Saturday 3 October 2020

interview: Kadamba Simmons

In January 1997, I travelled to the freezing cold Northern tip of the Isle of Man to report on the British monster movie Rampage (aka Deadly Instincts aka Breeders). One of the cast was Kadamba Simmons and, as far as I knew, she was just an aspiring actress in a cheesy film. I have since learned that she was a well-known party girl in London social circles and her various beaux over the years included Matt Goss, Liam Gallagher, Nellee Hooper and Prince Raseem. This article is a good summary of her life. 

But the reason that was written is because in June 1998 Kadamba was murdered by an unstable boyfriend; the tragic details are all in the article. Kadamba Simmons was a talented, vivacious, charismatic young woman and it was a pleasure to know her briefly. She would probably have become a star at some point, but what was great about her was that she never behaved as if she was a star already. She took life as it comes and didn’t take anything for granted. 

I met her a second time when I flew back to the Isle of Man in September 1997 to visit the set of a thriller called Dangerous Obsession (aka Darkness Falls). Kadamba was helping out with the costume department; she recognised me and came over for a chat. In retrospect I think she probably enjoyed talking with people who were utterly alien to, and unaware of, her celebrity-filled London life. Nine months later she was dead (although I only learned of her passing several years later). This could be the only interview she ever gave. There’s not a lot to it but I think her warm, energetic personality comes across. I offer it here as tribute to a fascinating young woman whose life was cut pointlessly short, denying us all her future work.

It's not the commonest of names, is it?
“No, it's not. My parents are kind of hippies really. My whole name is actually Kadamba Angel Isle of Compassion Simmons. With a dad called John and a mum called Linda. When my mother moved to London, one of her hippy friends found a guru, and she used to go these ashrams. A bit of a Paula Yates vibe, I guess.”

How did you get this role?
“I'd worked with PeakViewing before. I was in a previous film of theirs.”

Was that Grim?
“Yes. I think Paul Matthews, when he was writing the part, had me in mind. It's maybe a bit presumptious to say it was written for me, but it was definitely written with my face in his head.”

How uncomfortable is that prosthetic? Can you tell that it's there?
“Right now, no. Often I forget about it until someone says, but obviously you'll work some ten, twelve-hour days because it's going on back to back. What they stick it on with is a glue invented during the Vietnam War, used on the battlefield when people had open wounds. Sticking arms and legs on; they obviously didn't have time to sew things on so they used to glue them on with this glue. That can't be good for me.”

Are you enjoying the shoot?
“Oh yes, it's great. I'm having a great time. Everyone's great. What can I say? I haven't had any problems.”

What other stuff have you done?
“Filmwise, one of the biggest films I did was with Stephen Frears, at Pinewood, and that was Mary Reilly. I was a character called Rosie. That was in the brothel. Doctor Jekyll comes in and rapes and kills a girl, but leaves his hankie, and that blows his cover. So Glenn Close was my madam.”

What was that like to work on?
“It was great, it was all spectacular. My scenes were when it was all going according to plan, and there had been no tantrums. Everyone was happy. I must admit, Stephen Frears was so enthusiastic as a director, which is brilliant. He keeps the energy up. If the energy of the director's up, everyone else naturally has to follow suit.”

Does the size of the budget affect you as an actor?
You know what? At the end of the day, a set's a set, a catering van's a catering van. You might have an aircraft hanger like we've got here, or you might have a beautiful brothel with chandeliers. But it's just a backdrop, isn't it?”

Do you do any stagework?
“Not really, just because I work back to back on screen. But as a child, Sam Janus and I used to go to the same stage school, where we were trained to be precocious little starlets. I used to do shows there - we used to do West End shows. That was the only time, but that was more singing and dancing.”

Do you like doing straight stuff or more OTT fantastic stuff like this?
“It's always nice to do fantasy and over-the-top stuff. You know what, it's anything you can get your teeth stuck into, whether it's running away from monsters or getting divorced on camera. As long as it's not just hovering in the background looking beautiful, I don't care. But yes, it is great to do stuff like this. To see the monster, have half my face hanging off, get slimed. You know what? It's fun. It's a lot of fun, because it is so far removed from the life that we live. You have fun with it, without hamming it up, obviously. It's like all the old comic books that we grew up on. I'm taking lots of Polaroids and sending them to my cousins who are seven years old and really freaking them out. When I was seven, it's just like: 'Yes! Monsters!'”

How does the monster here compare with the one in Grim?
"Completely different. The one in Grim was more of a troll. This one, because the guy actually playing the monster is a trained dancer and has studied ballet, so he's so much more graceful. The movement within the monster is so much more believable. If I'm acting to that monster, I will believe it. The one in Grim was almost like a lump of lard in comparison. This one is streets ahead. There is actually no comparison, I think.”

Is it disappointing when you do something like Grim and it doesn't even get a video release in the UK?
[Grim was subsequently released on UK DVD – MJS]
“I never really expected it to anyway. If you think about the market for horror movies, it's all in America. I was doing an American accent, so it was an American film. It didn't disappoint me. It did really well over there, and I'm really happy. I wasn't expecting it.”

RIP Kadamba Simmons, 1974-1998