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HomeEconomyI'm A Celeb star Christopher Biggins talks to ME & MY MONEY

I’m A Celeb star Christopher Biggins talks to ME & MY MONEY


Legend: ‘Biggins’ likes to spend money, but also has a rental apartment

Actor and pantomime great Christopher Biggins, 74, got his big break playing Lukewarm in the 1970s BBC sitcom Porridge.

A 50-year career has embraced everything from starring in pantomime children’s show On Safari to crowned king of the jungle in 2007’s I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

Biggins, as he’s affectionately known, tells Dan Moore that after playing Nero in BBC’s I, Claudius, he thinks he was actually the Emperor in a past life. He lives in East London with partner Neil Sinclair.

What did your parents teach you about money?

When I was 18 I was at Salisbury Rep on £2 a week, and drama school and both were heavily subsidized by my parents. When I left, my father said, ‘Look at this, son. You’ve had four years, but it’s time to get a good job and buy a house.” I said I’m going to be an actor and I think I’ve been quite successful.

They were purely looking after my interests and in a way they were right. I discourage others from joining this business because the money is terrible and there are so many unemployed actors who are brilliant.

What was your first real job?

It was the 1974 BBC sitcom Porridge. Sid Lotterby, who was the director-producer, told me about it. When he said Ronnie Barker would be in it, I thought, well, that’s good enough for me.

I used to drive to work in a convertible; I was standing at traffic lights with the roof up and truck drivers looking down and saying, ‘Ello Lauw, how are you?’ This made me think I had gained weight!

Has Porridge given you financial security?

Not at all. When I look back and think about what I did without being financially secure, Poldark, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, stage, pantomime, there were so many things. Safety only came with winning I’m A Celebrity. Then my finances really changed.

What drew you to panto?

I was asked to do pantomime at the Darlington Civic Theater in 1975 when I was 26 or 27 years old and I said, ‘No thanks, I’m an actor, I don’t do pantomime.’ They kept asking and I kept saying no. Finally they told me the money was £1,000 a week. I did and of course fell in love with it.

Pantomime is very different now. If you play in a star, you can earn a lot of money. I feel strongly about pantomime, because it is very important for theatres. If people enjoyed the pantomime, chances are they’ll book for next year, and probably book something in between, so it’s a breeding ground for theater audiences.

What is your career highlight?

I, Claudius, in which I played Nero, was a great, first-class television series, filled with the most wonderful actors. I absolutely loved it because I felt I was Nero myself in a past life!

I empathized so much with the character. It was beautifully written and the episode I did was a lot of fun. The day after my episode aired, Poldark’s producer called I’s producer, Claudius, to ask what this Biggins guy is like. He got a glowing report and, of course, offered me the role of the sex-crazy reverend in Poldark.

Is there anything you would change about your life?

I’ve directed a lot of theatre, pantomime, Shakespeare, all sorts, but I’d like to direct a movie. With film you only have one look. The final result is what you see through the camera lens rather than through the eyes of the theater audience. I don’t really care what genre, I just do what I feel like.

King of the Jungle: Christopher Biggins won I'm A Celebrity in 2007

King of the Jungle: Christopher Biggins won I’m A Celebrity in 2007

Are you an investor?

I’m more of a spender than a saver, but I’ve invested in real estate. I bought my house in Victoria Park, Hackney, and when I won I’m A Celebrity, I bought a one-bedroom apartment in Stratford, near London Stadium, which I rent out.

What luxury are you treating yourself to?

paintings. I have been collecting art for 50 years. We don’t know what wallpaper looks like at home. They’re like wall-to-wall paintings. They are all works of my friends or picked up at exhibitions. I get very upset when I go into people’s homes and they don’t have paintings or books. I think they are strange people.

What is your first financial priority?

As you get older, you realize that you don’t need another television or fridge freezer. I have a great house, a great life, a great partner. We just need enough money to go on vacation twice a year.

Do you have plans to retire?

I’ll never retire, but I’m very picky about what I’m going to do. I have no ambitions to play Hamlet or give the land my Lear. I just want to keep tapping.

I’m having a season at the Edinburgh Festival this year where I’m hosting a show called Tea With Biggins where afternoon tea is served while I interview famous guests such as Sir Cliff Richard, Dame Arlene Phillips, Stephanie Beacham and Gloria Hunniford.

  • Christopher Biggins is hosting The Fringe at Prestonfield 2023, a cabaret season in Edinburgh in August (fringeatprestonfield.co.uk).

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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