An audience with Joan Collins: A simply riotous chat with her friend Piers Morgan

She’s a legend, icon and our most enduring movie star of all time. As Joan Collins celebrates 70 years in the business, her best friend Piers Morgan joins her for lunch. And, from sex (‘two times a day is too much, dahling’) to rich men (‘mean and selfish’), nothing is off limits…

Joan Collins
Dress, Gina Bacconi. Cape, Eliza Jane Howell. Earrings, Lara Heems. Necklace, Pebble London. Gloves, Miscreants. Cuffs, Simon Harrison. Tights, Wolford. Sandals, Joan’s own. Image: Brian Aris

Dame Joan Collins elegantly speared a large piece of sea bass at Club 55, our mutual favourite St Tropez beach restaurant, and made a sudden dramatic, table-silencing announcement.

‘This year is my 70th year in the movie business!’ she declared.

‘Sorry, WHAT?’ I replied, astounded by what I’d just heard. ‘You’ve been making films for 15 years longer than I’ve been alive?’

‘Don’t sound so surprised, dahling,’ she chuckled theatrically. ‘I’ve been doing a lot of things for longer than you’ve been alive.’

‘What was your first film?’

Lady Godiva Rides Again [released name was Bikini Baby]. I played a beauty contestant.’

Joan Collins aged 20
Ready for her close-up: Joan aged 20. Image: Rex Features

Indeed, she did, in a cast that read like a Who’s Who of British acting – Diana Dors, Sid James, Trevor Howard, George Cole, Dora Bryan, Stanley Holloway, Kay Kendall, Jean Marsh, Alastair Sim and, incredibly, Ruth Ellis, who four years later became the last person to be hanged in Britain.

Blink and you’d miss her, but Joan’s movie career was off and running, and it’s never stopped running. She’s now made 76 films in what has become one of the most durable and successful careers in Hollywood history.

Full disclosure: I love Joan Collins. We dine out together many times a year and she’s one of the sharpest, funniest, most glamorous people I know.

She doesn’t suffer fools – never mind gladly, not at all! – and has a natural brutal honesty that means she won’t hesitate to tell you if she thinks you’re speaking utter nonsense.

And she has a deliciously Sicilian streak towards those who cross her. When former BBC newsreader Michael Buerk interviewed her for Radio Times and made a series of sly digs about her age, she retaliated with a stinging attack on him in the Daily Mail headlined: ‘Buerk by name, Buerk by nature.’

But what I love most about her is her boundless energy and zest for life.

She won’t like me saying this, but the great Dame is now 87. Yet she radiates relentlessly high-octane joie de vivre, which shames people half her age.

Joan’s been married five times, in a lengthy pursuit of marital compatibility that finally led her to the arms of handsome Peruvian-born theatre producer Percy Gibson – her longest-lasting husband at 18 years and counting, and her final husband (‘I will never be with anyone else but Percy,’ she often tells me).

Joan and her husband
With her husband Percy, 2013: ‘he’s my best friend… and incredibly good looking.’ Image: Getty Images/Dave M. Benett

Percy, 55, is a great guy – as bright, witty and mischievous as his wife, and oozing old-school charm, manners and decency. His devotion to Joan is palpable, but so is hers to him.

I count them now as two of my very best friends. So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to interview Joan to mark the start of her 70th anniversary year.

After all, she’s personally told me where a lot of her bodies are buried… how far could I push her to repeat all the fabulous stories she’s regaled us with over dinner?

Would I get the waspish Alexis Carrington Colby treatment if I overstepped the mark?
There was only one way to find out…

Piers: Are you ready for this?

Joan: Yes, oh Jesus. Please be kind.

Piers: Of course, kindness is my middle name. During your theatre tour, you shut down audience questions you didn’t like by saying, ‘Next!’ Will you be using the same strategy today?

Joan: Yes. Next!

Piers: You never say your age and you loathe interviewers who ask you how old you are, so let me phrase it a different way: why do you look younger than me, given you’re 32 years older?

Joan: [laughs out loud] It’s because of Percy, he makes me up my game.

Piers: Groucho Marx said you’re only as old as the woman you feel. Are you only as old as the man you feel?

Joan: I do think that being with a younger person, whether you’re female or male, does make you want to keep up with them. Luckily, Percy’s father and my father were born five years apart at the beginning of the 20th century, so we have had a lot of the same parental guidance and attitudes, slightly Victorian in many ways.

