During this time off, Lewis's profile remained high, with personal appearances, endless teen magazine articles, photos and interviews in which he frequently spoke of his movie ambitions. "I love the whole idea of Hollywood. I've wanted to go into movies since I can remember, but I knew that it was going to take time. I know that I've got to make the jump to the States sometime, but it's obviously a case of attracting the attention of the right people. I don't want to be classified as just a tough guy. I want to do a variety of projects from musicals through to comedy."37 And his ambition didn't stop at acting: "I have a private dream of owning a theatre company and employing top actors for first-class productions. I think directing would be interesting too."27 Yet again, there was talk of reviving his musical career with The Professionals Fan Club reporting that Lewis was thinking of releasing a single, and organised a competition for fans to suggest an appropriate song for Lewis to record. Lewis, however, said "My old mate Paul McCartney gave me a couple of things to record but I haven’t really thought about singles."48 And so, yet again, a single failed to materialise.
As soon as he was out of plaster, Lewis, undaunted by his injury, signed up for the T.A.V.R. Parachute Regiment, where he began training in preparation for his Acceptance Course. Then in March 1979, it was back to work with a vengeance – there was nearly six weeks' worth of filming to finish off from series two, then it was straight into filming series three, with only a two-week summer break during which Lewis visited Los Angeles. "The Professionals is the hardest an actor will ever work," he said. "For nine months of the year we go all out. No matter how fit you are when you start, you're washed out in about three months. That's why I keep in training. I concentrate on weight training, with bench presses, weights and dumb-bells, to keep myself in shape."39 Lewis kept up his Paras training throughout filming, running miles across Hampstead Heath in army boots filled with sand, carrying weights of up to 80lbs at a time.4 He also resumed his interest in martial arts, taking up ju-jitsu in which he would eventually reach Dan grade. And there was no let-up in the fitness regime: "Weekends are for relaxing – not lying around doing nothing but taking part in sport."47 When filming ended in November 1979, the actors had a seven-month break and Lewis decided to concentrate on his Army training for a while, although the Hollywood dream was still in evidence - "I'd prefer to be in films. I'm not Robert Redford, but there might be a niche for me. But you have to be in America if you want to make films. I know some people there and you need an introduction otherwise you're just another actor, and they've got enough good ones."
In February 1980 Lewis went through his T.A.V.R. selection course at Hythe Assault Training area, gaining the coveted Red Beret and joining 10th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (10 Para, now disbanded). "Getting my Red Beret was the proudest moment of my life. Standing there on that square receiving my beret, well, you can't beat that. Nothing, even receiving an Oscar, would beat that."45 Also in early 1980, Lewis was due to make a hospital visit to one of his fans, a leukaemia sufferer, on her tenth birthday. But the night before, she died. "Her mother told me that when she was buried they put a photograph of me in her hand and the money she had saved to join my fan club. I thought, 'My God, there must be some way to help people like that.' And then I thought about the 3,500 fans in my fan club and all the energy we could muster between us. I thought they might like to get involved in something new."25 Lewis's idea was fairly revolutionary for a celebrity fan club, but he was determined to do something to help the less fortunate.
So just before its second anniversary, the Lewis Collins Fan Club closed down, and re-opened the same day as the Lewis Collins Friendship Circle, with a fund-raising offshoot called Action. "We call the section Action because it's action we want. It's closely linked with the Fan Club and the Friendship Circle which holds regular get-togethers.25 The main idea behind the change is that I want all my fan club members to be friends, not only with me, but with each other. I'm not knocking the fan club idea at all, in fact we still offer that service – newsletters, photos, autographs and so on. It's just that it seemed ridiculous that there was I, a successful young man getting all these lovely letters and gifts and yet out in the world were millions of far less fortunate people getting nothing. I believe, certainly for myself anyway, that we would all feel a lot more wholesome and worthwhile clubbing together to cheer up not only each other, but the needy and the kids who can't afford to join this circle. So the Action side will be organising various social benefits of one kind or another and giving it straight to them, and not to some obscure charity that seems to grab your money and vanish".42
He was adamant that all members would be kept informed about how the funds were used "such as purchasing a vital piece of equipment for an invalid or taking orphan kids on a trip somewhere nice. The possibilities are endless. Our reward will be seeing them smile. To me, that'd be worth three times my Professionals salary.42 We have a board to make decisions on what is going to happen to the money, based on which charities have asked us for help. I'm chairman of the board. For my part, I feel that if I can involve well-known people we can muster a bit of muscle between us and help to publicise the campaign and the money-raising events."25 Lewis entrusted the setting-up of Action to the two other committee members, Donna-Jane Whitcombe and Elaine Ann Standing, a decision he would later come to regret.
In April 1980 he set out to earn his ‘Wings’ and undertook a Parachute Descent Course, which involved ten days' intensive training before making seven different types of jump. On his fifth jump, carrying 80lbs of equipment, he broke his other ankle.4 Fortunately he recovered in time for the start of filming series four in mid-June. Bodie and Doyle were as popular as ever but Lewis was starting to grow weary of his character, and of fame itself. "I see my face too often, on posters and in the series, and I never had that before. The truth is that I'm a bit fed up staring at myself. A lot of people, when they spot you, try to catch your eye, and as long as that doesn't happen you can get away with it for quite a long time. Then comes the old tap on the shoulder and you've either got to put on a phoney voice and say, 'No, I'm not him.' That sometimes works, but if they insist that you are a celebrity then you have to admit it, otherwise you end up with somebody standing there for half an hour saying, 'Wow! Doesn't he look like him?' - which is worse! The trouble is they don't realise that to them it's the first time, but it sometimes happens to me every half-hour and, to be brutally honest, it stops being fun and starts being boring. I'd much rather be anonymous because then I can watch other people and generally get on with my own thing."24
There was still one year of his contract to go, and Lewis spent most of the filming of series four with his latest interest, a movie camera. "I plan to make a film about my parachute regiment. It will take me about a year to do as I plan to shoot a lot of the footage, but I have both an excellent script and cameraman to help me out. The final result should, hopefully, be more entertaining than the 'Lochs of Scotland'-type documentary they show at cinemas before the main movie!"72