My Secret Life: Joanna Lumley, 66, actress

'My secret crush? Leonardo DiCaprio'

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The Independent Online

My parents were… My father was an officer with the 6th Gurkha Rifles. He married my mother in Srinagar, where I was born. My mother was the daughter of a diplomat out there, so we had quite an Indian upbringing. Then I came back and went to boarding school. But my parents I adored. Very funny, very kind.

When I was a child I wanted to be… Obviously, a barman. I used to line up small bottles and fill them with water and offer them to nobody. I wanted to run the world – be a prime minister or president.

If I could change one thing about myself… I have an inability to remember people's names. I want that more than anything else in the world, but I forget in a second, it's like water on a hot plate.

You wouldn't know it but I am very good at… darning.

You may not know it but I'm no good at… parties. Can't stand having fun! No, what I mean is, the idea of a big party which starts at six and might go on till four has me dialling for a taxi already.

I wish I had never worn… a rainbow-hued tank top in bold Mexican knitting.

What I see when I look in the mirror… A tired, familiar, friendly old woman. Once I was on a desert island and didn't see my face for nine days. When I looked in a mirror, it was the biggest shock of my life. I saw a total stranger. Terrifying.

My favourite item of clothing… Long coats. You can wear a heel-length coat with a very short skirt, black tights and big boots, even when you're old.

It's not fashionable but I like… not having a mobile phone switched on. I don't like being able to be accessed.

My house is… tall. Five storeys, stairs rackety-rackety-rackety all the way up. It's quite old and you can hear the Tube thundering along underneath, and the house joggles so you have to rearrange all the pictures every day.

My favourite work of art… I've just come back from New York, when I went, yet again, in homage to Tiepolo. He's a complete wizard.

My favourite building… One of the dzongs in Bhutan. Fabulous. In Britain, I love St Bride's church. It's like a shell.

Movie heaven… Breakfast at Tiffany's. There's something about that street in the morning, Audrey Hepburn eating a bun and drinking coffee, which we never did in those days… There was something bewitching about America and the whole of that silent, fabulous city.

My secret crush… Leonardo DiCaprio, who I get to kiss in this Scorsese film [The Wolf of Wall Street, now filming].

My real-life villains… People who are indifferent. People who are mean bastards and don't give me money when I'm asking for it for charity. Bastards!

The person who really makes me laugh… Jennifer Saunders.

A life in brief

Joanna Lumley OBE was born in Srinagar, India, in 1946. She worked as a model before becoming an actress; her breakthrough role came in The New Avengers in 1976. She is best known as Patsy in the long-running BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous, and has presented several TV travel documentaries. She has campaigned and raised funds Pfor many charities, most notably the Gurkha Justice Campaign. Lumley recently launched YouView TV, from TalkTalk. She lives in Stockwell, south London