Joan Collins and Piers Morgan
Joan and Piers out on the town. Image: Getty Images/Dave M. Benett

Piers: Percy is the same age as me, 55.

Joan: I know that and you both look very good for your age.

Piers: If he hadn’t come along, and given that I am clearly your optimum preferred age, would I have stood a chance of becoming husband number five?

Joan: Well, you’d have to calm down a bit… but I do like your acid wit, and I think we could have quite a few sparring matches. So yes, I think you could have been a contender. I like you a lot.

Piers: Do you remember when we first met?

Joan: Yes, it was on the last-ever Concorde flight from New York to London. You threw a glass of water over Jeremy Clarkson in mid-air…

Piers: No, Clarkson threw it over me.

Joan:
He did? Oh dear. That was such a sad trip. I was crying by the time we arrived home. Such a wonderful step for mankind, now it’s gone.

Piers: You must have used Concorde all the time?

Joan: Only when somebody else was paying.

Piers: You were a Blitz baby in the Second World War. Did ducking bombs give you your extraordinary fearlessness?

Joan: It helped a lot. It wasn’t just being in the air raid shelters. It was being evacuated nine times to different schools, and having to adjust, even though I was only six or seven. Kids of that age can be very cruel, mean,rude and snobbish and a new girl from London, arriving in Tewkesbury or Chichester or Ilfracombe or one of the many places, got a lot of flak. I think I developed my carapace of not letting things really bother me too much.

Piers: Does anything bother you?

Joan: Of course, some things do, particularly to do with my family, and Covid obviously, but you can’t be upset about everything.

Piers: I’m told the only person who’s ever terrified you was Bette Davis on the set of The Virgin Queen?

Joan: Not the only person but she was a terrifying old actress who didn’t like young pretty girls. I was one of her six ladies-in-waiting and we all banded together and hid in corners on the set to try to avoid catching her beady eye.

Rally ’Round The Flag, Boys!
‘We adored each other,’ says Joan of Paul Newman, her best friend’s husband and co-star in Rally ’Round The Flag, Boys!, 1958. Image: Getty Images/Moviepix

Piers: And if her beady eye caught you?

Joan: If we were giggling and not concentrating on our roles, she’d scream: ‘What makes you think you’ll ever be proper actresses!?’ She was pretty rude.

Piers: Did you ever stand up to her?

Joan: Yes, several years later at The Night of 100 Stars in New York. We were sharing a dressing room and I had on this amazing, very low-cut gold lamé dress that the designer Nolan Miller had made me, and Bette said sarcastically, ‘You almost have that dress on, my dear.’ She was smoking a cigarette andglaring at me. So I stood up and said, ‘Yes, and it needs a bit of adjusting, would you mind pulling it down, Bette, my dear?’

Piers: What did she do?

Joan: She pulled it down crossly and then the next day she called Nolan and said, ‘How can you let that woman wear that disgustingly revealing dress?’ To which Nolan replied, ‘Well, if you’ve got it, flaunt it!’

The Virgin Queen poster
With the ‘terrifying, rude’ Bette Davis in The Virgin Queen, 1955. Image: LMPC via Getty Images

Piers: Your father Joe was a tough cookie, but he gave you some excellent advice about what to do with predatory men…

Joan: Knee them in the nether regions.

Piers: How many times have you done that?

Joan: A lot. I was in a generation where women were like dolls and some men thought of you as just an appendage, not to be taken seriously. But I managed to not fall into the pit of the casting couch. I avoided that many times.

Piers: How damaging was that to your career?

Joan: I think I lost Cleopatra. Both the head of the studio and the CEO of the studio promised it to me if I would ‘be nice’ to them, and I wouldn’t be nice to them.

Piers: Gutsy…

Joan: Yes, but it gave me a reputation of being a bitch because being witty and hard was accepted in men like Noël Coward and Oscar Wilde but not in a young woman.

Piers: Your father also said that if you pursued a career as an actress, you would be washed up at 23.

Joan: He was right to be concerned – so many girls I knew were finished in the business at 24 or 25.

Piers: Would he have been stunned by how long-lasting your career has been?

Joan: Well, Daddy lived to be 86 so he saw quite a bit of my great success in Dynasty and I knew he was very, very proud of me, even though he liked to pretend he wasn’t. I heard that he talked about me and Jackie [Joan’s late sister and bestselling novelist] all the time to other people, but he would never give us any praise to our faces. That was the way it was then: don’t tell the children they’re special because they’ll just get swelled heads.

Dynasty
In one of her most famous roles: the scheming Alexis Carrington in Dynasty, 1986. Image: ABC Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Piers: Did he ever tell you that he loved you?

Joan: No. He stopped hugging me when Jackie was born and I was four-and-a-half. Neither of my parents were very affectionate. I’m not very affectionate.

Piers: What was the best advice your mother gave you?

Joan: Always wear night cream. I was withsome women yesterday at lunch, most of whom were younger than me, and I have to say, my skin looked a lot better than theirs because I’ve totally protected it all my life, since I was 15.

Piers: When was the last time you sunbathed without a hat or scarf on your face?

Joan: When I was 20. I go in the sun from the neck down because I love it and when I get in the pool, I wear a baseball cap and sunglasses. The face is a very delicate area and I suppose I could say my face is my fortune and I’d better protect it.

Piers: Did you want to be a star when you were young?

Joan: No. When I first went to Rada, I wanted to be an actress like Vivien Leigh, who I really adored. Then when I went into the movies I wanted to be more like Ava Gardner.

Joan Collins aged 22
Starlet Joan aged 22 – her dad feared she’d be washed up by 23… Image: John Kobal Foundation/Moviepix

Piers: What is the difference between a star and an actress?

Joan: I’ve never heard of half the people described as stars, and I consider myself to be quite knowledgeable about modern life. I read five newspapers a day and I watch the news and I know who people are. So stars twinkle for a little while and then they usually fade. I was a little star in the 50s and 60s, and a big star in the 80s, and a smaller star now…

Piers: I’d say you’re still a big star now.

Joan: [pause] OK, I think you’re right [laughs]. Yes, if I look at myself objectively, I see that I’m considered to be, but I think of myself as a jobbing actor… or rather, a jobbing actress.

Piers: Who’s been the greatest star of them all?

Joan: Marlon Brando. First, he was a brilliant actor. Second, he was incredibly original in his work and did some amazingly wonderful films like On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. And third, he had a very colourful private life. Most of the biggest stars have very colourful private lives. The media like that, so they big you up and then the public buy it.

Piers: There’s a very dark side to fame, too. We’ve recently been reminded of that in December with the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder by a crazed fan.

Joan: Oh god, I knew John, I was really upset when he died. Though I think the person that I was most upset about when they died, other than my mother, father and sister, was Princess Diana.

Joan Collins
Cape and gloves, Eliza Jane Howell. Earrings, Merola London. Dress, Deadly Is The Female. Image: Brian Aris

Piers: Did you know her?

Joan: Yes. I really liked her. She had to face such a barrage of media attention from the time she was 19. I remember going to an event in Palm Beach and there were hundreds of photographers there and she said to me, ‘Oh my god, is it always like this? I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.’ And I said, ‘Yes, it always is like this, and you will get used to it.’ She wrote me the most adorable letter when I sent her a book of mine and I thought she was hugely inspirational. Nolan Miller and I used to trawl through pictures of her in fashion magazines and copy things she wore for me to wear in Dynasty, and sometimes she copied things I’d worn.

Piers: I heard that when she died, you cried for three days?

Joan: Yes, I was in the South of France and a friend of mine called me at 6.30am to tell me and I just couldn’t believe it. I was terribly upset. I love the monarchy – but she was such a breath of fresh air. Now we have Catherine who is also a great breath of fresh air.

Piers: And we also have Meghan.

Joan: Oh, you can have her!

Piers: No, I’ve been rejected, thrown on the dust heap of her former friends, not required on her social-climbing ladder!

Joan: Yes, and we are never allowed to forget it…

Piers: What do you think about cancel culture?

Joan: It’s hateful. I think people should be allowed to have their opinions without people cancelling them, particularly at schools and universities. I stopped saying anything political on social media, because I got so much hate mail when I mentioned I’d gone to an event for Nigel Farage, and I thought, ‘Oh my god, this isn’t worth it.’ So I will keep my political opinions to myself and my friends.

Piers: Tom Ford says proper lovemaking, with foreplay, burns 400 calories. Have you tested that theory?

