The Untold Truth Of Joan Collins

Joan Collins has certainly experienced the extreme ups and downs of a Hollywood acting career, yet that's to be expected. As the British thespian's IMDb credits make clear, that career began in the 1950s and has extended to the present, even though she celebrated her 88th birthday (with a star-studded bash, of course) in May 2022.

Throughout that long and winding road, one role continues to loom large: Alexis Carrington, the scheming ex-wife of mogul Blake Carrington (Robert Forsythe) on mega-hit 1980s primetime soap "Dynasty." "The thing that I liked about Alexis was her wit," Collins said of her iconic character in an interview with Forbes. "She was very witty, she was cutting, and she didn't let anybody get anything over on her."

Of course, the same can be said about Collins herself, who famously fought to be paid as much as Forsythe and vocally complained to "Dynasty" producers about "these awful scripts and these stupid storylines" in the show's waning days. Having been firmly entrenched in the Hollywood firmament for eight consecutive decades, there's not a lot that this legendary star's fans don't know about her — or is there? To find out, keep on reading to discover the untold truth of Joan Collins. 

She was raised in a showbiz family

Joan Collins was born in London in 1933, and it's not hyperbole to describe her as having show business in her blood. According to Biography, her father was a talent agent who managed the likes of Tom Jones and The Beatles, and whose sister was a British musical theater star during the 1920s. Collins' mother, she detailed in an interview with O.Canada, was a dance instructor who "would never go out unless she wore lipstick." 

"I was indoctrinated into that," she said of her showbiz upbringing. "But I didn't like it and I went through the usual period in my teens of wanting to be bohemian and not wear lipstick and wear straggly hair and jeans." That phase never took, and in the early 1950s Collins left England for Hollywood, where she wound up becoming contracted by a major studio. "And then as I grew into the 20th Century Fox contract player mold, I realized I liked looking good," she explained. 

However, her father initially discouraged her from becoming an actor. When she persisted, he warned her about Hollywood's infamous casting couch and offered some solid advice. "He knew the perils of the business," Collins told The Jewish Chronicle. "He said, 'You're a pretty young girl, people will try and take advantage of you.' He gave me good warnings. He was the one who said, 'If people try to take advantage of you, knee them in the downstairs department.'"

Joan Collins was typecast as a bad girl

Joan Collins made her screen debut at age 17 when, according to IMDb, she was cast as a "beauty queen contestant" in the 1951 British film "Bikini Baby." Sadly for the future star, she continued to find herself cast in similarly vapid roles. "I was typecast from the time I was put under contract aged 17," she told The Irish Times. "I was typecast as the smoldering British bad girl, I played baby prostitutes, I played juvenile delinquents. I have been typecast for most of my life." 

In hindsight, Collins has some advice she wishes she could have given to herself when she was a struggling young actor navigating the perils of Hollywood. As she revealed in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle, she would tell herself, "You're better than people say you are. I think I got a lot of negativity when I started. 'She can't act, she's pretty and good looking, coasting on her looks.'"

She could see that much of that early criticism was in response to her beauty, based on the incorrect assumption that someone so good looking couldn't possibly be a good actor. "It's very unfair. I got tarred and feathered with it," she told The Jewish Chronicle. "But I'm used to that kind of negativity, I got a lot of it. And my reviews, oh my god! Really bad! I got used to it and I'm still here and working."

How an indecent proposal spurred Joan Collins to divorce her first husband

When she was just 17, Joan Collins met Maxwell Reed, a 31-year-old Irish actor on whom she'd had a teenage crush. Their first date did not go well; as Collins claimed in the BBC documentary "This Is Joan Collins", Reed had spiked her rum and coke with a drug that caused her to pass out. "The next thing I knew I was flat out on the sofa and he was raping me," Collins said (via The Sun). "In those days, my mother would have said I was 'taken advantage of.' Now, we call it date rape."

Shockingly, not only did Collins continue to date Reed, in 1952 she married him. "Had I not been so innocent about sex and the way things should be I wouldn't have done that," she said. "But I had a strong sense of guilt, so I did it."

