Forget the Kardashians, or the Osbourne family, Cockburn predicts the next big name in TV will be the Papadopouloses, George and Simona. He’s the former Trump campaign aide who just got out of jail after admitting to lying to the FBI. She’s the sultry Italian blonde who’s now set her heart on a career in acting. Together, they are on a raging publicity drive.
A mini-documentary series following their lives as they settle down to conjugal life in Los Angeles is already being made. It’s not meant to be a reality show, but Simona clearly doesn’t mind the idea of fame. ‘Let’s start with Keeping Up with the Papadopouloses,’ she laughs to Cockburn. ‘The rest, we’ll see.’
Simona says she is looking forward to pursuing a Hollywood career now that she and her man are ‘at the end, I hope, of a dark period’. She’d already landed a part as Brigitte Bardot in an unfinished film called Affairs on Capri, directed by a British man called Paul Wiffen.
Wiffen, it turns out, is the former Chairman of UKIP London, a contributor to Russia Today, a fierce opponent of George Soros, and somebody who once attended a party with Anna Chapman, the former Russian intelligence agent turned media personality. That background will do nothing to quell rumors that somehow Simone Mangiante Papadopoulos is part of a sinister Kremlin plot
Wiffen laughs off the accusation. ‘It is a coincidence that appears to have more significance than it actually does,’ he says. ‘I’m sure people will say Putin is paying him. All I can say is that I wish I did have other sources of income to support my films.’ Wiffen said Affairs on Capri was ‘ultra low-budget’ and that he was using his income as a musician to pay for it. Indeed, he said, without Simona’s help, he may not have been able to make so much progress with filming the movie in Italy. Simona persuaded family and friends to put up members of the cast for filming. As for the idea that Simona is herself a Russian agent, Wiffen scoffs: ‘It is completely ridiculous the thought that she is a Russian spy: I’ve met half her family.’
Alas, Simona’s relationship with George and the Mueller investigation got in the way of Simona’s debut. She had some passport difficulties, and now she’s now waiting for her green card, and can’t leave the US until she gets one. The one scene she did shoot, see above, was in fact filmed in San Diego by another director. ‘It’s now got to the stage where I’ve had to look for other people who look like Brigitte Bardot,’ says Wiffen, with regret.
Simona, for her part, seems to believe her BB role is complete. She’s got another part in a film, something to do with Colombia, which she didn’t want to discuss. She’s does modeling, too, for Leo Mazzotti on Venice Beach:
There’s more to Simona than meets the eye, that much is certain. She’s a woman of various talents. She also paints, and was kind enough to share her art with Cockburn:
She’s led different lives, too. She trained as a lawyer, and worked for the European Parliament. She reveals that she is currently suing the Parliament because, after her contract was terminated, her job was awarded to another unqualified woman who happened to be related to a senior EU official. ‘It was an unbelievable piece of nepotism,’ she says. ‘You cannot have this in a public institution.’
It was after leaving her European Parliament role that Simona started to work for Joseph Mifsud and the London Centre of International Law Practice. Papadopoulos did work there, too, and first approached her, she claims, on LinkedIn. ‘He was flirting,’ she says. Their meeting was not engineered by Mifsud, she insists. But even if her love life flourished in London, Simona claims she became ‘very frustrated’ working for Mifsud and soon handed her notice.
Simona speaks five languages, which, she says, is perhaps why her accent doesn’t sound very Italian. It’s not, she insists, because she is in fact a Russian spook. ‘I think people might muddle it up with The Godfather. I think people have a stereotype of Italian, which is completely different to what I am. Looks-wise and accent-wise, they can’t profile me as Italian. But I find it funny, this Russian theory.’
She grew up in Caserta, near Naples, but her voice is not from there, either. ‘Even when I speak Italian, I don’t have a very Neapolitan accent. But…I studied abroad. I studied in Milan.’
She says she is ‘a child of the European Union’ and wants the EU to move towards a United States of Europe.
Yet she also supports Brexit, and the policies of European populists such as Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen, and opposes the ‘defamation of our Christian roots’. ‘We are allowing too many people coming from Muslim countries — there is nothing wrong with being Muslim … [But] I think it is important to impose rules. … I’m in America. I’m an immigrant. But I respect the rules of this country…in this respect, I very much agree with the politics of Salvini and Marine Le Pen, and the European right. It’s not racist what I am talking about. It’s preservation.’’
To a cynical or paranoid ear, her politics might sound a little, well, Russia Today. Cockburn suggests that some people might accuse her of rehashing the Kremlin line on the EU. ‘That’s fabrication,’ she says. ‘I think someone, somewhere is paid to spread stuff about me. I think there are journalists who are working hard to undermine my credibility.’ She’s contemplated another legal action, against one journalist but she says she won’t name him. ‘Do I really want to waste my time? I can show a dozen times my Italian passport, they will still say I am Russian. So you know what? I don’t care.’
Speaking of that, she has been accused of misleading people about her age, modifying an image of her passport to make herself 34 when she is 37. ‘This is another stupidity,’ she snaps. ‘I was making jokes on the internet. I changed on the picture saying I was born in Moscow in 2005. I never lied. It was a provocation. Who cares if I am three years younger or older? If I wanted people to think I was younger I would have taken off three years, trust me.’
Cockburn is too much of a gent to press the point. For now, we’ll let Simona settle down to life with George under the glare of the cameras. The two have, according to Wiffen, a ‘tempestous’ relationship. The director says he spent a week with them on Ischia, and ‘they spent quite a lot of the week shouting at each other. They both have that Mediterranean temperament.’ Wiffen adds that ‘while she is very bright, George is not the sharpest tool. I am not sure he quite realized what he got caught up in.’
Cockburn hopes that shared drama has brought Mr and Mrs Papadopoulos closer. With such a colourful and camera-bold star character, there must be a few seasons in their reality series, surely?