Living Legend Joan Collins on Her Past, Her Future, and the Very Bad Advice She Got from Warren Beatty
With Elizabeth Taylor gone, Joan Collins is the only actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood still working, still beguiling, still winning. We think of her as Alexis from Dynasty, but Dame Joan, who arrived from England in 1955 as 20th Century Fox’s new ingenue, has starred in such films as The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955), The Bitch (1979), and The Time of Their Lives (2017).
More to the point, she has never stopped working; she is about to appear in the upcoming eighth season of American Horror Story. For any actress this would be a coup, but for one who played opposite Ray Milland and Richard Burton, it’s also a very hip gig.
“We have all been obsessed with her forever,” says Brad Falchuk, co-creator (with Ryan Murphy) of the series. “Joan is classic Hollywood. A legend.” Asking what he and Murphy plan to do with their legend gets me nowhere, but Falchuk hasn’t told Collins any more: “I’m mum about her character except to say we are having a lot of fun writing it.”
Joan Collins in a Mark Zunino top, Jackie Palmer skirt, and Peter Marco Jewelry.
Gwyneth Paltrow (soon to be Mrs. Brad Falchuk) is similarly enthralled. “She became a star when a female was allowed to embody only one archetype—the vixen—but she is so much more than that,” Paltrow says. “She is also one of the wittiest, most brilliant women I have ever come across.”
Collins received Town & Country at her Los Angeles apartment to talk about the past and the future, getting bad advice from Warren Beatty, and who really inspired the character of Alexis Colby.
Tea was served, anecdotes flew, and one tried to keep up.
Who were you most intimidated by when you came to Hollywood? I read somewhere it was Bette Davis.
Yes! I was 20, she was 50 or something [on the set of The Virgin Queen], and she was not happy. She didn’t seem to like anybody.
Richard Todd as Sir Walter Raleigh and Joan Collins as Beth Throgmorton n 1955's The Virgin Queen.
What is your husband Percy’s favorite movie of yours?
We don’t watch my old movies. I haven’t seen a movie of mine in forever. I’m not Gloria Swanson, darling!
I haven’t seen a movie of mine in forever. I’m not Gloria Swanson, darling!
Tell us about how Alexis Colby came to be. Is she you?
I was basing her on all the businessmen I knew who were heartless, really. The other part of her brain, the glamorous part with the over-the-top clothes, I based on one of my best friends called Cappy Badrutt. She was extremely glamorous, and unfortunately very miserable. But I don’t think Alexis was miserable. I think she enjoyed her life and lived it to the fullest.
Collins as Alexis
When you came to Hollywood, who were you most excited to meet?
Ava Gardner. But I didn’t have just one favorite. I loved Vivien Leigh; Vivien was who I aspired to be when I was older. I thought that Hedy Lamarr was the most beautiful of all the actresses, ever. I also loved Elizabeth Taylor, but who didn’t?
What young actress do you admire now?
Sarah Paulson. I loved her in The People v. O.J. Simpson.
Every star has a role she wishes she had taken. What’s yours?
Je ne regrette rien. But in 1960, I was offered a script called Sons and Lovers, with Dean Stockwell. I wanted to do it, and I don’t think it was bad. However, I was living with and engaged to a young actor called Warren Beatty, who said, “This is absolute crap.” So I turned it down, and Mary Ure did it and was nominated for an Oscar. At that time I was more influenced by men.
Did you watch American Horror Story before being cast in it?
When I first saw it, I went to my agent and said, “I love this show. Can you get me a role in it?” Nothing. Then I met Ryan Murphy at the Vanity Fair Oscar party, and we had a lovely conversation, but I really didn’t think much more of it. Two weeks later we go to see Barbra Streisand at the PaleyFest, and I didn’t know Ryan was going to be interviewing her. We go backstage afterward to see Barbra, and Ryan says, “I just made an offer on you!” That was how I got Dynasty, too: meeting Aaron Spelling at a party. A lot of things happen when you go to those parties!
A lot of things happen when you go to those parties!
Bette Davis was once asked if she had any advice for young actresses trying to get to Hollywood, and her immortal response was, “Take Fountain.” What’s the worst advice you ever got?
Everybody said to me, “You’ll be through by the time you’re 24.” My father, all these guys in Hollywood… Over and over again, I have been told this by men. But it hasn’t been true yet!
Did you ever believe them?
This story appears in the September 2018 issue of Town & Country.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors