Dame Joan Collins

The memoir ‘Behind The Shoulder Pads’ is Dame Joan Collins’ most recent of 19 books to date plus newspaper and magazine columns. Our Kairen Kemp has been talking to her ahead of her show of the same name at The Theatre Royal in Brighton on the 21st October.

When did you start writing?

I was always writing from a young age.  I wrote my first autobiography at age 13, but sadly it did not have mass appeal.

You faced up to the publishers Random House in the 1990s. What caused you to end up in court?

Random House had been giving massive advances to celebrities for years, and then the market crashed, and publishers were in a panic.  They had given Marlon Brando a 4-million-dollar advance the year before me and when I asked him what he had written he said, “Not a thing – I think they’ve forgotten they paid me.”  I think they thought they could make an example of me – maybe they did not expect me to fight, and win!

Where did the importance of glamour come from for you?

My mother and my aunts  were always impeccably turned out and impossibly glamorous.  The idea of “dressing down” in the 50’s was anathema.  But I went through my rebellious “no make-up and jeans” phase when I was a teenager.  

After RADA you set your sites on Hollywood. Were your parents fully accepting of your career choice?

I did not set my sites on Hollywood.  Hollywood came looking for me.  I was perfectly content doing British films and I most wanted to be a serious actress on the stage.  That’s why I did not want to accept until I received a salary that I thought would be commensurate with my experience.  Otherwise, I would have been thrown on the scrapheap of wannabe starlets whereas I was given above the title billing with proper roles. My father had already accepted my choices since I was starring in British films and my mother always supported me.

Do you have any particular roles down the years of which you are most proud?

I think it’s impossible not to say Alexis in Dynasty, for which I am forever grateful to have had, but I am immensely proud of a small movie I made with Steven Berkoff called Decadence because I played four different characters and it gave me the chance to flex my acting muscles.

You and your sister Jackie were tight friends and terrors ‘on the town’ I suspect.  How did you cope with losing her?

Losing your younger sister is not something you get over, it’s something you learn to live with.

You’ve said that maintaining the mystery in romantic life is imperative – You’ve stated separate bathrooms as one tip. What other pointers can you give us?

That’s a good question! I’m going to have to think about that one.  Don’t mix finance with romance perhaps? I think a woman should always retain a bit of mystery and keep her partner guessing.  Always keep them off-balance, I say!

You and Percy have been together for over 20 years. What is special about him and your relationship that has made it so enduring.

I think it’s that we started as friends. We got to know each other before we fell in love, so the bond became much stronger as a result.  We already knew each other’s bad and good spots and accepted them for what they were, and we don’t try to change each other.

Dame Joan Collins – Behind the Shoulder Pads 

Theatre Royal Brighton: Sat 21 Oct 2023


Words by Kairen Kemp

Steven Graham
Author: Steven Graham

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