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Joan Collins Reflects on Her Life and Legacy in BritBox Documentary

(Photo Credit: Images Press/ Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Images Press/ Getty Images)

For 70 years, actress Joan Collins has been a staple on our television screens. She is arguably best known for her role in the hit 1980s television series, Dynasty, in which she played the scheming Alexis Carrington. In a recent documentary on BritBox called This Is Joan Collins, the celebrated star opens up about her early acting career, the highs and lows of her five marriages, her devotion as a mother, and getting older in Hollywood.

Joan Collins at lunch in San Tropez
Actress Joan Collins wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed straw hat enjoying a glass of wine at a San Tropez beachfront restaurant in the South of France in July 1985. (Photo Credit: Eddie Sanderson/ Getty Images)

This wasn’t the first time Collins has been approached by a documentarian. “I’ve been asked several times about doing a documentary biography, and I wasn’t interested because they all wanted to have talking heads, people talking about me, and I said, ‘If I’m going to do my story, I want to be the one who is the narrator,'” Collins revealed to UPI in a recent interview.

Knowing what she wanted and didn’t want, Collins waited for producer Karen Steyn and director Clare Beavan to pitch their idea. The two came to Collins and said, “Well we have this idea that you would narrate the [documentary] yourself, and we would take most of the text from your autobiographies that you’ve written.” Collins liked this idea, and that is precisely what they did!

After giving the filmmakers all of her own material and home movies, Collins revealed, “It took [the filmmakers] weeks to go through all the stuff, particularly the interviews with some of the misogynistic men that were interviewing me in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. That was interesting.”

Joan Collins wearing a yellow blouse, 1960
English actress Joan Collins wearing a yellow blouse, circa 1960. (Photo Credit: Pictorial Parade/ Getty Images)

Nonetheless, Joan Collins was thrilled with the final version of her documentary. “I look at it very objectively because I am very, very critical about myself always, and I was very entertained.”

Collins believes that the documentary does an excellent job of showing the audience that she is a real person. The film strips the layers of Joan Collins away by giving the audience a glimpse into both the public and private matters in her life.

For example, she notes, “I think they will be most surprised by me, nine months pregnant, dancing with my ex-husband in the sand at Montauk.” She states, “My favorite part about [the film] is the off-camera Joan Collins. Me sitting there, smoking a cigarette — oh, dear — off the set, on the beach, no makeup on, and a tiny bikini and clowning around with my sister or friends.”

Joan Collins and Jackie Collins
Joan Collins (right) and writer Jackie Collins (left) at a party celebrating the release of ‘The Stud’, a film based on a novel by Jackie Collins, circa September 1977. (Photo Credit: Jones/ Getty Images)

The only topic off-limits in the documentary was the passing of Joan Collins’s younger sister, Jackie Collins, in 2015. Jackie passed away from breast cancer, and talking about this loss was too sad for Joan to relive.

Like everyone, Joan Collins has many regrets. She states, “I regret that my daughter was knocked down by a car. I regret some of my marriages – I did that too many times. I was stupid. Well, I don’t regret marrying Tony [Newley] because I have two wonderful children [Tara and Alexander] and marrying Ron [Kass], I had one beautiful daughter [Katy]. I sincerely regret marrying that Swede [Peter Holm].”

Collins has been married five different times. Her first husband was Irish actor Maxwell Reed. She then married singer-songwriter Anthony Newly. Her third husband was businessman Ron Kass, and her fourth husband was the Swedish singer Peter Holm. She has been married to her fifth husband, Percy Gibson, since 2002.

Joan Collins during her wedding to Maxwell Reed
English actress Joan Collins arrives at Caxton Hall in London for her wedding to actor Maxwell Reed, 24th May 1952. (Photo Credit: Ron Case/ Stringer/ Getty Images)

Despite how tumultuous her love life may have seemed back in the day, Joan Collins is most proud that she remained a devoted mother to her three children. She reflected on this, stating, “Any woman who has children has achieved a great deal, and I had three. I, basically, was a single mother for most of that time. Unfortunately, I had two not-so-nice divorces, and so I paid for the children’s schooling, brought them up, paid for the house that we lived in. I think I’m most proud of that.”

