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Joan Collins: I’m an actress, not an actor. And yes, it matters

Actress is such a graceful word, so evocative of elegance, refinement and poise that the common and blunt ‘actor’ cannot possibly conjure

December 23, 2019

7:42 AM

23 December 2019

7:42 AM

I recently tried to put my profession down as ‘actress’ on Instagram, but the only option available from the drop-down menu was ‘actor’. Why? Actress is such a graceful word, so evocative of elegance, refinement and poise that the common and blunt ‘actor’ cannot possibly conjure. It’s even worse when we are referred to as ‘female actors’. How utterly contemptuous and disrespectful towards women. We have fought long and hard for equality only to be lumped in with the male appellative in the rat race of showbiz — some victory. Although many other actresses agree with me, it appears that the younger generation think my view is old-fashioned and ridiculous. I hear the term ‘mother’ is also becoming démodé and ‘parent’ is the PC word to use on a birth certificate. Will the imagery of bountiful ‘Mother Earth’ providing sustenance and protection to her children now be replaced by a remote and strict ‘Parent Earth’? How unromantic.

Women have to fight back to stay on top. Dodging wandering hands and sexist remarks is only a part of it. At a party in St Tropez, I was seated next to a beefy aristocratic male who began moving his chair closer to mine, leaning over my cutlery and following his remarks with a squeeze on my arm or a dig in my ribs as he laughed uproariously.

‘Sorry, but you’re invading my space,’ I remarked.

‘What? What do you mean, young lady?’ he barked back.

‘First of all, I’m not your “young lady”. This is 2019. Haven’t you heard of the #MeToo movement?’


‘No, what’s that?’

‘You’re not supposed to touch people or come close to them or make sexist remarks.’

‘How utterly ludicrous,’ he replied, without an ounce of irony.

I excused myself to the powder room and asked a friend to switch places with me.

christmas banner

Percy and I have been binge-watching some new TV shows, which all seem to air on the same date. After a long, dry summer we have The Crown, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Ray Donovan on the same weekend. My new favorite by far is The Morning Show, which explores the complexity of today’s #MeToo moralistic attitudes. Steve Carell plays a news anchor whose career is destroyed by accusations of sexual impropriety, and Jennifer Aniston plays the other half of the professional partnership trying to keep the ship afloat through the controversy. It is completely addictive, and Apple TV+ is cunningly releasing only one episode per week, so we wait with excitement for Friday to arrive. Despite this strong competition for my affections, my love for Strictly Come Dancing remains undimmed, even though I keep thinking it can’t possibly be as good as the year before. It is such a wonderfully nostalgic spectacle of glamour and choreography that it reminds me of the Technicolor musicals of my childhood. One last screen addiction is TCM, where you can watch the most iconic movies and stars of the golden age of Hollywood. From early November, Hallmark TV in the US and Sony TV in the UK show dozens of films with Christmas themes, so by the time December rolls in, one is satiated with Santa, garland lights and cheer. The advent of these movies so compelled me this year that I found and decorated a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving.

When I played Alexis in Dynasty I was called every name in the book: villainess (thankfully, not villain), bitch, Denver Beast, and some too vulgar to repeat in this magazine. For the nine years I portrayed the character, I was castigated in all forms of media — print, radio and TV — and received truckloads of ‘fan’ mail from viewers who hated me, or rather hated Alexis. But I always defended her. Laurence Olivier once had a problem when he was playing Sergius in Shaw’s Arms and the Man because he thought Sergius was a ridiculous fool. The director Tyrone Guthrie told him that it was impossible to give a good performance unless he found something that he really loved about the character. The same advice is true for every actor (or actress, may I add). I found a lot to justify Alexis’s thirst for revenge, since she had been torn away from her children at a young age and banished. Her years of exile sharpened her desire to come back and reclaim her family, and the only way to do that was to battle the dastardly Blake. She was a brilliant, clever, ambitious, beautiful woman who behaved as a male would in business and in life. So, in spite of all the horrid remarks, I adored Alexis. Luckily, so did much of the public.

Whenever I order a dish in a restaurant, they inevitably pile so much on to the plate that it spills over the side. I lose my appetite from simply looking at this Ben Nevis of food. I’ve tried to request half-portions or children’s portions, but the waiters end up just piling the food on a smaller plate. Ordering a reasonable portion served in a reasonable way involves convoluted descriptions, which include visual props and mime. If I end up leaving half of the food on the plate, the waiter asks with great concern whether I was happy with my meal. Yes, perfectly happy, I reply, but I can’t eat like a sumo wrestler. To make things worse, I abhor that nouvelle cuisine where sustainably farmed free-range pigeon eggs swim in a velouté of questionable provenance — so I’m left in a quandary.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s UK magazine. Subscribe to the US edition here.


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