Joan: What are you talking about – just kissing and fondling?

Piers: No, we’re talking the full shebang.

Joan: Oh, screwing? [laughs]

Piers: Yes.

Joan: In that case, yes. I’m not really a calorie counter, but if Tom Ford says it, it must be true.

Piers: Your walls are covered with pictures of you with all types of world leaders – royal, political, religious. Who has made the biggest impression?

Joan: Mrs Thatcher and the Queen.

Joan Collins with The Queen
Meeting the Queen, 2014: ‘she is inspirational’. Image: AFP via Getty Images

Piers: Why?

Joan: The Queen, because I think she’s an incredible example of somebody who’s totally dedicated to their work. When she became Queen at 25, she said, ‘I declare before you all that my whole life shall be devoted to your service.’ I was a teenager at the time and thought it was very inspirational, and, of course, she has done that. As for Mrs Thatcher, she was Prime Minister at the time I was playing Alexis in Dynasty and she was being called the Iron Lady when I was being called the Iron Maiden. I know she was hated for a lot of things, but I admired her. I went to her 80th birthday party, where sadly she was not at all well. I think she fried her brains because she only slept for four hours a night, which is terrible. She worked constantly, 20 hours a day.

Piers: Where does Boris Johnson rank on your list of most impressive leaders?

Joan: [laughs] Next!

Piers: We may have slept in the same bed. I had your one-time fiancé Warren Beatty’s old suite at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles for a few years.

Joan: Did they change the box springs?

Piers: I was told he went through five of them in the decade he spent there. I didn’t establish if that was entirely down to you…

Joan: I only knew him when he was a crass unknown of 22 but he was quite forceful in the feathers!

Joan Collins with Warren Beatty
‘He was forceful in the feathers,’ says Joan of her former fiance Warren Beatty, pictured in 1961. Image: Getty Images/Mirrorpix

Piers: Is it true your friend Joanne Woodward said to keep Warren happy, he would need sex several times a day?

Joan: Yes, absolutely. I was horrified because it was really too much, and I felt like an oyster in a slot machine.

Piers: It was all too exhausting?

Joan: Yes, it was. I’m boring. I’m sorry, you ask most women if they want to have sex two or three times a day, they’re lying if they say they want to.

Piers: Who’s the most famous star whose advances you rejected?

Joan: Bobby Kennedy.

Piers: Really?

Joan: Yes.

Piers: Wow.

Joan: I know.

Piers: I need some more meat on that bone – what happened?

Joan: Well, Ethel [his widow] is still alive, so I really don’t want to go into it too much because I wouldn’t want to hurt her. That was one of the things I said to him: ‘I’m married, you’re married.’ But he was so charismatic. The first time we met, I was wearing black point d’esprit and he said, ‘I’ve always loved a woman in point d’esprit.’

Joan Collins
Hat, Ana Bella Millinery.
Earrings, Merola London. Gloves, What Katie Did. Top, Deadly Is The Female. Image: Brian Aris

Piers: Is that a dress?

Joan: It’s a French lace.

Piers: How did he take your rejection?

Joan: He’s a gentleman, that’s all I can say. He was another person whose death made me cry. He would have been the most marvellous president. I know he was hated by many but anybody who’s brilliant and clever and charismatic is hated.

Piers: Yes, we are. Did Donald Trump ever try it on with you?

Joan: No, but he did try to get me and Percy to buy an apartment in New York.

Piers: What happened?

Joan: It was shortly after we were first married, and we were looking for apartments. We saw Trump at a premiere and he told us we had to come and buy one of his places. So we went to see it and it was a nightmare – tiny, no closets and opposite the United Nations.

Piers: What do you think of Trump?

Joan: Next!

Piers: Do you like rich men?

Joan: No. Because they’re very selfish, usually incredibly ugly, treat women like chattels and many of them are incredibly mean. The only rich man I’ve ever been out with was [American film producer] Arthur Loew Jr for about nine or ten months, and he was very tight, always counting the pennies.

Piers: Have you ever had sex with an ugly man?

Joan: No.

Joan Collins
Smouldering in The Stud, 1978. Image: Alpha Photo Press Agency Ltd

Piers: Really, you’ve maintained a nine-decade bar of aesthetic quality?

Joan: Yes, absolutely.

Piers: That’s incredible.

