Icon - Lewis Collins

Professional Hard Man - In 'Who Dares Wins', Collins roared around on a Harris Magnum

In his rollercoaster career, Lewis Collins went from being the coolest action hero of the late '70s through to Bovril ad boy in the early '80s to Widow Twanky in panto in the '90s.

We'll forget his later indiscretions - he had to earn a living, after all - but to young lads in the era of the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was the man, starring as the legendary William Bodie in TV's action drama 'The Professionals.'

Alongside poncey, bubble-permed Martin Shaw (apparently the wirey locks were Shaw's idea) Bodie wheelspun and handbrake-turned his way through sad little pre-pubescent lives in a selection of Ford Capris and Escorts.

Let's face it, though, we all wanted to be Bodie and not old Velcro-hair. Bodie looked cool and smart (he never wore jeans in any of the episodes) got the decent crumpet (who due to plot lines would conveniently die at the end of the episode), had a decent car (as long as you liked Capris) and even rode bikes.

His portrayal of a hard-man in The Professionals earned him the role of Captain Peter Skellen in the film 'Who Dares Wins.'
In the film, Skellen roared around on a Harris Magnum and in real-life, Collins himself was a bit of a bike nut, having a number of bikes of his own as well as Ducati Hailwood rep which used to sit in his front room.

Both Shaw and Collins had to undergo rigorous physical training courses to keep them fit, as well as being taught advanced driving skills.

Despite being sexually experienced and not living with his mum, he was accepted into the Territorial Army and even hankered after a spot in the real SAS. Legend has it that he passed the tests (a camouflaged Capri was seen around the SAS base of Hereford in the early '80s) but his face was too well-known for him to be accepted into this shadowy unit.

After that, roles dried up for Collins. A succession of naff action flicks such as Codename: Wildgeese probably didn't help him when he went for the role of James Bond in 1986 (Timothy Dalton got it) but perhaps the thought of Bond turning up in a Capri wearing a roll-neck and corduroy flares instead of getting out of a DB5 in a dinner jacket didn't sit quite right with Cubby Brocolli.

In the late 1990s, 'The New Professionals' was filmed, but despite early attempts to get Collins back as Bodie, negotiations broke down. Shame.

Now 55, Collins (now a film director) has turned his back on acting. Probably because acting turned its back on him. Typecast as the perennial hard man, he found it hard to get any other sort of role. Still, he will live on as one of the definitive telly hard-men of all-time and hero of boy-racers everywhere.

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