Lily Collins will soon star in The Moral Instruments: City of Bones. In this interview she speaks about being fascinated by Gothic stuff, loving fashion, tells about her admiration for Gwen Stefani as well as explaining her tattoos and talking about her famous father.
We have seen Twilight, Warm Bodies and The Host, what’s wrong with teenagers today?
I don’t know, I think fantasy takes you out of reality and teenagers, especially today. Whether it’s with school or relationships or whatever it is, teenages have problems. They like to go out and they like to disappear for a little while. And even if these fantasy stories are dealing with the same things, it’s ok because it’s in a different world. It’s kind of is a little foreign and it’s mysterious and it’s fun. They deal with characters that don’t exist. And that’s interesting. I think ours is different in a sense that it’s got this comedic undertone that Cassandra is known for in her books. I don’t think a lot of the other movies really deal with more of a comedic tone. And I think that in moments in a fantasy story that are so fantastical the comedy kind of brings it back down. It says look we’re not taking ourselves too seriously, you can laugh at this a little bit. And I think that makes it a bit more relatable. But also it’s not defined by a love story. There are two lead males and a female and there is a romantic connection, but the story is propelled forward because a girl is looking for her mom. And no matter if that’s in a fantasy world or a reality, that could be true. That could be a situation you find yourself in. So it’s not defined by romance or defined by action or defined by comedy. It all just seems to come together.
So is it nice to play kind of a kick-ass girl?
Yeah, I loved it. I love that she wasn’t at the beginning. Then she slowly becomes more of a kick-ass girl and thrown into this outfit that’s so awkward. I trained for three months before the movie and did stunt training, never in the outfit. And then it comes two days before and I’m like, oh I forgot that I was doing all that in five inch heels with a dress that’s really a top. But it was great because Clary would not know what the heck to do so I could just be as awkward and it would be playing into the character. It was really fun though to go from fairy tale princess to kick-ass shadow hunter.
Did you like the costume? Is it your style?
It kind of became my style. It’s funny because when I did press for Mirror, Mirror I was more in that fantasy, younger kind of princessy vibe. Romantic. And then I did this and it was more edgy and a bit sexier and this kind of steampunk, grunge feel. And I started to experiment in my costume with the leather pants and the heels and the dress. I think there’s a way to be sexy but still be classy and push limits but not be yourself. Wearing all that stuff kind of gave me a bit more confidence and then all of a sudden it bled into my red carpet looks a little bit. I’m 24. I like to have fun, I can be a little bit older. Yeah, it definitely became kind of my style.
Are you more Gothic now?
I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic things. My mom loves Gothic things and loves kind of dark…she’s not a dark person, but she likes that dark undertone to certain things and the architecture and the style and stuff. So always growing up loving it but never really embracing it for myself because I guess I didn’t think it really worked on me. But then doing this movie was like, well, you never know until you try. It’s been a kind of experiment that I’ve interlaced with my own.
Do you think of yourself as a fashionista?
I’ve always loved fashion. I always grew up admiring designers as artists and clothing as art work. And wanted to be a designer when I was younger, cutting out magazine things, and mood boards and books and designs. So fashion has always been a passion. And now I feel very lucky to be able to be wearing what I get to wear and go to shows and then costumes and all that kind of stuff.
Are you very critical of your stylists then?
No, my stylists are awesome! It’s a team, Rob [Zangardi] and Mariel [Haenn], and they are the most collaborative team, we have the most fun together. They’re awesome because they pull things and go try this and I’m like, really I don’t know. And then I try it and I’m like oh my God, I never would have done that or put that together but I love it. It’s always about pushing boundaries but always remaining myself, never forcing me into something. Never letting something wear me but always wearing something.
Do you see yourself as a fashion designer in the future?
I would never want it to be something that I just put my name on a label, I would have to be involved creatively. Kind of like Gwen Stefani. She obviously still has her amazing music career but then she truly became a designer. It would have to be that. I would have to have so much time to be able do that. Maybe having my hand in design in some way would be cool. If I would ever venture out into some other career like journalism again. Journalism is something that I can always keep on the side though, whether it’s photojournalism, blogging, writing or whatever it is, but something as big as that, or like music, it would have to be full attention.
Why are you interested in journalism?
I have been ever since I was young, I’ve always been that kid that asked questions and I loved meeting people and just genuinely been fascinated about all sorts of topics. So journalism was kind of that path that allowed me to ask questions and be exposed to things, whether it’s fashion politics entertainment lifestyle, I’ve always just loved being a people person.
So as a journalist what was the toughest question you ever asked someone?
