MY LIFE IS A REAL DRAMA; He's Played Churchill and Mad King George, but Simon Ward's Toughest Role Was Coping When His Married Daughter Came Out
Byline: by Lisa Sewards
SIMON WARD is the highly regarded, artistocratic-looking actor who became famous overnight for his portrayal of Churchill in Richard Attenborough's epic film Young Winston.
His golden hair and slim physique combined with his fine cheekbones and cut-glass accent made him the archetypal British public schoolboy, the Hugh Grant of his day.
He was plucked from nowhere to play Churchill, but, supported by a distinguished cast including Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, Ward was tipped to be the next big star.
Indeed, the following year, he played the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers, Lt William Vereker in the 1979 film Zulu Dawn, vet James Herriot in the movie All Creatures Great And Small and Mr Linton alongside his own daughter, Sophie, in Wuthering Heights.
Today, however, as he struggles to catch his breath after rehearsing fight scenes for his latest role, his 69 years of a productive, but at times stressful, life are beginning to show.
His once-blond hair is thinning and silver, his cheekbones more emaciated and his statuesque frame notably frail.
'I shouldn't be doing fight scenes at my age,' pants Ward, who has the title role opposite Susan Penhaligon in Alan Bennett's criticallyacclaimed play The Madness Of George III.
'It's one of the best parts I've ever been asked to play -- but it's incredibly tiring because each time George comes back on stage, his mental illness is 50 times worse. You've got to feel pretty confident to do this role.' And how confident is he feeling, considering this play marks the first national tour since the original 1991 award-winning production by the National Theatre and the hit 1994 film starring Nigel Hawthorne? 'Oh, don't mention Nigel Hawthorne to me. He was rather good, wasn't he?' says Ward mock begrudgingly, before adding: 'In fact, he was wonderful. I always feel I can never be good enough and I've been tormented by it quite a lot.' Ward is highly strung, but with good reason, since his glittering life has taken a few dramatic turns.
First, there was the night in 1987 when he was found unconscious with a broken skull beside a canal in Camden, North London. No one was charged because there were no witnesses to the assault, even though it resulted in Ward undergoing major brain surgery.
Then, his model-turned-actress daughter Sophie, who was assumed to be happily married, stunned everyone when she 'came out' as a lesbian in 1996.
With her pre-Raphaelite looks, Sophie Ward was the Face of the Eighties and a former Vogue and Tatler cover girl.
Appearing with Elizabeth Taylor in Young Toscanini and as the female lead at the age of 19 in Steven Spielberg's Young Sherlock Holmes, Sophie was also a rising film star and, on the face of it, considered to have it all -- a loving marriage to handsome vet Paul Hobson, two young sons and an idyllic Cotswolds cottage.
But, secretly, she was battling with a depression she couldn't explain until eight years into her marriage -- when she realised her unhappiness stemmed from her attraction to women.
So while married, and with Paul's knowledge, Sophie began a string of short-lived relationships with women. …