Gregor Collins was introduced to me by friend Marcella Selbach, a patron of the arts whom I had the pleasure of interviewing last year.
Gregor has written a personal account of his time with Holocaust Refugee, Maria Altmann in his bestselling book, The Accidental Caregiver.
Please welcome him and learn more about this multi-talented man.
When thirty-two-year-old actor Gregor Collins reluctantly interviewed for a job as a caregiver more out of a favor to a friend – he had no idea his life was about to change forever.
Seconds into a chance meeting in 2008 with, it would turn out, a world-renowned Holocaust refugee named Maria Altmann, there was an unexplainable magic in the air – it felt as if they had already met. And Collins was suddenly thrown into a situation with which he had never before been confronted: caring for someone other than himself.
Gregor offers us a personal and unprecedented look at Maria over the three intimate years he cared for her – her thrilling escape from the Nazis, her fight and subsequent win in the landmark Supreme Court case to return original Gustav Klimt artwork that belonged to her family in Austria, and the extraordinary people she met along the way. But the real heart of the story transcends mere historical facts.
Through a refreshingly raw portrayal of their unlikely and unbreakable bond, imbued with humorous, candid anecdotes about his mercurial relationship with Hollywood, Gregor takes us on a deeply emotional journey of how he opened up his heart to a 92-year-old woman in need – and in turn experienced the love he had been searching for his entire life.
Inside Gregor’s Mind
[eden] Thrilled to have you here, Gregor, and I’m happy to meet you. Let’s start with a serious question.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? I don’t have one. Seriously. I’m not trying to be a contrarian, but I really don’t. Well, I do, in so many words, if I can get you to continue reading. It’s actually scary to me to think of what perfect happiness is, because it doesn’t exist, nor would I want it to exist. Perfect happiness to me is being able to get up when I’ve been knocked down; having the courage to admit when I’m wrong; lending an ear to people to whom my first instinct is to ignore; keeping my mind open; seeing the light in the throes of despair. This is all happiness to me. It’s the challenge of life—in other words the beauty of life—to find the sun after the rain. You can only enjoy the sun if you’ve been through a rainstorm.
[eden] Beautiful answer.
What turns you on creatively? Art. Europe. The Renaissance. Monet. Van Gogh. Music. Pinot Noir. Salad. History. Elegance. Women. Culture. Open hearts/open minds. Honesty. Love. Nineteenth-century Russian novels. Thunderstorms. New haircut. New shoes. Middle-of-the-Night-Showers. Close shaves. Chocolate. Peanut butter. Movies. Breaking Bad. Madmen. Living in the present. Love.
Do you overuse any words or phrases? I try not to overuse. I really do. I’m actually a brilliant under-user, but I use “throes” a lot. In fact I think I used it already in this interview. I also use, and by use I mean say in conversation, “taciturn” and “loquacious” more often than I should. I just love those two words for some reason and they just happen to be opposites. I also like saying the word “elegant.” It’s very elegant.
What quality do you most admire in a man? Someone unafraid to admit mistakes. That is the defining trait of a real man.
And in a woman? A pulse. That was bad. But it was funny. No, maybe just to me. Or to immature frat boys. But seriously. A warm, loving, giving, open heart. That’s what I most love in a woman. And a pulse. You can delete this answer.
[eden] I told you I don’t censor. I also don’t delete ;)
What is your greatest regret? My greatest regrets are always small, stupid things that you’ll think I said just to be funny. Things like I wish I ordered the sugar donut instead of the chocolate one, or I wish when I was invited to drive a Nascar that I drove faster, or that I should have asked that girl out at the grocery store. Things like this. The big things, I am totally cool with. I don’t spend much time thinking “I should have been a doctor,” or “I wish I had different parents,” or whatever regretful people think up. Because I know I am who I am because of what I’ve done, and I’m proud of it all, probably as proud of poor decisions as I am of smart ones. But yeah. Food is big. I wish I ordered the steak instead of the pasta! Darnit!
[eden] It’s a nice spin, you sweat the small stuff!
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Patience: lack of it. Not to get so worked up and have more of an ability to just know that everything is going to work out, and to relax, and to live in the present. Ahhhhhhh.
Your greatest fear? The limitations I put on myself. The walls I put up, often subconsciously. That the next time I’m my own worst enemy it will cost me dearly. My fears are all my own demons. I’m not scared of anything physical in this world, only mental. I’m also very scared of passive/aggressive people. Vewy, vewy scared.
Which living person do you most admire? Oprah. Next question?
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Either a chocolate and peanut butter cookie taster, or a steak or hamburger taster. Actually I’d like to be all three. And then I’d like to play the lead in The (White) Nutty Professor 14. All jokes aside, I’m serious about this.
[eden] I think you can create this job niche. And I see you are a foodie!
If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be? I would like to come back as a guy who just wants mediocrity. He has no ambition other than to wake up, smile, enjoy the day, and go to sleep. If not that I’d like to come back as Catherine the Great. She was quite a lady.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Without an inkling of a doubt, this: Writing and publishing The Accidental Caregiver. I would also consider that my most important achievement.
[eden] I think it’s pretty big, and congratulations on all the wonderful reviews of the book too.
Is there a trait you most deplore in others? It’s a four-way tie between people who say one thing and do another, people who don’t admit their faults, people who are late, and, you guessed it, people who are passive/aggressive.
What is your greatest extravagance? I’m pretty un-extravagant. Seriously (I know I say “seriously” a lot. Get over it). It’s actually how I stay afloat in such a crazy business, and my simple ways of living is one of my secrets to happiness. But if I have to list one thing it would probably be healthy food. I go to great lengths to make sure I’m eating well and staying healthy.
Do you have one thing you want to do before you die? The one thing? Just one? Hmm. I’d like to go to South America. Not necessarily before I die, but… well, I guess anything I’d do on earth would be considered before I die, it doesn’t have to be “on my deathbed,” so, okay, South America. Brazil. Or Argentina. I hear the women are really, really ugly down there. Sigh.
Lightning round: Favorite writer/musician/film director? Film director: Terrence Malick, Musician: Bob Pollard. But, c’mon, favorite? Too hard!
Your favorite curse words? I have three: Fuck, fuck and FUCK.
What is your motto? Just do it.
[eden] Ha, Gregor! Just like NIKE.
Readers, please say “hi” to Gregor and connect to him on all his networks.
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Connect to Gregor
Gregor is an actor, author, television and film producer, and social media maverick. After graduating from Florida State University he began working in Hollywood as a PA for a TV show called Blind Date. He’s since produced an array of reality television shows and independent films, performed critically acclaimed lead roles in the features Night Before the Wedding and Goodbye Promise, co-wrote the upcoming feature A Good Day to Die starring Cloris Leachman, teaches a social media course at Udemy, and writes for Cinema Editor Magazine. In August 2012 he published his debut book, The Accidental Caregiver, currently an Amazon bestseller in both the US and UK.