Joan: No, I can’t think of one. Mind you, I haven’t been to bed with that many men, but if you look at my husbands, and boyfriends, they were all good looking.

Piers: You’ve literally never had sex with an ugly person?

Joan: No. Try to find one on Google – you won’t be able to. Basically, it boils down to never going to bed with somebody I wasn’t attracted to, and I’m not attracted to men unless they’re good looking. You can call me frivolous or decadent or whatever but that’s the truth.

Piers: There’s nothing wrong with having a high-aesthetic bar. My wife Celia has one, too. What’s the worst lie anyone has ever told you?

Joan Collins with Sydney Chaplin
With Sydney Chaplin, the only co-star she slept with, 1954. Image: Bettmann Archive

Joan: That I’m a terrible actress.

Piers: Who said that?

Joan: Another student at Rada who was a bit jealous of me.

Piers: How did you respond?

Joan: I ‘ghosted’ him as they would say today.

Piers: What happened to him?

Joan: I think he died.

Piers: Did he ever make it as an actor?

Joan: No. It was pretty hurtful, but I got a lot of horrible reviews in the early days, all saying I was just pretty and luscious and glamorous, not an actress. It dented my self-confidence quite a lot.

Piers: Conversely, what’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about you?

Joan: Nigel Hawthorne, the best actor I’ve ever worked with, was very, very complimentary to me and said that I had had a rum deal from critics because of my looks. That meant so much coming from him. I remember playing cards once with Vivien Leigh and she said she wasn’t taken seriously as an actress until she started to lose her looks, which I thought was interesting because she was very beautiful.

Piers: But you’ve never lost your looks…

Joan: I know, it’s true, isn’t it… [chuckles]

Joan Collins
Cape, Eliza Jane Howell. Earrings, Merola London. Image: Brian Aris

Piers: Were you drunk as a skunk filming the orgy scene in The Stud?

Joan: Absolutely, yes. We were all out of our minds.

Piers: Susanna Reid [Piers’s Good Morning Britain co-host] always says that ageing is a blessing. Do you agree with that?

Joan: No, but as Maurice Chevalier said, it’s better than the alternative.

Piers: Why has Percy been your longest-surviving husband?

Joan: Oh, come on, I’ve talked about this a million times, it’s quarter to one and I’ve got a manicure in half an hour.

Piers: Calm down, Alexis. Some of us have done three hours’ work already this morning. Just give me three reasons why Percy has been the best husband?

Joan: OK. He’s my best friend, he’s incredibly kind and he’s marvellous looking.

Piers: Who was the worst husband?

Joan: Peter Holm, the Swede.

Piers: Do you still keep his engagement ring with all the others?

Joan:
Actually, I just kept the diamond part of it. Zsa Zsa Gábor told me to do that… ‘Give
back the ring dahling, keep the stone.’

Piers: Other than separate bedrooms, what do you think is the secret of a successful marriage?

Joan: Being very good friends, feeling able to talk about everything and still keeping the slight bit of mystery about oneself, if that’s possible despite being together 24/7.

Piers: Is it true that when one boyfriend called you a ‘f***ing bore’, you replied, ‘Well, you’re a boring f***’?

Joan: That’s absolutely true.

Piers:
How did he take it?

Joan:
We broke up.

Piers:
Do you remember your first Rada audition?

Joan: Oh, brilliantly, yes. My mother took me, and I was so nervous. When I walked inside, I found a group of people including John Gielgud sitting there staring at me.

Piers: Incredible.

Joan: I thought I would die. Anyway, I got in.

Joan Collins' children
Movie star and doting mum: with children, Tara, three, and Sacha, one, 1966. Image: Rex Features

Piers: What’s the trick to great acting?

Joan: Being as free as you can, not thinking about acting. And as Spencer Tracy used to say, hit the marks and know your lines. My favourite story about acting involves Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman in The Marathon Man. Dustin had to be very out of breath for a scene, so he ran around the set three times and came back pouring with sweat and said, ‘OK, I’m ready now to play being exhausted.’ And Olivier replied: ‘Dear boy, why don’t you try acting?’ I love that story.

Piers: How many of your leading men did you end up in bed with?

Joan: Only one. Sydney Chaplin [Charlie Chaplin’s son, who co-starred with Joan in Land of the Pharaohs].

Piers: How did you resist the others?

