English ac­tress and au­thor Joan Collins on her pas­sion for life.

As her new book, Pas­sion For Life, is pub­lished, 80-year-old ac­tress Joan Collins re­veals why she loves be­ing busy, re­fuses to be de­fined by her age and will never stop be­ing an op­ti­mist

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The phone rings and a man picks up – it’s Percy Gib­son. Hus­band num­ber five of screen leg­end and ex- Dy­nasty diva, Joan Collins. He passes her the phone.

“I’m get­ting a bit of a sore throat so for­give me for be­ing a lit­tle croaky,” she says. As ever, Collins is ex­tremely busy, and she’s been strug­gling to sleep due to the build­ing work go­ing on at her Lon­don flat.

“It’s hard to find a lit­tle nook that one can go into with­out bump­ing into some­one,” she notes.

Among her cur­rent projects, there’s a new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy Pas­sion

For Life (pub­lished by Con­sta­ble), two films, a cameo in TV se­ries Benidorm, a novel, a big, se­cret project (it’s hard to be­lieve this woman is 80) and she’s due to per­form an up­dated ver­sion of her one-woman show in Fe­bru­ary, which Gib­son di­rects.

He is won­der­ful to work with, she says. And ac­cord­ing to her new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy (or il­lus­trated mem­oir, as she’d rather call it), he’s also a won­der­ful hus­band.

So what does Collins, with her wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence, be­lieve is the key to a happy mar­riage? “Giv­ing each other space and be­ing best friends,” she states. “Oh – and try­ing to have sep­a­rate bath­rooms.” Collins is not re­ally one for giv­ing ad­vice, though, and she cer­tainly does not tell her three chil­dren how to con­duct their re­la­tion­ships.

“If some­one asks what I think of their other half, I will say, but I don’t ar­bi­trar­ily go about giv­ing ad­vice. I hate peo­ple who do that,” she says.

When she wants ad­vice, she turns to her hus­band, and oc­ca­sion­ally her younger sis­ter, writer Jackie Collins – but only “up to a point”. Fam­ily is clearly very im­por­tant to her. The

first chap­ter of Pas­sion For Life is ded­i­cated to the topic (there’s another about her many friends – loy­alty, she says, is key to a good friend­ship).

Collins’s mother was a dance teacher, her fa­ther an agent for the likes of Shirley Bassey and The Bea­tles – al­though she de­scribes him as un­emo­tional.

“He wanted me to go to sec­re­tar­ial school, find a good hus­band, have chil­dren and lead a nice, proper life.

“It wasn’t quite my cup of tea,” she says wryly.

He told her she’d be washed up by 23 if she be­came an ac­tress. “That was rather preva­lent then – there was a tremen­dous amount of ageism with ac­tresses, and there still is.”

His com­ments just made her more de­ter­mined to suc­ceed.

“I took some small plea­sure in show­ing him that it didn’t hap­pen the way he thought it would – that I was able to make a liv­ing as an ac­tress – which very few ac­tors can do all their life – and write books and sup­port three chil­dren,” she says. “I feel I’ve achieved quite an amount in my time.” Her fa­ther did give her one good piece of ad­vice, though: No one will ever do any­thing for you, you have to do it your­self.

“He was right there,” she says. “I trusted my fi­nan­cial af­fairs to peo­ple who were sup­posed to be ex­perts dur­ing the time of [hit US Eight­ies TV soap] Dy­nasty, and they badly let me down. I found my­self in very deep trou­ble with the tax man.”

That’s not the only knock-back the ac­tress has ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing her life. There were four failed mar­riages, of course, start­ing with Ir­ish ac­tor Maxwell Reed (whom she mar­ried aged 19; it lasted four years), fol­lowed by another ac­tor, An­thony New­ley, who was un­faith­ful. Next came Amer­i­can busi­ness­man Ron Kass, who de­vel­oped a drug ad­dic­tion, and fi­nally pop singer and play­boy Peter Holm, whom she de­scribes in her book as “a mix­ture of ob­du­rate dullard and cal­cu­lat­ing so­ciopath”. This was the short­est mar­riage, last­ing barely two years.

