IT’S not every day a lady in her 80s gets to play the glamour lead in a film, but then we shouldn’t perhaps be too surprised as Joan Collins is definitely not an everyday lady.
The Time of Their Lives is her latest film, not a bad title for someone who’s been having the time of her life during her fantastic career.
Joan would be the first to tell you she’s had many ups and downs, but she always fights back and is never slow to smile.
“It’s true that I have had my share of disappointments and failures, but the secret is not to get morose and dwell on them,” she said.
“Learn from them, by all means, but don’t look back wishing you had done this or that. Look forward and focus on what you are going to do next.
“You never stop learning in life and should always be open to new ideas and new challenges.
“Never think you know it all and have seen it all as I can guarantee you don’t and you haven’t.
“Count your blessings, too. I have a career that goes back more than 60 years and it’s had its disappointments, but many more great experiences and fun.
“You can only get back what you put in. So many people want to be celebrities these days — and why not?
“The trouble is that not so many seem to want to put the real work in — all that time at drama school and training for this or for that.
“If you look at the careers of all the great movie stars, they all did their apprenticeship and worked hard for a number of years, often doing the most menial of jobs to keep themselves going.
“They had the talent, but it had to be honed and that’s what the hard work in training achieves.”
Joan was born in Paddington in 1933. Her father was well-known theatrical agent Joe Collins and her mother was Elsa, a dance teacher.
Surrounded by the entertainment world and regularly meeting so many famous people meant that there was no way Joan was going to have an ordinary life.
“I don’t think I wanted any other sort of life,” she said. “I took to it like the proverbial duck to water.
“I made my stage debut when I was nine at the Arts Theatre in A Doll’s House.
“That was just the start, though, as it was made sure I did the full training.
“If this was going to be my career and my life, I had to know how to do it properly.”
Joan does indeed have a long and glittering career to back up her words.
It is incredible to think she’s made nearly 70 films during her career as well as hundreds of TV appearances and roles, probably none more important than Alexis Carrington in Dynasty in the 80s.
“What a great character she was,” said Joan. “Just about all the characters in Dynasty were charismatic, but Alexis was really great and I loved playing her.
“She was witty and dangerous, two deadly attributes.
“I still get fan mail about her, so she must have made a mark. She did with me, it was a wonderful role and I thoroughly enjoyed it.”
The diversity of her roles has always meant something to Joan, who has a great sense of humour and does not mind sending herself up. That is why she has played such a diva character in a couple of TV commercials.
“You should never think more of yourself than you can really justify,” she said.
“If you are willing to laugh at others, you must be even more willing to laugh at yourself.
“That is one of the appeals of the latest film. I might get to play the actress, but it’s not really a glamour trip.
“I was pleased it came my way as it was fun to do, great to work with Pauline Collins and the rest of the team and it was nice to be asked.
“I’m not one of those actresses who moans that there are no roles for older women.
“The roles are there, it’s just that they are usually offered to the same small group of actresses.
“Normally, the script goes first to Helen Mirren, then to Vanessa Redgrave then to — I don’t know who — then it would get to me.
“I think I got first call this time. It is quite a clever script and funny.
“An old actress trying to make a comeback. That’s great. It wasn’t about me and I don’t think I have ever had to make a comeback, but it was still a part I enjoyed very much.”
Make no mistake, Joan Collins is an actress of the highest calibre.
That is why she has three Golden Globes to her name and countless other awards and nominations.
She’s also had a few marriages, but has happily been at the side of Percy Gibson since becoming his wife in early 2002.
“We work well together,” she said. “I like to be a proper wife at home and he’s a proper husband. We work as a team and we are very happy.
“He understands the business and I think that is important. You have to work as a team and we don’t have a problem with that.”
Life is not just about acting and film making, though, as Joan keeps herself very busy with many other interests.
While her late sister Jackie was famous as an author, Joan has also written many books and clocked up sales of more than 50 million copies worldwide.
She’s also an experienced stage actress, of course, and her one-woman show continues to pack audiences into theatres.
Add to that her continuous work for various charities and you can see that far from slowing down, Joan Collins is busier than ever. You can also understand why she was made a Dame.
“That came as a surprise,” she said. “I had received an OBE for my work in 1997 and that was a delightful surprise, too, but when I was asked to become a Dame, well, what a lovely gift.”
The DBE was mostly for her charity work. She’s always seen celebrity as a great key to helping others and never failed to support those in need.
“What is the point of being in the news unless you can put it to good use to aid those who need help and support?” she said.
With so much going on, how does Dame Joan manage to look decades younger than her 83 years?
“I take care of myself, make sure I get enough sleep and keep myself as healthy as possible, but I’m not a health freak,” she said.
“I like coffee and croissants for breakfast not a sprig of parsley. I’m not dressed up all the time like Alexis, but I like to be presentable, it makes me feel better.
“I also always do my own make-up whether it is day by day or for films. That was something that I really started when I was about 18.
“I had a great make-up man in Hollywood called Whitey Snyder — he worked with Marilyn Monroe and many others. He taught me how to apply make-up properly.
“If you feel OK about how you look you will feel so much better about yourself.”
Clearly, Joan has every right to feel good about herself — a new film, and still in great demand.
She really is having the time of her life.