The marriage was not a happy one, and as she recounted in the documentary (as reported by the Daily Beast), she detailed the moment when she decided to call it quits. "We were in Les Ambassadeurs, a terribly chic nightclub in Mayfair," she said. "Max had a habit of gravitating towards rich, elderly men, and I was starting to get a vague idea of what this was all about. Max told me, 'He'll pay you £10,000 for one night — and I can even watch.' I looked at my handsome, loathsome husband and began to cry. 'Never in a million years.' I went home to Mummy."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Joan Collins never set out for stardom

There's no denying that Joan Collins is a star, and a major one at that. However, stardom wasn't what she was setting out to achieve when she first launched herself into an acting career when she was still a teenager. "I never came into this business wanting to be a star. I wanted to be an actress," she explained in an interview with O.Canada

In fact, she added, her original ambition was geared toward a career in theater. "I didn't particularly want to go into the movies — I wanted to be an actress on stage," she said. And despite being in her late 80s, Collins plans on continuing to defiantly defy Father Time. "I'm going to work as long as I can," she added. "As long as people still give me jobs."

She's the first to admit that not all of those jobs have been worth remembering. Speaking with The New York Times, she pointed to 1997 schlock-horror flick "The Empire of the Ants" as a low point. Yet regardless of how terrible the material she's given to work with, Collins has always been a professional. "You do the best you can," she told the Times. "You learn your lines, you hit your marks and you get on with it."

The Hollywood warning she received from Marilyn Monroe

During her early days as a Hollywood contract player, Joan Collins was attending a party at the home of "Singing in the Rain" star Gene Kelly when she "sidled up to the bar and I sat next to a rather nondescript blonde who was sitting by herself," she recalled in the documentary "This Is Joan Collins" (via Metro UK). Suddenly it dawned on her that the woman she was sitting next to was Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, who "seemed ordinary" to Collins without any makeup on. 

As they chatted, Monroe offered some sage advice. "Don't let the studio big guys dictate to you. You're just a piece of meat to them. We all are," Collins recalled Monroe telling her, with Monroe emphasizing her point by mouthing the word "wolves."

While that was the one and only time Collins encountered Monroe in person before the latter's 1962 death, they did cross paths one more time — sort of. Interviewed for the book "Great Britons of Stage and Screen: In Conversation," Collins revealed that her first major film role, as showgirl Evelyn Nesbit in "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing," had originally been intended for Monroe. However, Collins recalled, the studio felt the 29-year-old Monroe was "too old" for the part. "She went to New York to study at the Actors Studio, so I took on the role of Evelyn Nesbit replacing Marilyn," Collins explained of how she owed her big break to Monroe. 

Her taboo fling with a Hollywood legend

Following the success of "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing," Joan Collins' star began to rise in Hollywood. More roles, and bigger ones, followed, including the 1957 drama "Island in the Sun," in which she was part of a cast that included James Mason, Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, in one of his earliest film roles. 

While shooting the film, Collins and Belafonte couldn't deny their mutual attraction. "He was 31, six foot one, with melting brown eyes, a strong nose and close-cropped black hair. His sexual allure was accentuated by tight trousers and a shirt opened to reveal caramel-coloured skin," Collins wrote in her 2013 memoir "Passion for Life," according to an excerpt published in the Daily Mail. "Although we had no scenes together, the all-British crew teased me relentlessly when they noticed how often Belafonte — who was married — threw me suggestive glances."

In Collins' recollection, Belafonte was "mesmerizing, and we soon began an affair, away from prying eyes, in my tiny apartment," she shared. However, it was also clear that Belafonte had no intention of ending his marriage. That was why, Collins wrote, "after a few exciting liaisons, we knew we had to cool it. He went back to his wife and I moved on."

The huge secret she kept about her romance with Warren Beatty

Harry Belafonte wasn't Joan Collins' only high-profile Hollywood romance. Not long after, she was at a Hollywood restaurant when she noticed a handsome young man staring at her. Asking around, she learned he was the younger brother of Shirley MacLaine, an aspiring actor named Warren Beatty.

Somehow, she wrote in her book "Passion for Life" (via the Daily Mail), Beatty obtained her number and gave her a call. Before long, he'd moved into her apartment. "Although I wasn't madly in love with Warren, he and I were actually very compatible," Collins wrote, "even if he needed to have sex several times a day, which often wore me out." Eventually they became engaged, and during the course of their relationship Beatty's star began to rise. "In the 18 months we'd been together, he'd gone from being a total unknown to a hot, rising star," Collins wrote, noting she began hearing rumors of his rampant infidelity. Collins eventually ended the engagement. "Marriage to Warren would never have lasted because he simply loved the ladies too much," she wrote. 

