Monday, August 5, 2013

Susan George Chats with the Café about "Straw Dogs," Her Arabians, and the Love of Her Life

Best known for the controversial Straw Dogs (1971) and the drive-in classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974), Susan George has acted in film and television for six decades. She met fellow British actor Simon MacCorkindale (Death on the Nile) at a charity event in 1977 and the two became best friends. Seven years later, the "best friends" married in Fiji. In 1993, Susan George, a lifelong horse lover, and her husband founded Georgian Arabians, a stud farm in Exmoor, England. Sadly, Simon MacCorkindale died in 2010 after a five-year battle with cancer. Susan George has carried on with their stud farm and still occasionally appears in films. She was gracious enough to stop by the Café today for an interview.

Café:   You made your stage debut at age 12 in The Sound of Music and was a regular in the family TV series Amazons and Swallows a year later. What led to your interest in acting at such a young age?

Susan George:  My mother was the one who thought that an acting career was the profession for me. My father, on the other hand, was terrified at the thought, as he believed that my heart was way too soft for the industry.

Café:   You were 21 when you played the female lead opposite Dustin Hoffman in Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs. How would you describe your relationships with Hoffman and Peckinpah?

Dustin Hoffman and Susan in Straw Dogs.
SG:  I had a love-hate relationship with Sam, but he was a brilliant director and a genius of his time. Dustin was a generous actor to work with, who could be intense at times but had a great personality and an incredibly mischievous sense of humour. Making the film was a fantastic experience and one that I cherish to this day.

Café:  Forty-three years after it was made, Straw Dogs remains a controversial, potent film. What is your assessment of it today?

SG:  I think even years on, it hasn’t lost one ounce of its power.

Café:   You gave one of your best performances in the entertaining car chase classic Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry. How did an actress from London come to be cast as the film's "white trash heroine"?

Susan in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974).
SG:  It was English director John Hough who was adamant that I should play Dirty Mary. We had worked together on several films before and when he called me in the States to offer me this zany part, I didn't think twice and loved the challenge. The film was such fun to make and became a cult hit over the years. It was a backpack movie and made for next to nothing, but turned out to be a huge financial success for Twentieth Century-Fox.

Café:  You've appeared in several British TV series, such as EastEnders, The Castle Adventure, and Cluedo. Do you have a favorite and, if so, what made it a fave?

Kirk Douglas as Mr. Hyde.
SG:  In terms of television projects, there were several dear to my heart. One was the musical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which had a fantastic cast and a great score. Kirk Douglas was our Dr. Jekyll and we filmed it all in England at Shepperton studios for NBC. My memories of that time are all of laughter.

Café:  You've acted with the likes of Charles Bronson, Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Fonda, Ralph Richardson, and Boris Karloff. Who were some of your favorite leading men and why?

SG:  I have been fortunate to work with some really great actors over the years and there are no favourites. Although playing Michael Caine’s daughter in the The Jigsaw Man was a real treat and spending hours of time in Sir Laurence Olivier’s company was something I will never forget.

Café:  How did you meet your future-husband Simon MacCorkindale and what was your first impression of him?

Simon MacCorkindale and Susan.
SG:  I met my Simon for the very first time at a charity benefit and we became the best of friends for years after. So I married my soul mate and hand through life. He was a stunning-looking man, but the true essence of Simon was his heart, acres wide and full of jewels. He loved me more than he loved himself and put me first in everything. I remain devastated at losing him but am also aware that some people in a lifetime never touch upon the love and happiness we found in each other. I am the luckiest, to have shared with him for 26 wonderful years.

Café:  What led the two of you to take the plunge and pursue your dream of breeding Arabian stallions?

Susan with one of her Arabians.
SG:  I had been gifted an Arabian horse by a boyfriend at 23 when living in California. At the time, working a lot and never in one place for long, I would come home to her after months away and she’d see me at the gate of her field and come running. It hurt so much at times to realise that she lived for my visits and they were becoming so sporadic. Arabian horses are particularly loyal and she was always there for me, but I didn't feel I was for her. So eventually, I made a heartfelt decision to give her away to a good friend, a great home. My husband knew this story and promised me that when the time was right, I would again have my Arabian horse. We moved home to England to run our production company, Amy International, and within months, we found a gorgeous chestnut mare that later became the foundation mare of my stud farm in England, Georgian Arabians.

Café:  We read where you were working on your autobiography. Is there a projected publication date?

SG:  I am working on my autobiography and it’s expected to be published in 2014. However, I am penning it myself and with the breeding season and full time running of the stud farm, it’s a huge undertaking, but I’m chapters deep.  It’s an exciting project that Simon, more than myself, wanted me to complete. He used to say that there were so many incredible stories within my lifetime that I needed to share and they were just too good not to.

Café:  You still continue to appear in films. What kinds of roles draw your attention these days?

SG:  I have always said that what would encourage my return to the screen would be a role offering a true challenge. I love music and comedy and would like to be able to combine the two. It’s by no means out of the question that a special something might come along. I have a fabulous agent who “yearns to get me out of Georgian Arabians barns” and doing what he feels I do best !!!

You can learn about Georgian Arabians online at www.georgianarabians.com. You can "like" Susan George on Facebook and follow her on Twitter at @TheSusanGeorge.

9 comments:

  1. Excellent interview, Rick! Good questions you asked, and I appreciated her responses about Peckinpah and STRAW DOGS particularly. Glad to hear she's proud of that film and her performance in it...it really is an incredible (and divisive) piece of work.

    She's still a babe, too!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Terrific interview, Rick. Susan George was an early crush for many of us who grew up in the 1970s. So sorry to hear about her loss, but glad she is doing well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Was there a sexier actress in the 1970's? I think not! She nailed the part opposite Fonda in "Dirty Mary Crazy Larry." Simon M. was a good actor, too. Remember him well from "Death on the Nile."

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really enjoy your interviews, Rick. You know, I've never seen Straw Dogs -- I don't know how I missed that one, but will make every effort to see it. Susan sounds like a well-grounded person who really appreciates the good things in her life. I liked her and liked this piece.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Rick you truly brought out such wonderful emotion and insight into Susan George's life. Great interview. I had no idea either about her tragic love loss and wonderful passion for horses. I used to think she was so sexy and what's fabulous is that she's only gotten sexier with age. A seasoned beautiful lady with an inner light- Well done- Joey

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rick, this is another outstanding interview! It was truly endearing to read about Miss George's meeting, friendship, and marriage with Mr. MacCorkindale and I loved seeing their photo. It also touched my heart to read about the beautiful Arabians. Thanks to you and Miss George for sharing with us here at the Cafe!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rick, a thoughtful portrait of the career and life of Susan George. I remembering seeing her in The Jigsaw Man one sultry summer afternoon and I have good memories of the actress and the film. I’m sad to learn of her loss, I remember she and Simon MacCorkindale were married and made a lovely couple. The Arabian stud farm is a charming peek at her life beyond acting; I’m really looking forward to the publication of her autobiography. Thank you for sharing another of your fascinating interviews.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Excellent interview and a charming and delightful subject.

    ReplyDelete
  9. never liked 'straw dogs', not for the notorious scene per se, but because said scene doesn't really play as part of the dramatic flow, and becomes a distraction.

    ReplyDelete