INTERVIEW BY AVRIL O’CONNOR
I have many beauty philosophies which is why I am working on my third beauty book but I think the most important thing is to take scrupulous care of your skin which I have always done since I was 15 and to be very concerned about what you eat. I think it’s important not to eat too much. I usually find that when I go to a restaurant I only eat about a third of what I have on my plate because I think they give you far too much, and that we eat far too much, and they have done all kinds of tests on mice – of course we are not mice – and various animals that if you eat less, and the thinner that you are the more longevity you have. And since I would like live to live try to be 100 I have quit smoking, I still have the occasional – well more than occasional – glass of wine. I also have many other things that I do that I write about in my books.
Q You are a very busy lady – how do you manage your life and have time to find your own space to relax?
I think relaxing is very important. I also think that beauty and health is not just the proviso of the young. There are beautiful women who are in their 80s that one has seen and obviously one gets lines and age spots and all those things, but it would be ridiculous if we didn’t. Sometimes, for example, you can see and older rose that can look a lot more beautiful because it is a little wilted.
Sorry I am not answering that question properly! How do I relax? I relax by watching the 1,500 videos or DVDs that I have, listening to music, reading books, spending time in the South of France in our house which is very relaxing by the swimming pool, basically I love magazines – I can’t wait to read yours – I read a lot of magazines and a lot of newspapers. I am a bit of a media junkie and I read a lot. Then if I am tired I believe in a power nap and if I can’t sleep I will at least lie down and close my eyes and try to banish all thoughts of whatever the day has brought or what the night is going to bring.
How to you keep your superb figure?
Thank you for saying that. Firstly I don’t eat breakfast. I find that if I eat breakfast that I am ravenous by lunchtime. I do have two or three cups of coffee during the morning and I do have sugar and milk in them. I believe that you do need a certain amount of calcium so I do drink milk. I eat mainly salads for lunch and when I am in the South of France I will have a glass of wine. I do believe in smaller portions as I said and I don’t eat junk food. You would have to tie me down to get me to eat a hamburger from McDonalds. I just couldn’t – just the very idea – although I do like things like Shepherd’s Pie and Cottage Pie which have ground meat in them. It’s moderation really in all things. I eat chocolates. I bought a Mars bar yesterday because I was so hungry – she giggles. And if I am going out to a wonderful dinner which we did last night because we dined at Clarence House and the food was grown at Highgrove which is Prince Charles’ home and it was quite delicious and I ate quite a bit, although I only ate half the desert. I do a little exercise but I do as little as possible because I think that exercise if you do too much wears out your body.
As women age, particularly career women, they get put into an “age ghetto”. How do you think you have helped to remove this so-called stigma?
I don’t think that I have. I am not doing nearly as much as I used to. I am not doing nearly as many movies as Joan Fonda or Shirley McLaine or Judy Dench. If there is a part for an older woman, and by older woman I mean for someone over 60, they will go to those three and there are a whole bunch of other ones they will go to first so I am not making the movies I would quite like to do so I make my own projects. We just finished this tour of Legends in America – that was something Percy and I did together – I did my one woman show we did together and which Percy directed and which I will be doing in America and my books are something that I can cook up myself . So I suppose the motto of that is if you want to do something as you get older don’t sit around and wait for somebody to ask you, because they are not going to ask you. You have got to be a self-starter and do it yourself .
Would you like to live to be 100? Have you heard that calorie restriction can help?
I have heard of these people who are taking so little food that they are taking about the same amount of food as people who were in concentration camps and I really think that is quite sick. I also think that as we get older a woman over 45 or 50 cannot be a stick figure like those very young girls that we see in the magazines because just look ridiculous with skinny bodies and big heads so I think it’s better to have a bit of meat on you as you get older but not too much.
We all accept that looking good is positive and a reflection of our mental health but how far should we go? What is the sensible and healthy balance?
I think its something that you get to understand as you get older. For example I used to smoke and I am now so freaked out by people smoking that I don’t smoke. But occasionally I will feel like a cigarette after dinner when my husband and I are sitting on the terrace and I might have one cigarette – it might be one or two a week. I think the balance is not to deprive yourself too much of things that you want to do. There are certain things that I stay well away from such as fizzy carbonated drinks like Coca Colas. You see them everywhere you go and our children today are drinking those and I think it is awful. My daughter and my daughter-in-law give their children apple juice and fruit juice and they are very concerned because big business today is pushing all of these bad things on children. In the morning you watch the commercials for things like cornflakes and all of that stuff they eat and it is just filled with sugar. It’s better that you give the kid a banana.
