Stefanie Powers is a woman who relishes a challenge. She’s having to surmount the difficulties faced by a flaky mobile phone line as she speaks to me from a car being driven out of Worcester where she’s been signing copies of her autobiography One From The Hart.
As confessionals go it’s a stark overview of a life that has not been without its struggles in recent times for the actress who starred in last year’s I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!
“The book came out in hardback and we sold out, so it was decided to publish it in paperback version with the addition of the final chapter which was written after I was participated in your very popular television show in the jungle,” she explains.
“The book was more or less a cathartic experience for me after two life-changing events. One was the death of my mother with whom I was extremely close. We had shared a home for the past 27 years of her life. We had many adventures and travels together. We were great friends as well as being mother and daughter.
“That was followed by my own trial with and surgery for lung cancer,” she adds. “While recovering both physically and mentally from both of those events, I was asked to put some of that experience into a memoir form. I started writing and eventually it became a book.”
The 69-year-old star famed for her TV series Hart To Hart, in which she starred alongside Robert Wager as a crime-fighting husband and wife, tells me she had her own deeply personal reasons for adding a touch of Hollywood glamour to I’m A Celebrity.
“I guess the last piece of the puzzle was when I had fully recovered physically from my surgery,” she reveals. “I had lived all of my life out of doors, on expeditions and adventure travel. I’ve filmed documentaries in different places and in uncomfortable situations. I have spent a long time sleeping under the stars and continue to do so and enjoy it very much.
“So the idea of going into a jungle environment and doing some trials, well it was an opportunity to earn some money for the William Holden Wildlife Foundation (the late Hollywood actor’s organisation of which Powers is a patron) and create some additional visibility for it.
“I also wanted to be a poster child for survivors or people who are in the process of surviving cancer, as I am. I wanted to show that it is possible to resume all of your activities after beating cancer.”
Although one of the first to be voted off the show. Powers is resolute that she achieved all of her aims.
“I think I very quickly accomplished everything I wanted to,” she states. “It was as demanding as some of my personal experiences have been, especially those physical challenges, so I was quite happy to have done it and gotten out of that environment as quickly as possible.”
Ask the woman who has intimate knowledge of the Hollywood star system – having been signed up by Universal Studios in her younger days – about the cult of celebrity and you are met with a stinging response. It’s clear she’s certainly no fan of reality TV despite her jungle exploits.
“It is a different world,” she sighs. “I think there are people who curry celebrity as it’s become based on no particular talent whatsoever or no particular accomplishment whatsoever.
“When I see something like the Kardashians (US reality TV stars) who are very attractive girls promoted by their mother into a multi-million business and I think about Kim Kardashian being paid $15m so that they could photograph her wedding, and then I contrast that with raising money for breast cancer or research for deadly diseases, if you tried to raise $15m for research into deadly diseases it would take you quite a lot of time to do that.
“So I think by comparison the amount of money that is generated by this cult of celebrity over nothing whatsoever is almost an obscenity. When compared to worthwhile and terribly important causes and tragedies the world is experiencing, I find it not only frivolous but tragic. It’s so out of proportion with anything meaningful.”
It’s apparent Powers won’t be setting foot in the world of reality TV anytime soon. Nevertheless she is back in the limelight and treading the boards for British audiences in a national tour of On Golden Pond.
“It’s a wonderful play and a play on which the Oscar-winning movie is based,” she elaborates. “The movie was quite an event because not only was it beautifully made but it was a major event in movie history because it was Jane Fonda’s and Henry Fonda’s first and only appearance together in a film. It also won an academy award for both Katherine Hepburn and Henry Fonda. It was very much of a sentimental, emotional piece as a film,” she continues. But the play is very much a comedy. Our audiences are extremely delighted and surprised by how enjoyable the play is, because if they see the film they are pre-programmed to consider it as a tear-jerker and it’s far from that. We’re bringing it back in its original form and so far it’s been very well received.”