Famous for his catchy pop tunes and mushy ballads, Phil Collins ruled MTV in its early years. Originally a drummer for the British band Genesis, Collins' un-rock-star-ish manner and cheeky videos helped him score solo hits like "Against All Odds," "You Can't Hurry Love" and "Sussudio." Now the diminutive Englishman — who wrapped up the U.S. leg of his farewell tour last year — has released a DVD document of his live show, entitled Finally... The First Final Farewell Tour. We got the native Londoner to chat with us about his long goodbye, the totally awesome '80s and the age of American Idol.
TVGuide.com: The DVD depicts your farewell tour, but honestly, will you go back on the road in five years?
Phil Collins: I'll be 58 in five years — I don't think I'll want to be touring. We've done America, and I'm getting ready to do the rest of the world from October through December. I'm not retiring. I'm working on [Disney's] Tarzan for Broadway, which will have some new songs, and they've suggested I play drums in the show's orchestra for the first six months, which would be one way of keeping artistic control.
TVG: Besides the concert, the DVD has lots of extra features like a TV special you did for CBS.
Collins: Yeah, it aired on a Saturday in 1990 to a very bemused public. We do have some great people in it, like Jeffrey Tambor, Vanessa Williams, Bruce Willis and John Travolta. I was quite popular at the time, but today those people would have nothing to do with me. [Laughs] Actually, [the late] Sam Kinison was supposed to be in it, but he didn't turn up. I was a good friend of Sam's. He could be so rude on stage, but he was a really a very nice man.
TVG: You also costarred with Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in the movie Hook.
Collins: I remember that Dustin Hoffman liked my trousers.
TVG: You do always wear nice trousers.
Collins: I've found most actors have a soft spot for musicians, because I think they would really like to be musicians. They're always asking, "What's it like being on stage with a rock band?"
TVG: Didn't you start out as an actor in The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night?
Collins: I was 13 and had just started going to drama school. About 50 of us were taken down to a theater and had no idea what we were there for, and then we saw the drums that said "The Beatles." They walked on stage and it was just incredible. I mean, I got paid to watch The Beatles all day while they filmed it. You can't see me in the movie, but I've since seen the outtakes and, while freeze-framing, I found myself in the crowd wearing a very sweet tab collar and a red tie with a diamond stud.
TVG: Do you miss the hectic '80s?
Collins: Funny, I was just looking at page after page of all the gigs I did in the '80s, and it really is daunting seeing them all in one place. No wonder I've been married three times — just kidding. It was a tremendous amount of work, and when I did get a break, I'd go on tour with someone else [like] Eric Clapton or Robert Plant. How many times do you get asked to do that? You just don't refuse it.
TVG: Do you cringe hearing people cover your songs?
Collins: No, I'm very flattered when people do my stuff. It's great for me — it puts petrol in my car.
TVG: What do you think of American Idol?
Collins: I've got no time for Simon Cowell. I really think the show's all about being rude to people. Every country has their own version of the show, and I've been on the French version, called Star Academy, but it's more like an old-time variety show and I'm a big fan of that. But Simon Cowell is just cruel and that's all there is to it. I saw one girl who sang on boats for a job and Simon said, "I'd never go on a boat you were singing on because it would sink." It's all about him being witty and cutting. That's what happens when they become more important than the people they're trying to help; you end up with a bunch of smart-asses. I really hate it.
TVG: I take it we won't see you as an Idol guest anytime soon.
Collins: Well, I've never been asked, and my instinct would be to say, "No, thank you." But on the other hand, you could go on and try to make a difference. I don't know, that show is such a format now, it would probably just be banging my head against the wall.