Why do you think some women cope well with the menopause and others find those years so very difficult?
I think that you have to find other things to take the place of your children leaving. Many women dedicate their lives wholeheartedly to their children to the extent that they haven’t left any time to themselves during the formative years. For women in their 30s and 40s as their children are growing up all its all about the kids, thenthe kids leave and there is nothing else. So its very important to start when the kids are still young in developing projects or hobbies or things that you like doing, whether its collecting stamps, whether its making collages, whether its embroidery, making cakes, making good dinner parties. There are so many things that woman can do, so many options and of course there is the internet. I don’t know about the internet because I don’t know how to do it but my husband does and there are a million things that women can get involved with now.
Do you think older women should go on dates?
I stopped dating a long time ago. I was in a relationship for a long time before I met Percy. I met Percy in 2000. Percy and I weren’t dating when we were working together and we became great friends. I can’t imagine anything worse than dating quite frankly. But I do know some people, both men and women, who have gone on these dating services where you put your credentials and information and you try to find somebody who is on your wavelength. So I think that if I was an ordinary woman I would try that and see that – say what my hobbies were and what I liked doing – yes that is what I would do rather than go out to bars and rubbing shoulders with 20 year olds. I don’t like their music and I don’t like the way they dress – it’s a different generation. Let them do their thing and we do ours.
Do you think men find their role difficult these days?
I think that many women are becoming too competitive with men, if you excuse the expression “too ballsy”. I think that you have to be ballsy in business but men don’t usually like to be bossed around even if you are the bossy type I think you have to let a man know that he is – you know – the boss. It’s a very tricky situation. I suppose its got to do with women’s emancipation. But I would rather do what we do in the Western world than be like woman in Muslim and Arab cultures who are completely subservient to man and have no say in anything. I think the way that they are treated is quite alien to my nature certainly.
Do you worry about getting wrinkles?
I do think that if you go in the sun all your life and haven’t protected your skin, then looking like a prune is not the greatest look in the world. But it comes with the territory and to see someone of 50 or 60 with a totally line-free face is kind of eerie really.
Do you have no make-up days?
My skin is so used to having something on it that if I don’t put some kind of moisturiser or base on it starts to feel all kind of flaky and dry so I don’t put make up on but I put moisturiser on.
Your skin looks better than most 40 year olds – is that because you have stayed out of the sun?
I have stayed out of the sun since I was 20 as far as my face is concerned but not my body – you can see because I really like to have brown legs and shoulders and you can see. Staying out of the sun has a lot to do with it but I also think that wearing a hat helps. The sun is one of the most dangerous things you can do to your skin.
Do you take Hormone Replacement Therapy?
I have been taking that for 16 years. I started taking it after reading about it. I wasn’t feeling bad or suffering from hot flushes. I went to a top gynaecologist and asked whether I should be taking this. He said it was wonderful for your bones and all of the stuff about it giving you breast cancer was not true – ‘I am going to give you the lowest dose that we can give you’ I would be frightened now not to take it anymore because I feel so good but I don’t know whether that was because I felt good before or because its that. So I feel good but not today because I have a sore throat.
Do you still work as hard now as you did 20 years ago?
I am not as busy as when I was doing Dynasty or Pacific Pallasades. Yes its much slower I was working 50 weeks a year, 12 hours a day so I am definitely in slow gear now..
Is the rumour that you would like to be in Desperate Housewives true?
I would quite like to be in Desperate Housewives. I was asked to do a part in one a few months ago. I like the series very much and would quite like to do it..I am talking about developing a couple of TV ideas myself
Do you have any charities or social campaigns that you support?
I do think that the elderly today and I am saying this is measured tones are not treated as well as they could be and there seems to be a lot more emphasis on youth than there is on people who have served this country brilliantly during the war and after the war in making this country great. Now they seem to be living in bedsits without enough money quite frankly and their pensions being taken away .
That’s my motto – get on with it. No one said that life was going to be easy – that life was going to be a bowl of cherries. Life isn’t. Everybody, every single person in the world is going to have some tragedy, some bad things happen to them so I think you have to put it into perspective and think isn’t this better than living in a village in Africa or in Defour in a refugee camp. And I think that you shouldn’t take refuge in drink or drugs. You should try and make the best or yourself and its hard, it is hard…its hard for me to put myself in the position of a poor woman living on a council estate and having three different children by three different men…I can’t image that because although I have three children by two different men I was married to them and they were serious relationships..so I don’t think I am the best person to advise on these matters.