Joan: Most of them, I didn’t particularly like. Paul Newman and I adored each other but he was married to one of my best friends [Joanne Woodward] and I wasn’t about to steal somebody’s husband. I did that once and that was enough.

Piers: Who’s the most handsome man in Hollywood history?

Joan: Clark Gable. He was the definitive movie star.

Piers: Worst chat-up line anyone has ever tried on you?

Joan: ‘Did anyone ever tell you you’re a very pretty girl?’

Piers: Has it ever worked?

Joan: No.

Piers: What’s the nearest you have come to death?

Joan: I was doing a frightful movie called Empire of the Ants in the Florida swamps. It was very windy and the driver of this ancient old Buick or Cadillac, one of those really heavy American cars, opened the door to me and when I got out, the full force of the wind sent the door right on to my face and knocked me out. It could have killed me. I came to, lying on the floor in the field.

Piers: Wow.

Joan: Yes, they were standing by me saying, ‘Is she alive?’ I had a huge egg-shaped thing on my head and sent a Polaroid to my kids saying, ‘This is what your mother has to do to pay for your school fees.’ I was so, so, so lucky that I didn’t have lasting brain damage.

Piers: If you could be trapped on a desert island for the rest of your life with Meghan Markle, Madonna or Michael Buerk, who would you choose?

Joan: Oh Jesus Christ… erm… Meghan. I think she would be easier to get along with. I can’t stand Michael Buerk.

Piers: And Madonna would just be a pain in the a***…

Joan: She’s a bit of a diva, isn’t she? I think Meghan and I could get along OK.

Piers: How long do you give Harry and Meghan’s marriage?

Joan: Next!

Piers: Who is the greatest fashion designer ever and what’s been your favourite dress?

Joan: Yves Saint Laurent, and my favourite dress was one Valentino made for me that I wore to my Damehood party that had a huge pink bow on the shoulder.

Piers: You and Brigitte Bardot are the most famous stars associated with St Tropez. Have you ever met?

Joan: Yes, once, in the early 60s in a hotel in Rome.I was sitting talking to four young men on a bar on the roof, and Brigitte arrived, wearing a pink and white gingham frock, and came over to the bar. Three of the four men zoomed straight over to sit with her. She was extremely sexy. All I got was a brief hello.

Joan Collins and Jayne Mansfield
With fellow pin-up Jayne Mansfield in The Wayward Bus, 1957. Image: Silver Screen Collection/Moviepix

Piers: Best book you’ve ever read?

Joan: Perfume [the cult bestselling novel by Patrick Süskind]. It’s incredibly evocative.

Piers: Your favourite hotel?

Joan: Claridge’s. It’s elegant and sophisticated, has the best décor and food and the most wonderful staff.

Piers: You’re allergic to fat people…

Joan: No, I’m not allergic to them, I worry about them…

Piers: You keep ordering Celia to get me to lose weight.

Joan: I do not! Did she tell you that? I just mentioned it en passant.

Piers: You’re not wrong, but it does suggest you have a problem with fat people.

Joan: You’re not fat, you’re just a little chubby.

Piers:
When was the last time you cried?

Joan:
Last week. I was watching Sleepless in Seattle and when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan finally meet at the Empire State Building and walk off together, I cried.

Piers: Are you quite emotional?

Joan: Yes, I am… not violently so, but somewhat.

Piers: Your best and worst movies?

Joan: The best movie in terms of my performance was Steven Berkoff’s Decadence in which I played two roles.

Piers: And the one you dare not mention in civilised circles?

Joan: The one I mentioned earlier, the Empire of the Ants, which unfortunately was incredibly popular.

Piers: What is the best life lesson you’ve learnt?

Joan: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Piers: If you could only have dinner with six famous friends every night for the rest of your life, who would they be?

Joan: Noël Coward, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker, Oscar Levant, Coco Chanel and Margaret Thatcher.

Piers: I was waiting with bated breath then to see if I got the nod, given I must have had more meals with you this year than anyone other than Percy.

Joan: [laughs] OK, I’ll put you in, too. I thought you meant dead.

Empire of the Ants
In her ‘worst movie’, the one that nearly killed her: Empire of the Ants, 1977. Image: Eddie Sanderson/Archive Photos

Piers: Biggest mistake you’ve ever made, apart from doing this interview?

Joan: Do you think this is a mistake?

Piers: No, I think it’s brilliant.

