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Joan Collins: TV bosses want to make reality shows to save on wages




Dame Joan Collins reflects on her 65 year career and says every actress over the age of 35 suffers ageism..


Dynasty legend: Joan Collins

She’s just become a Dame and Joan Collins’ striking looks are the envy of women decades younger.
But she says the film industry is still riddled with ageism which means that even now, after a ­glittering 65-year career, she struggles to find work.
The former Dynasty star reveals that she finds herself sitting around waiting for roles to come to her, rather than going for ­auditions.
And she lifts the lid on the film co-stars she most hated working with – and says reality TV is making it even harder for aspiring actors to get work.

Dame Joan, who was named in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list this week, admits: “I am kind of difficult to cast because people know how old I am and they maybe don’t want someone of that age.
“Basically, I take one day as it comes and wait for people to ask me to do something.
“Every actress over the age of 35 experiences ageism. I was cast in a TV role once when I was 39. My agent told them I was 32 because I looked it.


Sportsphoto Ltd./Allstar BETTE DAVIS & JOAN COLLINS
Icons: Bette Davis and Joan Collins

“I got the role but at the end the producer said, ‘My God, you are 39. Had we known that we would never have cast you’.
“I said, ‘Why not?’ and he said that he wanted a 33 year old. It isn’t how you look these days, it is how old you are and these days they can just look on Google.”
Speaking about her new title, she says: “There’s nothing to compare to being a Dame and getting that kind of accolade from my country and my Queen.
“I am very patriotic and quite a royalist, so it is extraordinary.”
After roles in several British films, London-born Dame Joan moved to Hollywood aged 22 and appeared in a string of hits.
Recalling a battle with Bette Davis on the set of the 1955 ­film The Virgin Queen, she says her scary co-star, who played ­Elizabeth I, once sent her flying.


Bob Hope, Joan Collins and Bing Crosby onset in the film The Road to Hong Kong 1962
Bob Hope, Joan Collins and Bing Crosby onset in the film The Road to Hong Kong 1962

“Bette Davis was utterly ­terrifying,” she says. “She did not only scare me but she scared the other four girls who played her ladies in waiting. She used to stalk around smoking heavily and wore tight corseted gowns. Her mood was not always the best.
“In one scene I had to kneel down and tie up her shoe. In the first two takes it wriggled and wriggled and in the third take it just kicked me right across the floor.
“I was upset about that and the director blamed me for getting it wrong. For the final take I wedged her leg between my legs and tied her shoe up while stressing my lines to her. After that she never crossed swords with me again.”
Dame Joan also spoke of her dislike for singer and actor Bing Crosby after she was cast ­alongside him and Bob Hope in 1962 comedy The Road to Hong Kong. “I was 29 in this film and Bing was 59,” she says. “It was another taste of ageism in ­Hollywood. Bob was great fun but Bing was a grumpy, chauvinistic man. He was smoking a pipe all the time and it was a bit like kissing an ashtray.”


Rex John Forsythe, Joan Collins and Linda Evans - Dynasty 1981-1989
John Forsythe, Joan Collins and Linda Evans - Dynasty 1981-1989

In 1981 Dame Joan joined US soap Dynasty as scheming Alexis, starring alongside John Forsythe and Linda Evans. After writing a series of memoirs she returned to the stage, performing on Broadway and in the West End.
In the past few years she has appeared in TV’s Hotel Babylon, Footballers’ Wives and Benidorm. But Dame Joan, who married fifth husband Percy Gibson in 2002 and has three children, says reality TV has left today’s budding actors earning next to nothing.
“Today the business is terribly over-crowded,” she says. “Actors make a pittance wage. About 60 people go for roles now and competition is tough. All TV networks want to do now is put out reality TV and they have found reality stars can now be as popular as actresses and can be had for much, much cheaper wages. Things are not going to get better unless you have a rich father or a rich husband.”

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