Collins also suf­fered heartache when her daugh­ter Katyana, then aged eight, de­vel­oped a se­vere brain trauma and was left fight­ing for her life in a coma fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent. Thank­fully, she lived to tell the tale.

In the mid 1990s the ac­tress was also em­broiled in a high-pro­file

le­gal bat­tle with pre­vi­ous pub­lish­ers Ran­dom House – she’s been cited by The Guin­ness Book of­World Records as holder of the record for re­tain­ing the world’s largest un­re­turned pay­ment for an un­pub­lished manuscript.

Some­how, though, she seems to have re­mained pos­i­tive through it all.

“I was born with the op­ti­mist gene,” she says.

High points have been plen­ti­ful. She started work­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in her teens and was quickly signed to Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox, land­ing her big Hol­ly­wood break with a role in 1955’s Land Of The Pharaohs.

Film and TV roles con­tin­ued through­out the Fifties, Six­ties and Sev­en­ties, in­clud­ing two films based on nov­els by her sis­ter.

From 1981 to 1989, she starred as schem­ing diva Alexis in Dy­nasty, which be­came one of Amer­ica’s most suc­cess­ful se­ries and earned Collins a Golden Globe.

She’s con­tin­ued work­ing in film and on stage, has also writ­ten a sub­stan­tial num­ber of books, both fic­tion and non-fic­tion, and right now, she’s pop­ping up in the ad­verts for choco­late brand Snick­ers.

In 1997, Collins was awarded an OBE for her con­tri­bu­tion to the arts and char­ity work. She’s a big fan of the Queen of Eng­land.

“I think she is the most in­spi­ra­tional woman – be­com­ing queen at the age of 25, she has never put a foot wrong. I think she’s ab­so­lutely bril­liant,” she notes.

Mar­garet Thatcher’s another woman she’s ad­mired. “I like women who have a strong sense of their own iden­tity, who don’t nec­es­sar­ily con­form to a stan­dard that other peo­ple ex­pect.”

Her first four mar­riages may not have lasted, but Collins doesn’t see them (well, two of them at least) as com­plete fail­ures.

With­out them, she wouldn’t have had her three chil­dren – Tara and Alexan­der, whom she had with New­ley, and Katyana, by Kass.

She now has three grand­chil­dren, too. “I en­joy my grand­chil­dren, but do I en­joy be­ing a grand­mother? What does that mean? Sit­ting around mak­ing woollen hats for them?” she asks, laugh­ing.

In­deed, it’s hard to imag­ine this 80-year-old, who can still do the splits and ef­fort­lessly pull off a body­con dress, do­ing any­thing tra­di­tion­ally ‘granny-ish’.

“There’s far too much em­pha­sis on age th­ese days,” she states. “It’s be­com­ing lu­di­crous – ev­ery­one’s ob­sessed with every­body else.

“There are peo­ple of 50 who look like crones and peo­ple of 70 who look bril­liant.”

Collins is all about the glam­our, but she’s opted for leggings and a striped jumper to­day; “Be­cause I’m just ly­ing around the house.”

Ly­ing around and speak­ing to jour­nal­ists, it should be noted, so it’s hardly a day off.

But Collins is not re­ally one for slack­ing and ad­mits she has no plans to slow down.

“I can’t think of any­thing more hor­ren­dous than get­ting up and the only thing I have to look for­ward to is watch­ing TV,” she says.

“You know what they say; ‘You’ve got to eat life, or life will eat you’.”

Af­ter four failed mar­riages, Collins

says giv­ing each other space is vi­tal

‘Best friend’ and hus­band Percy is di­rect­ing Collins in a new one-woman show

The ac­tress has a close re­la­tion­ship with sis­ter Jackie

Collins at her fifth wed­ding; she de­scribes Percy as a ‘won­der­ful hus­band’

With An­thony New­ley on their wed­ding day

Hold­ing Katyana in the early 1970s

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