Joan: All right, marrying Peter Holm. That was a huge mistake.

Piers: Robert Wagner told you that being rich meant having ‘f***-you money’. By that criterion, are you rich?

Joan: Well, before Covid, I might have said yes, but not any more. It’s been very slow. I haven’t had any paying work for ten months.

Piers: You once blew cocaine over Sammy Davis Jr. Did he mind?

Joan: Yes, he was p***ed off. He said, ‘You’ve ruined my burgundy velvet jacket,’ and I said I’d brush it off.

Piers: I don’t think that was quite what he wanted to do with the cocaine…

Joan: No.

Piers: Your sister Jackie was one of my favourite people. What was her greatest quality?

Joan: Her dedication to her work, which started when she was ten years old when she would write these amazing stories, in beautiful handwriting. She remained so dedicated to writing that even after she knew she had cancer and was told she only had two or three years to live, she wrote another three books. Jackie was a great person, I miss her all the time.

Piers: Do you think she watches over you?

Joan: Yes, definitely, she’s my guardian angel.

Piers: In what way?

Joan: There’s this little tiny fly that appeared shortly after Jackie died and now comes around a lot, even when it’s very cold. It buzzes around me and I just have a feeling of her being there whenever it appears. I’m going to get mocked for that, but I don’t care.

Joan and Jackie Collins
With her late sister Jackie, 1974, who Joan believes is a guardian angel watching over her. Image: Getty Images/Terry O’Neill

Piers: Who’s the rudest person you’ve ever met?

Joan: Michael Buerk! No, actually, it was some dreadful presenter in Australia. I don’t know his name and I don’t want to give him any oxygen of publicity, but I’ve never met anybody ruder or nastier and more horrible to me.

Piers: Do you now own more or less shoes than Imelda Marcos?

Joan:
Less, nobody could have more than her.

Piers:
How many do you have?

Joan:
Fifty pairs.

Joan Collins
Dress, Gina Bacconi. Cape, Eliza Jane Howell. Earrings, Lara Heems. Necklace, Pebble London. Gloves, Miscreants. Cuffs, Simon Harrison. Tights, Wolford. Sandals, Joan’s own. Image: Brian Aris

Piers: Being an actor usually involves rising above constant rejection. What’s the best way to deal with it?

Joan: Shrug it off and go and have a martini and a few cigarettes, although I don’t smoke any more, so just the martini.

Piers: You recently starred opposite a cannibal in American Horror Story. If you had to eat human flesh to stay alive, whose would you eat?

Joan: I wouldn’t.

Piers: Even to stay alive?

Joan: To stay alive? I don’t know. I don’t think I can answer that question, it’s horrible. Next!

Piers: If you only had two hours left to live, which restaurant would you go to and what would you eat?

Joan: I wouldn’t go to a restaurant, I’d stay at home with Percy and we’d have a baked potato with Beluga caviar and sour cream, and lots and lots and lots of vodka.

Piers: You were a germophobe long before coronavirus. Do you feel vindicated?

Joan: Yes! I wore masks and gloves when I travelled long before this. When I left LA in early March, people were pointing at me and mocking me. They’re not laughing now.

Piers: Have you ever changed a lightbulb?

Joan: It’s so funny you say that! I asked Percy to change a lightbulb this morning, so the answer is no.

Piers: You’ve said your only weakness is chocolate. What’s your favourite bar?

Joan: KitKat, because it’s not fattening.

Piers: In 1977, an astrologer told you that you’d have huge fame and success in America. Given how accurate that was, do you still consult them?

Joan: No, but when Percy and I were considering getting married, an actress friend, Arlene Dahl, did our charts and it turned out that we knew each other in a previous life and are totally, totally compatible and perfect for each other.

Piers: Do you believe in life after death?

Joan: That’s a tricky one, Piers. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

Piers: Do you pray?

Joan: No… yes… if somebody is ill, I pray for them to get better.

Piers: Final question. If you could write your own epitaph for your tombstone, what would it say?

Joan: She gave a lot of people a lot of pleasure.

Piers: I think that is completely true.

Joan: Thank you.

Follow Joan on Instagram: @joancollinsdbe

Picture Director: Ester Malloy. Styling: Arabella Boyce. Make-up And Hair: Alyn Waterman At Alynmakeuphair.co.uk. Dresser: Chrissy Maddison.