In the documentary, producer Karen Steyn and director Clare Beavan found a clip of Collins presiding over a 1980 Christmas tree lighting on Regent Street in London. Collins had forgotten about this, noting that “there were thousands and thousands of people there, cheering at me. I had forgotten all that.”

What Collins didn’t forget about was the wage disparity in Hollywood. At the height of Dynasty’s popularity, Joan Collins realized that her male costar, John Forsythe, was making around $25,000 to $30,000 per episode while she was making only $15,000 per episode. It was well known that female stars didn’t make nearly as much as their male costars, but this practice wasn’t questioned – until Joan Collins decided to change that narrative.

John Forsythe and Joan Collins in Dynasty
John Forsythe and Joan Collins in ‘Dynasty.’ (Photo Credit: Aaron Spelling Productions /20th Century Fox Television / MovieStills DB)

She recalls, “Well, everybody told me that I shouldn’t do it. ‘John has been around the business a lot longer than you.’ I thought Well, so what? And of course, he always had to be front and center of any ads. If you look at any of the ads from that time, even if you look at the DVDs that are out there, John Forsythe – Blake is always in the middle, surrounding a bevy of women.”

Collins continued this thought, stating, “Eventually I thought, here I am on the cover of every magazine in America, in Europe, in Asia. John Forsythe isn’t on the cover – why shouldn’t I get parity? And so, I went to [producer] Aaron [Spelling] and apparently, I did not know this but he had it in his contract that he always had to be paid more than any of the other people.”

In a 2021 interview, Joan Collins revealed that she eventually worked her way up to $120,000 per episode but noted that it “come with a caveat that they’d only put me in half the episodes as [they] couldn’t afford to pay me.” Joan Collins still got a raise, but it wasn’t equal to John Forsythe’s earnings. Nonetheless, Collins was still one of the first Hollywood actresses to fight for fair pay in Hollywood.

Joan Collins and Percy Gibson at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Percy Gibson and Joan Collins attend the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 27, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo Credit: Karwai Tang/ Getty Images)

Dynasty ended more than three decades ago, but Joan Collins hasn’t had a great role since. She believes that this can be chalked up to typecasting, stating: “Casting directors say, ‘Oh, no, we can’t use Joan Collins in this vixen, b*tch part, because it’s too obvious.’ And ‘Oh, no, we can’t have her in this other role. She can only do vixen b*tches.'”

Nonetheless, Collins has stayed busy with her three grandchildren and became a columnist for the British weekly magazine, The Spectator. She always knew that her time as star would draw to an end. Once, years, ago, a journalist asked Collins what she planned to do if her stardom ended. Her response? “I said it isn’t a question of ‘if,’ it’s a question of ‘when.’ And it will end, and when it does, I will be happy to go back to being just not quite so popular.”

More from us: Angela Lansbury’s Long Life Was Just As Incredible As Her Famous Career

Today in 2022, Joan Collins leads a full life. She sees her family, she sees her friends, and she reads scripts. She loves to swim, read, take photos, and has developed an interest in fashion. We know that we can’t wait to watch This Is Joan Collins as soon as it premieres!

Madeline Hiltz

Maddy Hiltz is someone who loves all things history. She received her Bachelors of Arts in history and her Master’s of Arts degree in history both from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her thesis examined menstrual education in Victorian England. She is passionate about Princess Diana, the Titanic, the Romanovs, and Egypt amongst other things.

In her spare time, Maddy loves playing volleyball, running, walking, and biking, although when she wants to be lazy she loves to read a good thriller. She loves spending quality time with her friends, family, and puppy Luna!