The inimitable Dame Joan Collins

Get a sneak peak of our upcoming cover story with the iconic English actress, who sits down with Rankin to discuss old Hollywood, the realities that faced her as a young starlet and her lasting cultural influence.
  • PhotographerRankin
  • InterviewerRankin
  • RetouchingTrue Black Studio

Rankin: Our issue is dedicated to Los Angeles and Hollywood and all the dreamers that go there. We’re calling the issue The Dreamers. As you’re one of the biggest British exports to Hollywood, I was wondering what it was like for you to go there for the first time in the Fifties. What was it like?

Dame Joan Collins: Oh, I was very brave then. I didn’t think twice about getting on a jumbo jet by myself and going to New York, staying overnight in a hotel I’d never been to. And I didn’t know anybody when I got on a plane the next day to go to California. I was met by the publicity team, who took me to an apartment that they’d already rented for me, showed me a car that they’d already rented for me, and told me where the studio was for the next day. From then on I was under contract to the studio, 20th Century Fox. I did what I was told, I did the movies that I was told to do. I went out with the guys that they wanted me to go out with – I was very obedient. I stopped doing my bohemian look, which was heavy bangs, jeans, black polonecks and gold earrings. I went into the more sophisticated, Grace Kelly type of look. White gloves and nice little suits. But during all of this time I had a huge amount of fun.

R: Wow. Did you love it? Was it like a dream?

DJC: Well, I never had these dreams of going to Hollywood like everybody else does. My expectation was that I might be lucky enough to get into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

R: Which is so hard, isn’t it? It’s the best of the best, really.

DJC: Oh, it is, yes. A lot of people were trying to get in and they only took about 50 out of 400 — very competitive. But I wanted to do my two and a half years, go into repertory – which I did for three months – and then make it to the stage and start as an ingenue. Then go into being a leading lady. I didn’t really think I would ever, ever, ever be invited to Hollywood. It wasn’t even in my dreams.

R: Has Hollywood really changed? Do you still see a little bit of the old Hollywood when you’re there?

DJC: Well I do at the red carpet, yes. Like going to the Vanity Fair screening party for the Oscars. You see a lot of very glamorous people. You see a lot of movers and shakers and studio heads and CEOs. And you know, people like Jon Hamm and Pamela Anderson and Jennifer Aniston. But you do not see the stars out walking the streets of Beverly Hills, like they did when I first went there. I would see people like Gene Kelly walking around, or Fred Astaire. The stars all stay in their homes now. If they go out, they will either be papped by the paparazzi or asked to take selfies with the public. Los Angeles, particularly in Hollywood, has become a mecca for holiday spots. It didn’t used to be when I went – it was a working town and actors were workers in the factories of MGM, 20th Century Fox and Paramount. Now it’s a hotspot for the buses. People come in to go to Disneyland and Universal City, where they show you everything. It’s become a big vacation spot for the public.

R: So, do you miss the old Hollywood?

DJC: No, I never miss anything that doesn’t miss you. The only thing I ever miss is my sister, and my mother sometimes, although she died a long time ago. But things, places, no. Life’s too short.

This excerpt was taken from HUNGER Issue 31: The Dreamers. The full story is available in stores worldwide now.