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Inside the head of... Phil Collins

'I wish my face wasn’t as round. I wish I had hair. I wish I were a little slimmer. I don’t like myself very much'

What is your earliest memory?

Being wheeled in a pram around an East Sheen park close to where we used to live. I remember very clearly my mother giving me a penny bun. We then got home and were locked out because she’d forgotten the key, so we had to wait in the rain for my dad to come home from work.

What sort of child were you?

Adorable! I was very happy – I always did just what I wanted to do. I loved being on stage, and it started at a very early age. I’ve always felt comfortable up there and never once suffered from stage fright.

What has been your biggest achievement?

I should say ‘well-adjusted children’, but it has to be winning the Oscar [in 2000, for You’ll Be In My Heart from Tarzan] – I never thought I’d get one, so I’m very proud of that.

... and your biggest disappointment?

My dad dying when I was quite young, which hit me hard recently when my mum got very sick. She didn’t know I was there by her sickbed but I stayed and did simple things like stroking her forehead, and I thought how I would have loved the opportunity to have done that with my dad.

Phil Collins in 1976

Who would your dream dinner date be?

I’ve always fancied Jessica Lange so her, and then I’d say Davy Crockett so I could ask what really happened at the Alamo. And Shakespeare. I saw Twelfth Night in New York with Stephen Fry and Mark Rylance and it was fantastic – so clever and funny, you don’t even think about the man who wrote it.

What are you scared of?

Crocodiles. I have recurring nightmares and I don’t know why.

Which living person do you dislike the most?

Well, I met our American record company accountant last night and I hated him. You know when someone just doesn’t get it? But I shouldn’t say that. Jim Carrey I’m not keen on. I can’t watch his films because he’s always ‘on’. I saw him on the Ruby Wax show – his interview was over and yet he kept coming back on screen, being annoying. Someone with that much arrogance I can’t handle.

What is the worst thing anyone has said to you?

‘I’m leaving you.’

What has been your most embarrassing moment?

Losing my voice when I was playing the Artful Dodger in Oliver! when I was 13. It was this big moment when I come on stage just after Oliver has sung a very sad song and brighten things up by singing Consider Yourself. My voice cut out and I could hear the audience wincing. It was terrifying because I had to keep going even though I wanted to go home.

Tell us a secret

I like Country & Western.

What law would you change if you could?

I live in Switzerland and you notice how polite everyone is. So I’d introduce a ‘Smile Day’ – where everyone had to be nicer and show compassion. People don’t think of themselves as part of society but we are.

What word or phrase do you overuse?

Phrases from Fawlty Towers. I’ve introduced my kids to it and they now go round saying ‘This is typical!’ Basil style.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

I wish my face wasn’t as round. I wish I had hair. I wish I were a little slimmer. I don’t like myself very much.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

I feel guilty about spending money on anything.

What is the worst job you’ve done?

The week I joined Genesis, the band went away for two weeks and I couldn’t afford to go. I had to earn money so I painted the outside of houses. I hated it. I painted over locks so people couldn’t get in.

Describe the best night of your life

Getting back with someone that I never thought I would. That was wonderful.

Who would you like to say sorry to and why?

I’m riddled with guilt! I guess it would be my mum or my dad. I think my dad more because I didn’t see him as often as I could have done as I live in Switzerland.

When did you last feel really happy?

I’m going through a phase of being very happy at the moment because I am with the kids [Nicholas, 14, and Matthew, 11]. It is bittersweet though, because the happier I get with them, the sadder I feel about not having been in my older kids’ lives. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for them to just speak to me once a week. I’m whipping myself about it.

What are your best and worst character traits?

My worst is that I say things over and over again. It’s as if people haven’t heard the first time – but I’m just making sure. My dad used to do that. I think that’s probably annoying for people. My best is that I’m generous.

© Dailymail, by Rachel Corcoran

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