Turn up on the same set, with the same actors, and basically the same lines week in and week out, and make it interesting.” That’s a tough exercise. I will have done 59 episodes of Falcon Crest by the time I’m finished. And I reckon that at least 50 percent of that has taken place on four sets, four rooms, probably all in suits and with legal documents. There’s only so many ways you can pick up a piece of paper and write something or drink a cup of coffee and move around a room.
GUIDE: Ms. George, you are mostly known for serious dramatic roles and thrillers. Are there any kinds of parts you haven’t been given that you would like to play?
GEORGE: I would love to do some comedy, which I’ve really only touched upon. I’ve done three or maybe four comedic roles in the middle of all these others, usually victims. And I think I have a great heart for comedy. Mostly we get categorized in a certain vein, a certain mold and people keep casting you again and again in that mold. I think comedy roles have not come to me because people do not think of me as “light.” I’ve probably been cast most of my life in sort of heavy roles in the sense of character. It’s terribly difficult with all the activity of a production to go out and look for something that is actually right and actually what you want to do. Usually people come to you and then you make the choice. I’m not saying that I’m not a person who goes out and looks, because I do. It was only in the last picture, The Jigsaw Man, that I play a sort of naive person. I’ve never been naive in a picture before. It was a relief to play someone who was really quite the innocent party.