Joan Collins: You Ask The Questions

How have you coped with the casting couch? And what gives you the right to tell us how to vote - when you no longer live in Britain?
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The Independent Online

Joan Collins, 71, was born in London, the sister of the now bestselling novelist Jackie. She studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and achieved early fame in the 1954 film Our Girl Friday and in the television series Batman and Star Trek. Her career ebbed in the Seventies, when she starred in low-budget horror films such as Tales from the Crypt, but in 1984, she landed the role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty and hasn't left the spotlight since. She has also written four novels and is a patron of the UK Independence Party. She lives between London, New York and France.

Joan Collins, 71, was born in London, the sister of the now bestselling novelist Jackie. She studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and achieved early fame in the 1954 film Our Girl Friday and in the television series Batman and Star Trek. Her career ebbed in the Seventies, when she starred in low-budget horror films such as Tales from the Crypt, but in 1984, she landed the role of Alexis Carrington in Dynasty and hasn't left the spotlight since. She has also written four novels and is a patron of the UK Independence Party. She lives between London, New York and France.

What gives you the right to tell us how to vote when you don't live in the UK? Did you vote in the recent European elections?
Julia Turner, by e-mail

I have every right. I was born in this country and lived here until I was 20. Since then, I have lived equally between America, France and England. I have paid my taxes religiously in this country and I have never taken a penny from the state. When my children were little, I didn't even take the child benefit. But I'm not telling anyone to vote UKIP. I agreed to be their patron. But that doesn't mean that I'm doing a Vanessa Redgrave. I didn't vote in the recent European elections because I was in New York.

If everyone gets the face they deserve, is cosmetic surgery cheating?
Nick Smith, Barking

Of course not. If you are an actor or actress, there's no reason not to have cosmetic surgery. If you want to have poisonous Botox injected into your forehead so that you can't move it - and I can't think of anything worse - that's your choice. I think people get the face they deserve and surgery doesn't change that. I've seen some miserable people who've had surgery, and they still look miserable.

How does someone qualify as a film legend?
Jody Little, by e-mail

Usually by being dead, or exceedingly old. The legends are Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn... there are so many. As for the furore over whether Nicole Kidman is a legend: I don't think she's old enough or dead enough.

What is the best way to negotiate the casting couch?
Harriet Maxey, Cowes

Kick him in the balls and run out of the door. I have done that. That's why I didn't get Cleopatra. Well, I didn't do it literally. I just refused to go to bed with the head of the studio. I had tested for Cleopatra twice and was the frontrunner. He took me into his office and said, "You really want this part?" And I said, "Yes. I really do." "Well," he said, "then all you have to do is be nice to me." It was a wonderful euphemism in the Sixties for you know what. But I couldn't do that. In fact, I was rather wimpish, burst into tears and rushed out of his office. So, I didn't kick him in the balls, but I should have done.

What was your favourite Dynasty costume and why?
Patricia Simon, London

We once had a costume ball, and Nolan Miller, our costumier, designed me this sensational Elizabeth I outfit. It was black velvet with a huge skirt, a ruff and a red wig encrusted with pearls. However, unfortunately, as part of that episode, Linda Evans and I had to have a tug-of-war over a mud bath. And I was the one who had to fall in. So this gorgeous three- or four-thousand-dollar costume had to go splat into the grime. Such a shame.

What was it about the Collins household? Did you and your sister give each other confidence? Or was there just something in the water?
Bob Johnston, Cardiff

Well, we were a very vivacious group of people. My grandmother was a dancer and a soubrette with her sisters. My father was a theatrical agent. So there were comedians, singers, dancers, trapeze artists around all the time. I suppose it wasn't your average household. However, at that time, I wanted to be a detective, or a journalist, or a dress designer. I changed my mind all the time. I think there are dynastic influences in life. Just as a baker's child will often become a baker, so I went into showbusiness. It's not in the water; it's in the genes.

Who would you pick to play you in a biopic? And what do you think of the current crop of young actresses?
Mark Taha, Sydenham

I'd choose Catherine Zeta-Jones. I told her that once and she was very pleased. Of the new lot, I love Ashley Judd, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett. But I don't think there's anyone today who can really compare with the glamour of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn. Some of today's bunch may be better actresses, but we know too much about them. Absolutely everyone these days is photographed with their tongue sticking out or carrying a Sainsbury's shopping bag. You would never have seen Hedy Lamarr doing that.

How do you feel about being a grandmother?
Pippa Ledger, London

I feel great. I have three gorgeous grandbabies: Miel, who's just turned six, Weston, who's one, and the newest one, Ava Grace, who is five months. They are all total individuals, a great pleasure to be with and a great pleasure to give back to their parents when I get bored with them. They don't call me granny, they call me Dodo. My brother used to call me Dodo when he was little. When they get a bit older, perhaps I might pass on the philosophy that I was given by my father: you make your own breaks in life. Very few people, other than your parents, are going to do anything for you. If you want something done, do it yourself. Don't expect a hand-out.

You really hit the big time, playing Alexis Carrington, when you were in your late forties. How did you do it? What's the secret of longevity in the acting world?
Elizabeth Parkinson, Leeds

Well, if every actor and actress retired at 60 there wouldn't be anyone to play the older parts, would there? Someone's got to play the doddery old grandfather. Sarah Bernhardt was playing Hamlet on stage in her seventies - and with one leg. If you can remember your lines and you enjoy it - and most actors do - there's no reason to stop.

How would you define your brand of feminism?
Nicola Kelly, Dublin

If I have one, it is that I enjoy being a woman. I've never had any desire to be a man or act like a man. I have lived my life with tremendous independence and, of course, I believe women are of equal value. However, there was a brand of feminism that came in in the Sixties that said you can't wear lipstick, you can't wear a bra, and you have to let men love you warts and all. I don't go along with that.

I see that you're quite happy to be working into your seventies. Do you think people should stop whining about having to retire later?
Sasha Carter, by e-mail

I've exactly the same energy as I had when I was 40. I don't feel any different so, therefore, I can't think of anything more ghastly than not being able to work and having to fill one's life with sitting around and watching TV. But then, if I worked in a factory, I'd probably feel differently.

Joan Collins' new novel, 'Misfortune's Daughters' is published by Robson Books (£16.99)

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