She later revealed that she'd become pregnant during her engagement to Beatty, but decided to have an abortion at 26. "It would have been absolute career death," Collins explained during an appearance on "Piers Morgan's Life Stories," adding, "It would have been unthinkable to have a child."

Her career prospects were once so dire she applied for unemployment benefits

As a scan through Joan Collins' IMDb credits indicated, by the mid-1960s her stardom had lost enough luster that she was no longer appearing in feature films, but had jumped one rung lower to television, appearing in such series as "Batman," "Star Trek," and "Mission: Impossible." 

By the following decade, Collins came to the sad realization that her prospects had dwindled considerably now that she was past 40. Upon returning to Hollywood after spending five years in England, her son Alexander Newley wrote in his memoir "Unaccompanied Minor: A Memoir" (via The Mail on Sunday), Collins "realized her time in England had damaged her prospects." He recalled that period as "a demeaning nightmare." As the Daily Mail recalled, things had become so dire that Collins' agent sat her down and suggested it was time to put acting behind her and find another vocation — become a writer, perhaps, like her younger sister Jackie Collins.

With no offers on the horizon and bills to play, recalled the Daily Mail, Collins hopped into her gold Mercedes and drove to the unemployment benefit office in Santa Monica. "Weren't you Joan Collins?" asked the clerk, prompting the increasingly embarrassed Collins to mutter, "I still am." She put in her application, and was told she'd likely receive her first unemployment check in a couple of weeks. Collins, however, ultimately decided on another course of action by taking her destiny into her own hands. 

Getting naked in a story helped her orchestrate her Hollywood comeback

Realizing she was viewed as a washed-up Hollywood has-been, Joan Collins devised a comeback — of which she would be in full control. She enlisted her sister, novelist Jackie Collins, to write a steamy screenplay adapted from her book "The Stud," intended as the comeback vehicle that would place her back on Hollywood's radar. 

However, noted the Daily Mail, Collins hit an obstacle when movie distributor George Walker, who'd agreed to put up the money to fund the movie, revealed he'd only do so if Collins would agree to take it all off for the camera — something she'd never done, and had vowed to never do. However, Collins decided to break her promise for "The Stud," which featured one memorable scene in which her character, nightclub owner Fontaine Khaled, gets it on with her bodyguard in a sex swing hanging over a swimming pool in the midst of an orgy. 

While the movie was certainly risqué for its time, Collins insisted the film was hardly shocking. "'The Stud' was pretty tame compared to today," she told The Sun of the 1978 softcore classic. "Yes, I was wearing panties, and perched on a swing, and filmed some love scenes, but for most of these scenes I was still wearing stockings and a garter belt." Ultimately, "The Stud" did its job, becoming successful enough for Collins to star in a sequel, 1979's "The B****." 

The truth behind her rift with Dynasty co-star John Forsythe

Joan Collins' comeback paved the way for the biggest role of her career: Alexis Carrington on "Dynasty." While the show had struggled to find an audience in its first season, the addition of Collins in Season 2 provided just the jolt "Dynasty" needed, becoming one of television's hottest shows. Despite the show's success, Collins and co-star John Forsythe — who played her ex-husband — did not get along. In fact, as she explained on "The Graham Norton Show," Forsythe didn't speak to her for "a whole season."

Their mutual dislike, she told O.Canada, didn't improve when she made a disturbing discovery. "Stupid me — it took me five or six or seven years to realize that in every single photo that the studio sent out, in every single ad, [John] Forsythe was always in the centre," she recalled. "And then I found out that his contract said that he always had to be in the centre and he always had to make at least a certain amount of money more than the other actresses."

Appearing on "Piers Morgan's Life Stories," via Page Six, Collins recalled that when she was earning $15,000 per episode, Forsythe was raking in between $25,000 to $30,000, due to his contract stipulating he be paid "$5,000 an episode more than anybody else in the cast." Collins summed up her feelings about her late co-star by describing him as a "misogynistic p***k."

