She’s been married five times but insists she’s a romantic. She’s starred as the glamorous leading lady in some of Hollywood’s finest movies and the world's smash hit TV shows though she thinks she’s not particularly good looking. She’s hilarious, witty and popular and yet she claims to be shy. Meet Dame Joan Collins, who at 90 has to wear prosthetics to look old, and says her biggest achievement is her family.

Sussex Life: You’re coming to Sussex to do your new show, Behind the Shoulder Pads. What can we expect from it? Are there any shocks or scandal?

Joan Collins: Shocks and scandals? Honestly, what kind of life do you think I’ve led?

SL: Do you come to Sussex often? What are your favourite things to do here?

Joan: My family has a long connection with Brighton. My grandmother and all my aunts lived there, and we used to go often when I was a child. My cousin still lives there. I love the south of England. I have a good friend who lives in Hastings. Sussex is a beautiful county.

SL: You’re one of the last surviving stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema – what lasting memories do you have of that time? Any goals still to achieve?

Joan: I came to Hollywood at the end of the Golden Age when the gilt was beginning to tarnish. I wish I’d had a camera then and was more dedicated about taking photos of my time because it really was magical. You could walk down the streets of Beverly Hills and see mega stars such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly walking around.

As Bob Hope said when asked if he had goals left to achieve…keep breathing. Joking aside, I am looking forward to shooting a new movie about the Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor’s life after the Duke of Windsor died. It’s a fascinating story.

SL: Which is the one role you wanted but went to someone else?

Joan: That’s a great question. I was eager to play the role of Clara in Sons And Lovers but the producer who I had to meet made some unwelcome advances on me, which I refused. This was made worse by my boyfriend of the time, who told me the script was awful and I should turn it down because he wanted me to be with him while he was shooting in England. I reluctantly abandoned the project and my replacement, Mary Ure, won an Oscar for it!

SL: During your career, you have won multiple accolades for your talent including a Golden Globe Award (Best Actress, Dynasty) , and a People's Choice Awards (also for Dynasty, 1985). Where do you keep them? Which one meant the most?

Joan: They’re in my flat in LA which seems fitting. They all mean a lot to me, obviously, as it’s always nice to be recognised. In my acceptance speech for my Golden Globe in 1983 I said that the last time I had won was in 1957 for Promising Young Newcomer and that it had taken me a while but I finally got there!

SL: You were made a Dame in 2015 by the late Queen Elizabeth II for your charity work with children. Can you tell us more about the work and meeting the Queen.

Joan: One of my fondest memories meeting the Queen took place at Buckingham Palace in 2014. I was invited to see a performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion given by RADA students (and some notable graduates_ to mark the 60 years of the monarch’s patronage of the drama school.

After the show the Queen walked around the room greeting and chatting to her many celebrity guests. She was holding a glass in her hand but whether it was wine or water I didn’t dare ask. When she came to me, she mentioned having bestowed my OBE, which I told her was perhaps the biggest highlight of my life after giving birth to my children, and we talked about the show. She was incredibly knowledgeable about the play and its adaption to My Fair Lady in the 1950s.

SL: Starring as Alexis Colby in Dynasty from 1981 – 1989 made you an even bigger international superstar. Did you love playing that character? Are you anything like her in real life?

Joan: Yes, I loved Alexis. I think it’s because I really connected on a gut level with the character. She was strong and tough and sometimes nasty and ruthless but only in business, because that’s how you have to be in business. I did not share that trait, but I knew plenty of producers that were exactly the same, so I took a blueprint off them. Where I connected was that what she did, she did in the best interests of her family. Similarly, I would do anything for the wellbeing of my children. I imbued Alexis with that rationale. I think people saw that and respected it, and I guess the haute couture and the humour didn’t hurt!

SL: What’s been the biggest achievement of your life?

Joan: As I said, I think having my children was my biggest achievement. They have all grown to be wise, dependent, and resilient. Given I was a single mother and sole breadwinner for much of the time I think that’s fairly significant.

SL: If you could tell your younger self any advice what would it be?

Joan: I underestimated myself so much. I had no self-esteem, I didn’t even think I was particularly good looking. I would plaster myself in pan stick make up. Both Jackie and I were brought up to think that we weren’t anything remarkable. The advice I would give my younger self would be: ‘You are something special.’

SL: You always look immaculate – how long does it take you to get ready and is it boring having to be beautiful and polished all the time?

