What have you today then, Biggins?
I’ve just been filming for a new campaign Kit Kat are running called Working Like A Machine, so I’ve been dressed up in a jungle in London with fairy lights around my head. A beautiful lady pushed my nose and all the lights in my hat came one, so she was able to feel reassured by that, and I was able to feel reassured when I suddenly saw a Kit Kat, opened it up and ate a piece. That’s what I was doing this morning.
And you’ve been quite busy recently haven’t you?
Well yes I’ve just come back from Calcutta where I’m patron of a charity called The Hope Foundation which takes children off the rubbish heaps and slums to look after them. It was fascinating. Then tomorrow I’m off to do Celebrity Cash In The Attic which I’m looking forward to. I don’t actually have an attic, but I’m using my father’s lock-up; he was once in the antiques business you see so we’re going to raid his lock-up – poor man.
It sounds to me like it’s you who’s working like a machine…
I am working like a machine, but thank God that I’m given 5000 bars of Kit Kat so I can just put my hand out at any point for a bit of chocolate!
So you’re quite partial to a chocolate snack then?
I love Kit Kat, I must say I love the dark chocolate ones especially. I’ve been a fan of Kit Kats since I was a child – it must’ve been going for years!
Quite the opposite of some of the nasty things you faced in the jungle!
Yes, I don’t know whether you can get a kangaroo’s penis covered in chocolate or a nice kangaroo’s bollock with chocolate on! I’m not sure – it was very different though. I know that chocolate on live cockroaches would certainly have helped enormously. As I ate the three live cockroaches, I bit into one and the other two were running around my mouth. Oh dear, oh dear – what I’ll do for fame and fortune!
That’s all behind you now though – you recently won Celebrity Come Dine With Me didn’t you?
I did, and it was terrific fun. I wasn’t very pleased with Edwina Currie though because of how she acted at Julia Bradbury’s dinner party. Julia’s was the first one and while Phillip Olivier, Julia and myself got absolutely paralytic – pissed as farts! Edwina refused to drink and was a bit of a sourpuss in the corner, then gave poor Julia 2 marks. We had the best evening and the food was fantastic so I was really angry with her for doing that, but I suppose in the end it meant that I won!
Yes, well it seems there’s no stopping you when it comes to reality TV victories!
I know, it’s great fun, but that last one was a tough job to do because you have four nights in a row that you have to eat a three-course meal with wine, then film during the day when you’re cooking your own meal. It was all quite exhausting actually, but I don’t think, since the jungle, I’ve done anything that’s been seen by quite so many people. We watch Come Dine With Me in my house because it’s such a good programme; I love the man who does the voiceover. The response has been fantastic though, and when I watched it I though it was a very funny episode.
Are you normally one to hold a lot of dinner parties?
Well, funnily enough, we had one last night actually. We served my winter stew which went down rather well. I love giving dinner parties; they’re tough though aren’t they? Usually I’m a sort of 2-day man. You do the shopping and make some of the preparations, then the following day you’ve got to lay the table and finish everything off; by the time they arrive at 6 o’clock you’re thinking “why the fuck did I ask them?” because you’re just so exhausted. You’d like to go to bed. But once that first glass of champagne slips down, something happens and you’re taken away. It’s great.
What about the cooking then? You were a little bit of a cheat on the programme weren’t you…
I was a bit of a cheat, but only because my smoked haddock mousse didn’t set properly! That meant I had to resort to running down to Waitrose where I knew they had these delicious potted mousses. I loved the fact that Edwina asked how I got the little swirls on the tops of them. I just had to make something up on the spot!
Your 60th birthday at the end of last year looked like a good bash…
Oh yes, it was brilliant! I treated 400 of my closest friends to a dinner and cabaret at the Landmark Hotel in London. It was a fantastic evening even though I say it myself. I really loved having it, it was great, but I don’t think I shall be having many more. I think when I’m 70 it’ll be my closest 70 friends if I’m lucky.
Well I think at 60 you’re an absolute picture of health! What’s your secret?
I think, first of all, that 60 is the new 40. And I think it’s a question of mind over matter. If you think of yourself as an old person, it’s a disaster. I never think about age really, and Joan Collins is always saying “why do people always put in the paper ‘Joan Collins, 74,” or whatever age she is. There’s too much ageism going on. It’s probably easier for men because they look better as they get older!
I’m interested to find out what brings out the nasty side of Mr Biggins. We always see you smiling, but you must have one…
I am a terror, I have to say, in my car. Other drivers make me very mad. However, having just been to Calcutta, can honestly say I’ve never seen driving like it. I’m now much more at ease with the British drivers. I mean, in Calcutta it was like being in an open fairground; they don’t take any notice of red lights, they’re not looking out for pedestrians… they certainly don’t take notice of other cars. How there aren’t more smashes I’ll never know. I do get very angry in London though; I just don’t think people read the signs. Perhaps they’re all complete idiots, I don’t know!
Now, we’ve seen you act on the screen but you’ve also made a name for yourself as Britain’s greatest pantomime actor… where does your heart truly lie?
Well the stage is much better because you get an instant reaction from the audiences, but then television also enables you to do the stage work. I like both of them, but I suppose if I was pushed for a definite answer I’d have to say the theatre because there’s just nothing like getting an instant reaction. Last year was the first time I’d done pantomime for two years because of the jungle programme, but it was wonderful. The public go absolutely mad, there’s nothing quite like it. I enjoy everything really though. I like working and I like people – I just keep going.
So looking back over the years, what has been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment is probably winning I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here, because when you’re in there you have no idea what’s going on in the outside world, and I always though that if I could come fourth like David Gest did the year before, I would do quite well. But to win it, and to come out and find the whole nation had been behind me, was very moving and very humbling. I was really, really touched by that.
And would you say there’s anything you regret?
I always regretted not playing Prince Regent in the TV series they did years ago because I’m absolutely perfect for the part. I have great legs that would’ve looked lovely in tights, in fact I know they look lovely in tights, so that’s my biggest regret; never getting to play Prince Regent.
Is there any more reality TV in the pipeline then? You’ve got a knack for winning, you can’t stop now…
Well no, I’d love to do more. In fact, I’ve just been asked to do Total Wipeout for the BBC… but I’d die. Let’s face it. If they were looking for someone to die on the show, I’d be perfect fodder. But the thought of jumping on those huge red balls – I haven’t got the greatest knees as it is! I had to turn that one down unfortunately. And I’d never, ever do Big Brother – I find it so boring. I think my reality TV days are over… for the moment.
Finally, you’ve had such a successful career in show business - can you see yourself ever retiring?
Well, there’s a wonderful story I’ll tell you about John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson and Edith Evans on stage. They all completely forgot their lines, and the prompt came from down in the corner but none of them seemed to pick it up. So it came again and again, louder and louder until eventually the prompt was so loud you could hear it in the upper circle! Gielgud eventually turned to the prompt and said “yes, we know the line, but who says it?” – I don’t want to be like that. That doesn’t appease me at all really; I’m going to go out on a high!
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