Robbie Williams’ private health battle
He once shot a music video clad in a pair of tiger-print underpants, boasted he was "rich beyond his wildest dreams" and released an album titled The Ego Has Landed.
But seven years later, Robbie Williams was housebound - "unable to leave the sofa" - as he battled with the debilitating disorder agoraphobia.
At the lowest point of his condition - which leaves sufferers fearful of being in situations where escape might be difficult - he turned down a $26 million offer to host smash-hit US series American Idol because he could not face going out in public.
"My career had gone stratospheric and taken me to Mars, and I needed some time to get my equilibrium back and get myself back together," Williams says.
"It was my body and mind telling me I shouldn't go anywhere, that I couldn't do anything. It was telling me to just wait - so I literally just sat and waited.
"I was agoraphobic from around 2006 to 2009. Those years were just spent wearing a cashmere kaftan, eating Kettle Chips, growing a beard and staying in.
"I remember they offered me £15 million ($A26 million) to take over from Simon Cowell on American Idol, plus a big gig in the States, but I turned it down because I wasn't leaving the sofa at the time. I just couldn't."
For Williams, the turning point came when he heard The Killers' song Human on the radio.
With lyrics including, "And sometimes I get nervous / When I see an open door", it was, he says, his light-bulb moment.
From that point, and with a lot of therapy, he slowly made a return to public life.
However, a comeback appearance on UK's The X Factor in October 2009 did not go to plan.
The sliding stage doors got stuck, and one commentator slated Robbie's "wide-eyed, unblinking and sweaty" rendition of his comeback single, Bodies, adding he "wasn't the superstar he used to be".
A few weeks later, the singer received a call from his old Take That bandmates and agreed to a reunion tour and album. Their 2011 Progress tour broke all previous records for ticket sales and extra dates were added to meet demand.
It was when the Williams of old finally re-emerged.
He says: "I remember listening to that Killers song and something in that moment made me think, 'I had better get my a**e in gear, put an album together and tour'.
"There was no rhyme or reason why five minutes before that it hadn't happened. But when I did come back, it felt so unnatural. It's why that Bodies performance was so bad - I didn't know what the f**k I was doing, it didn't seem natural to me any more.
"I had to relearn how to entertain. It wasn't an easy process - it was like having a car crash and then learning how to walk again.
"If it wasn't for Take That and rejoining them, I don't know if I'd have come back at all.
"Initially, I got to hide in plain sight - I could hide behind my boys. They helped an awful lot."
Williams had first sprung into the public's consciousness as a cherubic-faced 16-year-old, one fifth of the '90s boy band. Until then, he had been working part-time as a double-glazing salesman.
After quitting Take That in 1995, following internal rumblings about his partying, he launched a solo career the following year.
In 2002, Williams signed the then biggest recording deal in British music history, worth a reported $140 million. When asked about it, he quipped: "I'm rich beyond my wildest dreams."
Today, aged 45, Williams remains the country's biggest pop star - and certainly its most charismatic. He even recently conquered the United States, with an acclaimed Las Vegas residency. He now has two million transatlantic Instagram followers - 100,000 more than Mick Jagger.
While the dad-of-three may not be quite as snake-hipped as the legendary 28in-waisted Rolling Stone, he is not far off - in part thanks to WW, formerly Weight Watchers.
He says: "Before WW, I had tried every diet going. I hadn't seen a potato since 1997. Now, so many more foods are back in my diet, including potatoes."
Once dubbed "Blobby" Williams - and "the fat dancer from Take That" by Noel Gallagher - Williams' weight has fluctuated by up to 20kg over the past two decades.
But the 2019 Williams is trim, taut and toned - and so he should be, given that he trains, mainly with boxing, six days a week.
Even so, he says he will never be entirely confident and has been diagnosed with BDD, or body dysmorphic disorder - when a person is convinced they have a major flaw in their appearance.
Chatting from his rented North London mansion, Williams says: "I have appalling self-image and remember going to see this therapist and telling him I was hugely overweight.
"He told me I was dysmorphic, and it explained a lot.
"I went away feeling amazing.
"I am pretty much in the best shape of my life right now, but I will always have that feeling of, 'Oh, I could lose another 10 pounds (5kg). I don't know if that will ever change. But right now, I'm more confident than I've ever been. At 45, I've just started to like myself a little bit more."
And for his new-found happiness, Williams - who has sold nearly 90 million albums and won a record 18 Brit awards - credits counselling.
He also firmly believes the Government should introduce therapy into schools.
Predictably, I ask if his glamorous wife Ayda Field, 40, who he married in 2010, is to thank for his transformation from tubby, booze-loving, cocaine-riddled pop star - in 2007, Williams checked into rehab, high on various Class As.
Half-eye-rolling, half-sighing, he replies: "You can credit Ayda if you like. I know there's a theme whereby people like to go, 'And then he met Ayda, and everything was great'.
"People want that to be the thing that happened and, in many ways, it is. But also, actually, I have done an awful lot of work on myself, with or without Ayda.
"My life is f***ing ace because she's with me. But I have to give myself a bit of a pat on the back, too - I've done the work.
"Therapy should be mandatory. Everybody should be made to have it in the same way we are all made to do PE at school.
"There should be a session of therapy in schools, too. I think it would help immensely."
Besides a host of celebrity friends, Williams and Field are also friends with royalty - in particular, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. Last October, the couple's six-year-old daughter Teddy stole the show as bridesmaid at Eugenie's wedding to Jack Brooksbank.
Recently it also emerged Williams' former PA, Melissa Touabti, went on to work for the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, before quitting after six months.
So what does Williams think of the American former starlet?
He says: "I've never met her, but I feel like she can't do anything right at the moment. It must be really difficult for her.
"There seems to be a whole heap of heaviness coming her way. But she's just a girl who fell in love with a guy and is trying to make the best of it all, so good luck to her."
Williams and Field plan to renew their own wedding vows next year, and he says: "Ayda is planning it all after I proposed again on her birthday."
Last September, the couple had their third child, surrogate daughter Coco.
Mortifyingly, when I remark on how "big-boned" their beaming baby is, Williams shoots back: "She's in the top 97 percentile for her weight. She's like this giant, smiling cannonball."
Although Williams may credit himself for his reinvention, it's clear Field remains the boss.
Asked if he would like more children, he says: "Whenever I look at Coco, I just fall more and more in love. But if we have any more babies, that's up to Ayda. Whenever she wants to stop, we stop. But I'd go again!"
This article was originally published on The Sun and was reproduced with permission