Joan: 45 minutes if I’m doing the red carpet and 15 if I’m not. What’s boring about it? I love the paint and the dressing up box. I like looking good – it makes me feel good. There’s a reason we call it Dr Slap in my profession – theatricals call make up ‘slap’ because you ‘slap it on’. If you’re feeling under the weather, there’s nothing like make up and pulling your socks up to make you feel better.

SL: You’ve been married five times – the latest for 21 years to Percy Gibson. Are you a romantic?

Joan: The famous writer AA Gill said that my last marriage was ‘an exercise of optimism over experience.’ Well after 21 years of blissful wedlock, I say chock one up for the optimists and the romantics. ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’

SL: You starred in The Opposite Sex, where you said in your My Unapologetic Diaries that you sat in the hair and make-up room with Liz Taylor, Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner and were so shy you couldn’t speak. Were you very different then as you always seem so confident and charismatic. What made you change?

Joan: I once read an article by Woody Allen about his shyness. I saw him at a party not long after and went up to him to express how much I identified with it as, I myself, am a shy person. He looked down the extremely low-cut dress I was wearing and replied: ‘I wouldn’t have guessed’ and scuttled away.

SL: You detail a lot of times when you crash diet and lose 8lbs in a week or exist on broccoli to make sure you look your best for events and parts. How demanding on your body and mental health was your career? Can you eat what you want now?

Joan: I never dieted or ate for the sake of my career, but rather for the sake of my health and wellbeing. But there are times when you have to keep an extra keen eye on the lbs, as was the case for us in Dynasty. We had a strict unwritten code that came down from management about keeping slim, so we had one catering for the crew that was full of donuts and cakes and potato chips and one for the cast that was carrots and celery and cucumber slices. How times have changed.

SL: You had to wear prosthetics to look old in the film Gerry even though you were 85 – how did that make you feel? What’s the secret to your youthful looks?

Joan: I know! I was rather pleasantly surprised that they had to make me look old. Largely, I chalk it up to good genes. My father and sister all had the youthful look and so does my brother. But also, to a life lived with moderation. If you’re lucky enough to be given a rolls Royce, you have to maintain it after all.

SL: Does it upset you when people insist you must have had plastic surgery? If you had decided to have it, what would you have had done?

Joan: No, it doesn’t upset me. Sticks and stone. And the idea of going under sedation is anathema to me.

SL: What’s the average day for Joan Collins – run us through what you get up to?

Joan: My day is as average as you get. I love waking up in the morning and my husband usually brings me a cup of coffee as he’s a much earlier riser. I read all the papers – I’m a voracious newshound and then I get to work. If we’re not out in the evening, there’s nothing I love more than dinner on trays with a fabulous movie on TV.

SL: You’ve seemingly met everyone who’s anyone – who was your favourite celebrity and the worst?

Joan: I loved Paul Newman. He and I, and his wife Joanne Woodward became very good friends and they lobbied for me to be in their movie Rally round the Flag Boys. They were the only ones in the business, apart from my sister Jackie, who have ever helped me along my career.

Tony Curtis was a dreadful misogynist. He once called me the ‘C’ word in front of the whole crew just because I wanted to walk back to the set instead of getting a ride with him on a terribly dangerous truck.

SL: What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

Joan: My daughter Katy’s accident when she was eight. I was in Paris working any my husband had come with me even though we had discussed him staying behind to look after her. She was staying with a friend and they were playing in their back garden in their country house when she strayed onto the road, chasing each other, and got hit by a car. Katy’s friend broke her leg but my daughter sustained a head injury and was in a coma for eight weeks. She had to learn everything again – how to walk, talk, write… It was the most challenging and heartbreaking period of my life.

SL: What is the worst thing that could happen to you?

Joan: I don’t think anything could be worse than losing one of your children.

SL: How do you want to be remembered?

Joan: That I entertained and gave people pleasure.

SL: What’s next?

Joan: Coming to Sussex!

Dame Joan Collins will perform Behind The Shoulderpads at The Hawth, Crawley on October 6 at 7.30pm and Theatre Royal Brighton on October 21, 2023 at 7.45pm. Alongside her husband, Percy Gibson, the actress will have an intimate chat with the audience, share seldom told tales, enchanting anecdotes, and show rare and fascinating footage from her seven decades in showbusiness. Tickets start from £25