THE ACTRESS JUST KEEPS GETTING BOLDER — AND HAPPIER — WITH AGE!
— Ron Kelly
Talks ageism, her new film and celebrating 75 years in show business.
In her latest film, The Time of Their Lives, Joan Collins plays Helen, a fading actress desperate for “another chance at life,” as the character bemoans. “There’s a lot of ageism in the workplace today. You’re not allowed to get old,” Joan recently admitted at the film’s premiere, where she was the center of attention and looked radiant in her jewel-encrusted silver gown as she celebrated 75 years in the industry.
“I’m in a business where it’s survive or die, and I went through the jungle alone,” Joan proudly says of how she’s bucked the system and dealt with double standards, chauvinism and heartache along the way. “I’ve
never let anything get me down.”
That includes her talent agent father’s assertion she’d be washed up by the age of 23. “That was the thinking [back then],” huffs Joan, who made her stage debut at 9 in 1942. “When I was 21, I was put under contract at 20th Century Fox for seven years,” she adds, “because 27 or 28 was considered to be the cutoff time for the beauty and youth of girls.”
“Age is just a number. It’s irrelevant unless you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
Seventy films later, the beauty is confident about her appearance. “When I see women around my age…I think I look pretty good,” she shares, insisting she’s had no plastic surgery. “You can tell because I have lines and jowls,” she good-naturedly quips.
Just as Joan’s learned to embrace the natural aging process, she’s also come to terms with her standing in Hollywood’s pecking order. “There are older-women parts,” she says, “but they’re going to go first of all to Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep or Susan Sarandon. There are 20 women they’re going to go through before they get to me.”
She’s faced, and overcome, worse odds. Told she was too fat at 126 pounds in her 20s, Joan was put on a pill regimen to control her weight, which she soon quit. “I did some research,” she explains, “and found out they’re what destroyed Judy Garland.”
She also fought for pay equal to her Dynasty co-star John Forsythe in the ’80s. “I was told, ‘You’ve got ideas above your station,’ ” she says of pushback from the studio. “So I said ‘fine’ and went off to Paris. I wasn’t in the first episode of Season 3 because [I held] out for more money because I felt I deserved it.”
An even bigger reward came in 2000 when she met her fifth husband, theater producer Percy Gibson. The two celebrated 15 years of marriage in February, and he’s a great match for the actress despite their 32-year age difference. “I love his sense of humor,” she beams. “He’s incredibly kind, nice and caring.”
His support was vital after the September 2015 death of her sister, author Jackie Collins. “She loved Percy, and Percy adored her,” Joan says, adding that Jackie’s passing at 77 only reinforces her drive to stay as vibrant and active as ever. “It made me aware that time runs out for everyone,” Joan shares, “so make every day count.”