My clash with Maureen Lipman

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

22 January 2022

9:00 AM

After my Unapologetic Diaries were published recently, I was apparently accused of offending several people. At a lavish Christmas lunch attended by celebrities, stars and a smattering of royals, I was mortified to find that my place card was next to one of my alleged victims. What should I do? Apologise? Grovel? What I had said in my diary was just repeating what a mutual friend had whispered to me about this individual. At drinks, I made Piers Morgan aware of the situation. He hooted victoriously, ‘Finally, I’m not the most reviled person in the room!’ then said he would save me further embarrassment by doing the unthinkable and swapping my placement round. With Piers next to me instead, the lunch was a little less tricky but uncomfortable nevertheless.

That did not stop me from embarrassing myself even more with the other guests at our table by again saying the unthinkable. ‘So, what is it you do?’ I asked Jimmy Carr. ‘I’m a comedian,’ he deadpanned. ‘Of course,’ I muttered, as Piers giggled, and eyebrows were raised. I decided to strike up a conversation with Dame Maureen Lipman, who sat across from me. ‘Have you seen The Marvelous Mrs Maisel?’ I trilled. ‘Yes, I have,’ she answered, stern-faced. ‘Didn’t you just love it?’ ‘No, I did not. A Jewish actress should have played Mrs Maisel,’ she snapped. Suddenly it hit me. She had just given a media interview saying Helen Mirren should not be playing Golda Meir because she wasn’t Jewish. I’d done it again. I figured debate would be futile, as the iconic words of Lord Olivier came into my mind, when he lightly chastised method-actor Dustin Hoffman, saying: ‘Why don’t you try acting, my dear boy?’

I’ve been a dedicated member of the Academy of Motion Pictures for many decades. The Academy has changed significantly over the years. In the 1960s and before, starting in the autumn, screenings of long-listed films seeking nominations would be held several times a week in the Academy cinema and specialist screening rooms in New York, London and Los Angeles. We also received a clever little booklet that listed every single motion picture that had been released the previous year, along with the principal cast and crew. In the late 1970s, big clumpy, clumsy videotapes were sent to every eligible voter, of which we numbered at least 5,000. These tapes were easy to pop into a video player and we could start, stop, rewind and pause at will. You could still attend the screenings, but they were limited in number and were therefore, with a busy schedule, more difficult to attend. Soon thereafter, digital killed the video star and DVDs were sent out instead. These were perfect for easy viewing — slim and portable enough to be taken anywhere. They were also vulnerable to theft, a crime punishable by heavy fines, prison and, worst of all, banishment from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In the ever-raging battle between freedom and security, Bafta, the Academy and the studios have banded together to make the films available only via a streaming service that is so clunky it makes one yearn for the days of Betamax. They are not downloadable, so if your internet connection is not of the Usain Bolt variety, you are destined to look at the screen while an actor, frozen in a hideous grimace, is clouded by what is known in the biz as the ‘wheel of death’ — that silly circle that goes around and around on your screen in hypnotic rhythm. This method is so complicated and time-consuming that I have managed to watch only five or six of the potential hundreds of films that are to be nominated, which leaves so many independent movies out in the cold because, if I haven’t heard about it, I won’t be watching it. Checking with fellow thesps, neither will they. So it looks like this year the field is clear for the highly publicised West Side Story, Being the Ricardos and House of Gucci to be the front-runners because no one has the stamina to remember the plot while you reboot your router (whatever that means).

I’ve been asked to comment on the scandalous ‘partygate’. Frankly, it reminds me of being a naughty teenaged Rada student and sneaking out with my friends and bottles of beer to have a rave-up in the park behind my parents’ backs.

Much has been made about Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, wearing a gown with pockets. How clever! For too long I’ve been juggling to fit phone, wallet and various cosmetic items into my handbag. Now we can just stuff it all into one of our pockets. It’s very liberating. The editor of US Vogue has been handbag-free for years, and we can now imitate her.

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Joan Collins’s new book, My Unapologetic Diaries, is out now, and her documentary This is Joan Collins is available on BBC iPlayer.

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