It has been a rollercoaster ride for Phil Collins

Saturday: Phil Collins at the BBC; (BBC Two, 9pm)
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For someone who once sang about having the Invisible Touch, millionaire rock star Phil Collins has done quite a lot to make himself seen and heard.

He’s had a bagful of top 10 hits, too numerous to count, both as a solo artist and with the group Genesis He’s a respected actor, having made a name for himself in the gangster movie Buster. He’s made controversial political speeches on the plight of the homeless and said he would leave the country if the Labour Party ever got into power. And he’s even been the subject of This is Your Life.

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Although he’s now best known for his music career, for some time it looked as if Collins was going to be a full-time thespian. His mother Winifred was a casting director, so the family (Phil’s sister Carole was an ice skater, his brother Clive a cartoonist) already had one foot in showbusiness. At 14 he began having professional acting lessons and in his teens played the Artful Dodger in two West End productions of Oliver!

Around the same time Collins was an extra in The Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night (the band were a huge influence on him musically) and later appeared in Calamity the Cow, a Children’s Film Foundation production. He shot a scene that was later cut from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and auditioned for the role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, but lost out to Leonard Whiting.

It was around this time that he decided his future lay not on stage or screen, but in music. Collins began drumming at the age of five and played in various bands before auditioning for Genesis at the home of Peter Gabriel’s parents in 1970. He was enlisted to play percussion and provided backing vocals until Gabriel left in 1975. Initially, he and remaining members Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Steve Hackett intended to hire a new singer, but Collins himself ended up filling the void.

Collins’ new role coincided with an amazing period of success for the band; he also launched a solo career that even managed to eclipse his work with Genesis. In the late 1980s he returned to acting with the starring role in Buster, a biopic of Great Train Robber Buster Edwards, co-starring Julie Walters as his wife June.

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The years since have been a rollercoaster ride. In 2000 You’ll Be My Heart from Tarzan won him a Best Original Song Oscar, he’s suffered health problems, retired, come out of retirement, written an autobiography and planned a tour with his Genesis mates Rutherford and Banks, which was postponed due to Covid-19, but is set to begin in September.

Now there’s a chance to look back at Collins’ career via footage from the BBC archive, a programme followed by a reshowing of the aforementioned Buster.

So, what’s next for Collins, other than that eagerly awaited tour? We’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure – he’s going to keep on surviving Against All Odds.

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