Sitting comfortably in his chair behind a mountain of copies of his autobiography, Michael Winner looks like a man confident of his place in the world.

Food columnist and cartoonist, as well as the director of 34 films, Winner has clearly tried his hand at a number of things, and has successfully made a name for himself in most of them.

Most recently, however, he is probably best known for his appearances in the Esure adverts, and it is the now-famous catchphrase from the TV adverts, Calm down, dear,' that people whisper to each other as they walk past him in the WH Smith store in Brent Cross during a meet-the-author session last Saturday.

"Is he the man from the telly, the one when the lady says she's not his sister?" people ask each other. And Winner smiles benignly at them, after all the adverts were his idea and he has obviously done quite well out of them.

"They are fun and they give people a laugh, so it's not bad to be known for that. But people also know my films, they are on the television all the time, and at peak hours, not at stupid times in the morning," he said.

"I'm known for a lot of things, for being on television, and for my charity The Police Memorial Trust which honours police officers who have died in the line of duty."

But Winner is keen to insist he does not take himself that seriously. His autobiography, which has already sold many thousands', is entitled Winner Takes All A Life of Sorts.

"A Life' always sounds so pompous," he says, "so this brings it down a touch. I always like to take the mickey out of myself, and there is more than a touch of the ridiculous in my life. In fact, an abundance of the ridiculous, especially as the film industry is so ridiculous."

Winner lets the names and experiences drip off his tongue. Citing film-world greats such as Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder as people who had a big influence on him, and actors Marlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, Sophia Loren, Robert Mitchum and Orson Welles as his friends.

"Rollicking' is a word they are using to describe this book," he says, "and that describes my life a lot of fun." Admitting that he has made a few professional mistakes, as well, though, he says he turned down a job directing a James Bond film in 1971, which ended up being Diamonds are Forever. He also said no to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie with Maggie Smith.

"But I would have liked to direct every film that won an Academy Award for the last 25 years and I didn't," he said.

"Still, I am leaping back, my next project is a film called Madame Celeste about an evil clairvoyant. It will be considerably horrific and frightening, but not subtle, I don't like subtle. I go for the jugular.

After such an outburst, and given his reputation for having a bit of a temper, one wonders what the best word is to describe him.

"Angelic. I would describe myself as angelic," he says with considerable confidence and serenity before calling out to another passer-by to buy his book.