Mark Daniel Frankel was born on Wednesday, 13 June, 1962 in London, England, to David and Grace Frankel and welcomed by 3 year-old brother, Joseph. The son of a British air force pilot, grandson of a concert violinist and conductor, Mark grew up in London, feeding on Hollywood films. His mother, Grace, has kept a piece of paper on which Mark wrote in crayon when he was 5, “My mother is a housewife, my father is a soldier, and I want to be an actor.” Grace has said that Mark was a “difficult child, adventurous, athletic, talented. He was very needy, so I was more involved with him. But from a very young age he had the ability to read people.” That skill would prove invaluable in Mark’s chosen profession: acting.
Mark was a teenaged rebel, dropping out of school at 16 to pursue his passion for motorcycles while also trying to earn money playing on the minor pro tennis circuits. [The Toronto Star, March 12, 1993]
“I was a very uncontrollable, wild kid. I got into lots of trouble, until I was into my early teens and basically had a great time doing it. It was anarchic behaviour but not in a vindictive way. I didn’t beat people up or anything like that.
“These days it’s controlled wildness; I like dangerous sports. I skydive, ride motorcycles and stuff like that, but I used to do more dangerous things as a child. I had a lot of accidents and spent months in hospital, I even had a motorcycle accident before I was legally allowed to ride one. I also had an accident with a javelin that put me in hospital for several months,” he adds mysteriously, “but I don’t want to go into that.” [Expose Magazine, date unknown] Mark is referring to a serious injury he sustained, nearly losing vision in his left eye. Doctors were able to save his eye and his sight, although he was left with the appearance of having two different colored eyes.
By the time he was 20, Mark was becoming goal-oriented, and although he had achieved success as an under-21 tennis player, his heart was set on the stage. He took a variety of jobs, including mini-cabbing, to pay for acting classes. During theater studies at St. John’s College in London, Mark played the lead in an amateur production of Agamemnon. He next went into a production of A Streetcar Named Desire at the Stanhope Theatre. He then won a three-year scholarship to London’s famed Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts. Within a week of graduating in 1989, he signed for his first professional stage job playing the lead in Days of Cavafy above the Finborough Arms in Earls Court. This performance caught the attention of an eagle-eyed casting agent who recommended him for the Michelangelo role in A Season of Giants, the four-hour miniseries produced by the TNT cable network in the U.S. [The Toronto Star, March 12, 1993] Then came a role in the TNT drama Young Catherine, shot in Russia.
As Mark recalled, “My career has been very strange. Immediately after I came out of drama school, I went straight into a play. A play in a tiny pub which seated 40 people. Within three weeks of doing this, I was offered the role of Michelangelo in this 20 million dollar film shot in Italy. An American director had come over to England to try and find Michelangelo. He found me in this pub. I then went to Italy for five months to film. That was shown in a few countries, and on TNT in America. Then I came back for a few weeks, and I went off and did Young Catherine, also for TNT. So I was filming almost non-stop for a couple of years, and nothing had ever been seen in England. No one had even heard of me except people within the business. They knew exactly who I was, but they didn’t know if I could act, except from drama school, because we do lots of public performances.” [Detour Magazine, 1993]
In 1992, Mark landed the lead role in the British comedy cult classic, Leon the Pig Farmer. Soon after Pig Farmer production wrapped, Frankel came to Hollywood for the first time. Ten days after he arrived, he landed the recurring role of millionaire recluse Simon Bolt on the high-angst drama Sisters for Warner Bros TV.
In early 1995, Mark guest starred in an episode of the ITV series “Rik Mayall Presents” Clair de Lune, as well as stints on the BBC TV shows Vanity Dies Hard and the mystery series, “Maigret” in Maigret and the Madwoman. Other television credits include US productions, as the dashing agent, Carlton Dial, in Fortune Hunter and the dark and brooding but compassionate vampire and Prince of the City, Julian Luna, in Kindred: the Embraced, both for Fox television.
Mark’s film roles were as the lead in the cult classic comedy Leon the Pig Farmer in 1992, followed up by the romantic comedy film, Solitaire for 2 with Amanda Pays in 1995. Mark was also cast in what would be his last film role as Antonio in Roseanne’s Grave released in 1997.
Mark married his longtime girlfriend, former model as well as account executive, Caroline Besson, in 1991. In the spring of 1994, they welcomed their firstborn son, Fabien, followed in spring of 1997 by their second son, Max Mark Frankel. Sadly, Mark died prior to Max’s birth from internal injuries to his liver sustained in a traffic accident while driving his beloved Harley Davidson motorbike in west London. Mark died on 24 September, 1996.
There is no doubt that if he had lived, Mark’s career would have continued on its metoric rise, as he already had auditions lined up for roles in the block buster hits of Titanic and Gladiator, and was in serious consideration for the iconic role of Agent 007, James Bond, which would have been a childhood dream come true for Mark.