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Phil Collins: 'I realise in hindsight how annoying I was'

Phil Collins at home in Miami, Florida Phil Collins at home in Miami, Florida Jeffery Salter

The musician, 65, on boozing, soul music and being on Live Aid twice.

I auditioned for Dennis Hopper’s role in Speed. In the early 1990s I really wanted to do more movies, so Jill [Tavelman, Collins’s second wife] and I bought Cole Porter’s old house on Sunset Boulevard.

I used to have a lot of meetings at The Ivy with directors, film producers and writers. But all they wanted to know was, "What’s it like to be out in front of 50,000 people?" It was a levelling experience. I wasn’t a heart-throb so I tended to attract axe murderers, those kind of parts.

I almost drank myself to death. The hospital doctors asked if my papers were in order. My pancreas and my other organs were fucked up and my doctor told me retrospectively that he didn’t know if I’d pull through.

My kids left me in Switzerland to go to Miami [after Collins divorced third wife Orianne Cevey in 2008] and I was left with a big hole. I had nowhere to go and I didn’t have my kids. So I was getting up in the morning and having a couple of drinks. I felt I owed myself a rest and a chance to do whatever I wanted. And then of course it escalates. Vodka was my drink of choice.

I realise in hindsight just how bloody annoying I was. You know, I did Live Aid not once but twice – "Oh, and now he thinks he can act." It was like, "Just look at this guy," and, "This guy just won’t go away." But from my point of view I was doing it because I was being asked to do things I loved by people I admired.

The best piece of advice I’ve been given? "Never let go of a lady’s leg." Or "Cheer up," probably. Actually, nobody seems to give me advice any more, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I don’t listen.

I nearly played a Russian serial killer, Andrei Chikatilo, "the butcher of Rostov", a cannibal who killed 50-odd kids. He was in a cage at his trial. HBO were going to make a film and at that point I was trying so hard to go against type. My wife said, "You can’t do this, it’s terrible!"

I sing along to Flight of the Conchords with my kids. It’s very clever. Those songs aren’t easy to write.

It feels very hip to be liked by Kanye West and Ice-T. I’m glad they were brave enough to come out and say something. You know, the music I listened to growing up, apart from the Beatles, was soul music. I think that influenced the way I write. "Easy Lover" and "Sussudio" have Earth, Wind & Fire horns, so perhaps black listeners pick up on that. Also, in America there was less attention to bias and critics and reviews.

You stick around long enough and people reassess you. I haven’t finished quite yet. There’s still life in the old body.

© The Guardian, by Johnny Davis

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