Jackie Collins’ daughter Tiffany Lerman says she still goes to phone her late mum
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Sometimes life can be just as compelling as fiction – and best-selling author Jackie Collins was proof of that.
The late star, who passed away from breast cancer in 2015, aged 77, became an icon thanks to her fabulously raunchy romantic novels, unashamed ambition and penchant for all things leopard-print.
While her motto “Girls can do anything” and strong female characters inspired a generation of women to grab life by the horns.
So when daughters Tracy, 59, Tiffany, 54, and Rory Lerman, 52, discovered countless diaries and an unfinished autobiography in Jackie’s home after her death, they knew she would have wanted the world to hear those words.
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That’s when they approached John Battsek at Passion Pictures, who agreed that their mother’s story could and should be made into a film. With director Laura Fairrie at the helm, they joined forces with aunt Joan Collins and many of Jackie’s closest friends to create a film celebrating their mother’s wonderful life and legacy.
Using her own words as its foundation, Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story covers her growing up feeling inferior to her glamorous film star sister, her tumultuous love life and marriages, the rise of her half-billion-selling book empire and her cancer diagnosis – which she kept secret.
Here, Tiffany tells OK! about giving her mum the final chapter she deserved, why she’ll always be the rock of the Collins family and plans to make a biopic about her relationship with Joan.
Hi, Tiffany. How did the film come about?
After mum died, she left a huge void in all our lives. She was the matriarch of our family. And we were left with this epic task of going through her things. She’d kept this extraordinary, beautiful archive of letters, scrapbooks, photos and videos. She’d also left her unfinished manuscript of her autobiography. She’d written it like a Jackie Collins novel and she was one of the characters – it was gripping. We all said, “She has to have a documentary made about her, because her life was so fascinating and inspiring, with so many ups and downs. So many people will be able to relate on different levels to what she went through.”
It’s incredibly emotional viewing. What was the toughest part to relive?
It was especially hard for me to talk about losing our mum, as I was the one with her when she was diagnosed. Oh, gosh, I’ll start crying now just thinking about it. We miss her so much. I still go to pick up the phone and call her when something happens in my life that I want to tell her about.
She kept her diagnosis secret. Was that tough?
It was incredibly hard. Was it a decision I would have made? Probably not. But that’s what she wanted and I understood and never questioned it. All three of us were there to completely support her and make it as easy a process as possible. And she really was amazing, because after she was diagnosed she lived an incredibly full life for six more years. She wrote four more books, went on tour all over the world, had fabulous parties, enjoyed her friends and family, and received an OBE from the Queen! She didn’t give up or let cancer define her in any way, shape or form. She continued to live a vibrant life.
Joan describes Jackie as the rock of the family. In what way?
She was the rock. She and our dad built their dream house where we all gathered and our wild children would be racing around on scooters. She adored her grandchildren. The amount of times my boys threw balls into her glass garage door windows and broke them! She’d be unhappy at first, then say, “Oh, it’s fine!” She’d also have fantastic birthday parties for my boys, where she’d get ginormous water slides that went into her pool. Their friends would say, “Jac-Jac’s parties for you are so much fun!” There was lots of joy and love. We definitely miss that.
The film touches on Jackie and Joan’s relationship, showing they had ups and downs but loved each other unconditionally…
Of course people want to know the story about their relationship. There was so much gossip over the years – are they rivals, are they not? But the relationship is depicted very well in the movie. It shows the absolute love and support between them over the years. Yes, there were ups and downs, but it’s like that with every sibling relationship.
Are you close to Joan?
Joan’s great, a fantastic aunt. She’s so much fun with tons of energy! She was just in LA when lockdown was easing and took myself, my husband and boys out to Nobu for lunch, where we had a good catch-up. We’re very close. And we talk about my mum all the time – how much we miss her and wish she was here seeing all of this.
What are your memories of growing up with a famous mum?
When I was a teenager, at the height of her success in the 80s, I had lots of friends’ parents and boyfriends’ parents come up to me. “What’s it like being Jackie Collins’ daughter? Tell me everything!” The irony is I think they wanted me to share some wild, crazy story that she used to write about. I used to reply, “I’m sorry I’m disappointing you but there’s no chauffeurs, chefs or full-time staff. She’s just a lovely mum who gives me a curfew and tells me to pick my clothes up off the floor – all the normal stuff!” People thought she’d go home and there’d be diamonds and cocktails, as that’s the persona she gave out when she was working. But she was down-to-earth and wanted us to have a stable upbringing.
Were there times when you mixed with stars, though?
I wouldn’t say we did it all the time but there were special events we were invited to. She had a birthday party once for Michael Caine at her house. I remember sitting at the bar with Jack Nicholson on one side of me and Hugh Jackman on the other. I thought, “Gosh, where am I?” My mum always used to laugh because I got starstruck if I ever met a celebrity. Even my friends laugh at me now and say, “You’ve got such fame in your family with your mother and your aunt.” But I can’t help it!
Did she let you read her books when you were growing up?
She wanted us to wait until we were 18. I had come to London on holiday and said, “Okay, I’m going to read one now as I’m 18.” She said I should start with Chances. I started it a day before I left and could not put it down. I got on the plane and read for the entire 10-hour flight. Then, due to jet lag, I stayed up until 2am and finished it. So I read it in one sitting and from then on I was Jackie Collins’ number one fan.
We hear there are plans in the pipeline to sell the rights to some of her books for adaptation on the screen…
It’s very exciting. We have a deal with Monumental Pictures and it looks like it’s going to be a TV show based on Lucky Santangelo – her iconic female heroine. TV needs a Lucky Santangelo right now. She’s like a female James Bond. We’ve also signed a deal with Roma Roth and Jason Priestley, famous for 90210, for another of her books, Hollywood Kids, to be developed into a TV show, which would be fantastic. And there’s a biopic of Joan and Jackie too. You’ll never get a duo like our mother and her sister again, it was a once in a lifetime situation.
Amazing! Who do you think should play them?
It’s very early days so I don’t want to say who, in case they get them. But if we could cast Lucky Santangelo, my mum always used to say Angelina Jolie. She’s kick-ass, which is what my mum loved.
How else do you keep her memory alive?
We always have a special dinner for her on her birthday. If we’re not all together, we reach out to Tracy and my nieces in London and always make sure we talk. And on the anniversary of her death, Rory and I take roses – those were her favourites – to her grave in LA. She is with our dad, they’re there together.
Finally, what do you hope the film adds to Jackie’s legacy?
Everybody has these preconceived notions of who she was, what she did. It was always a lot of the men sniggering and laughing about how Jackie Collins would never be anything. It shows what a male-dominated world it was. She was constantly fighting against the double standards. All these people who wrote her off, said her writing was just a cheap, trashy beach read with no substance, will now discover there’s so much more to her than they thought. She’s getting the recognition and respect she deserves.
I always say channel your Jackie Collins energy, as she was truly inspirational.
Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story – a film by Laura Fairrie produced by Passion Pictures – is in cinemas from 1 July. Find your local cinema and book now at modernfilms.com/ladyboss/nowshowing. It will also be shown on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer later this year
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