She believes in reincarnation and astrology

As Joan Collins told The Jewish Journal, her religious affiliation is a bit murky. "Mum was Church of England, Daddy was Jewish but we weren't religious at all," she explained. 

However, Collins has embraced other forms of spiritual views, including being open to the idea of reincarnation. "Do you believe that little flies or butterflies or something can be old souls, people that you knew? I have this little fly that comes near me all the time. It's really strange," she said in an interview with The Guardian. "I think it might be my sister," she added, referencing bestselling novelist Jackie Collins, who died three years previously. "I know that sounds weird, and I don't know whether I believe in the afterlife or not," she continues. "My opinion is still out to lunch about that, but it is weird that wherever I go, at least two or three times a week — wherever I am, France, London, here — this little fly comes."

In addition, as she shared in a 1983 interview with Rolling Stone, "I'm a Gemini, and I believe in astrology. I know I've got two, three, four, even five sides. I therefore have a wardrobe that's extremely eclectic. Everything from funky sport clothes to jeans to outrageous things to very high chic to over-the-top glitzy glamour. If you saw my wardrobe, you'd say it's very hard to know what the woman who has this closet is like."

Why she doesn't want a husband from her age group

By her own admission, Joan Collins has not been lucky when it comes to marriage. Her first four marriages — to actor Maxwell Reed, singer Anthony Newley, talent manager Ron Kass, and Swedish pop singer Peter Holm — all ended in divorce. That fourth union, the shortest of all her marriages, lasted just two years, with Collins seeking to have the whole thing annulled; as she subsequently told Forbes, "I sincerely regret marrying the Swede." So bitter was her split with Holm, she told the Guardian, "after that I didn't get married again for 15 years."

When she did tie the knot again, it was with producer Percy Gibson, who is more than three decades her junior. "He's the best, I can't imagine life without him," she gushed in an interview with The Times. "He's the rock that holds our family together. Thank God I married somebody 30 years younger than me. I couldn't bear to be married to someone my own age."

During an appearance on U.K. chat show "This Morning," as reported by Closer Weekly, Collins laid out the three rules she follows to maintain her successful marriage with Gibson. "Don't marry an actor! Rule No. 1," she quipped. "Separate loos is rule No. 2 ... and I think one has arguments, but to always be forgiving."

She's a staunch monarchist who supported Brexit

Back in 2012, when Queen Elizabeth II was celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, Joan Collins told Film News that she was planning to return to London for the celebrations that summer. "I'm a big monarchist and I love the Queen," she stated. Speaking with the Daily Mail, Collins had more kind words to say about Her Majesty. "How fabulous is she? She's 90 but she does things women of 50 can't do. Standing on her feet for hours, shaking hands with everybody. She's a great example to us all."

In 2015, Collins was honored by the monarch she supported when she was made a Dame of the British Empire, reported ITV News, at a special ceremony held at Buckingham Palace (presented to her not by the Queen, but by Prince Charles).

In her interview with the Daily Mail, Collins also revealed that she supported the notion of Britain pulling out of the European Union. "Yes, I do feel we should leave," she said of Brexit. "I think we want our sovereignty and we want to make our own laws. This country is very different from the country I grew up in. I've seen a big change. This is a tiny island. There are too many people coming in and we're going to sink into the sea with so many people."

Joan Collins has amassed a tidy fortune

During the final season of "Dynasty," Joan Collins got a hard-fought raise, earning $120,000 per episode — but there was a catch. "I became the highest-paid woman on television only on the last season, and when I reported to work, they said: 'Oh, you're only going to be in 10 episodes because we can't afford you now.' I thought that was a bit mean," she told The Guardian

Several decades later, Celebrity Net Worth estimated that Collins was worth $20 million. However, she's been known to balk at being described as wealthy. As the Daily Mail reported, Collins was once interviewed by BBC journalist Michael Buerk, who asked what motivated her, because "after all, you're rich." Collins snapped back, telling him, "What's rich? I'm not exactly rich, no. Rich, as Robert Wagner said to me, is having f*** you money. I don't have that and I've a lifestyle to support."

However, Collins is also not one to get bogged down with financial details. "My whole financial affairs are confusing," she explained in an interview with the Daily Mail, noting that her husband, Percy Gibson, took care of that aspect of their lives. "Percy's brilliant with the money," she said. "He looks after the houses and runs our life."