It was the questions that I didn’t want to ask. I always wanted to be positive in interviews and talk about either what I was supposed to talk about or what interested me in that person. I never wanted to go into gossip and the amount of times that my producers would say, now you’re going to ask this, and I’d go, I don’t feel comfortable asking that and then they’d say, well ok, then you’re not doing the interview. So I would say, ok fine. I lost out on interviews. I feel for you. It’s given me a better understanding and appreciation for things like this because I understand it from your perspective. And I think it was kind of standing up for myself in those situations that were the hardest. It wasn’t necessarily the questions because I wouldn’t ask those questions so I never had the hesitation to ask them because I knew, on their end, they didn’t want me to ask it, and so it was kind of that push and pull thing.
That’s interesting because I’m going to ask you a question that you don’t like to be asked anymore. Let’s see how you react.
About my dad? [laughs]
Why don’t you want to talk about it anymore?
It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, I just think that there’s more to talk about now that I’ve worked longer. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, I am the proudest daughter. I love my dad, I am very proud to carry my last name. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it, I just think that at this point…I understand when I’ve done my first movie or second movie that people didn’t know much about me and there wasn’t as much to talk about. But then I think that at this point now with the projects that I’m doing and with the amount of time that’s past, I don’t see…I’m fascinated with what other kinds of questions someone could ask, I feel like they’ve all been asked before and everyone knows. So that’s the only thing. It’s not that I don’t like talking about that.
If I had Phil Collins at the table, I could ask him about you.
That would be very weird. That would be interesting, I think he’d probably get a kick out of that. It’s funny, someone was telling me that they were listening to the radio and the DJ came on and there had just been a song playing of my dad and they said, that was Phil Collins. For all of you who don’t know, that’s Lily Collins’ dad. [laughs] And someone told me that and then I told my dad that and he just started laughing, I think that’s awesome. So for me that’s pretty funny.
Can you share the story of your tattoos? Did you have to ask permission of your mom or your dad?
I have two actually. My mom went with me to get it done. My dad saw them and went, it’s ok, they’ll rub off. I was like, yeah dad. It was kind of this knowing father-daughter thing, like you’ve done it, it’s fine. My mom and I went together to get it done. It’s a British crown, I’m British. Angel wings, my mom has an angel on her and I wanted angel wings. And it’s a heart and it says LJ, my middle name’s Jane, my mom’s name is Jill, grandparents were June and Jane, sister’s Jolie. I mean there’s lots of important Js in my life. And then my back, I have an English Rose, because I’m English.
Do you still feel English? You left a long time ago.
Yes. I did, but I always traveled back in the summers and at Christmas time to my house in the country. And I just actually came back from Dublin where I was for two and a half months shooting a British film where I had a British accent and I actually felt the most at home and comfortable being British which was really strange. But I would consider myself more European than American. Even though I sound like this, I still feel completely British. I love living here and I do feel partly American. My mom is American, but I feel more British.
It must have been quite fun on the set because most of them are British.
Jamie’s British, Jemima is from France, Robbie’s Irish and I was just with him about Dublin because I’d never been and we were bonding over that. And then Kevin was from Toronto. So it’s this very international cast actually. And then Lena Headey, Johnny Rhys Meyers, Jared Harris it was like I was the only American and I’m not even really technically American. It was great to be on a set like that and then having just shot also in Dublin. I was again the only “American” but everyone else was from England or Ireland. I loved it, I love hearing the accent.
In the movie when they want to read your cards, you say that you don’t believe in such things. Do you believe in magic and zodiac signs?
Yeah, I definitely do. I think there’s other stuff out there that we don’t know about. I think that’s exciting and I kind of live sometimes in a fantasy in my own head and I’m very open to new experiences and very open to that kind of stuff like readings and weird occurrences and supernatural stuff. I think there’s way more that we don’t know about. I haven’t studied it but I just have that feeling.
Jamie Campbell Bower described you as an amazing actress. What’s your reply to that?
Well, he’s an amazing actor! No, it’s amazing to be in a scene with someone and to feel like you can be vulnerable or you can be completely yourself in a scene because the other person will give that right back to you and there’s kind of that trust. We had a chemistry test and it was there. It’s amazing to witness someone growing in a movie. I think Jamie does that and I already knew how talented he was but to play a role like this and to be cocky, edgy, witty, funny, vulnerable, confident, all these characteristics that his character portrays, he can do all that with a look, he doesn’t have to say anything. And that’s really rare.
How does it feel to be in the lead? And with this potential for a franchise of seven books?
There’s a lot. She always threatens to write more. [laughs] No, I love Cassie, she’s so passionate about the books so she should be as we all are as well. It’s a bit daunting because it could take on a life of its own at which point though that’s a blessing because I’d love to play Clary as long as I can. And it’s really exciting. But I was a fan of the books before I was cast, so I know all about having expectations of the character.
I probably would have had expectations of the actress playing the character if it wasn’t me. So I get all that, but I also get as an actor that you kind of have to remove yourself a little bit from it. It is what it is and you don’t have to actively seek out opinions any more. It’s just thrown at you whether it’s media online or people coming up to you. So the most important thing is, I choose the projects that I choose. I do the movies that I do because I love them and regardless of box office I’ve gotten something from the experience. Like with the independents that I do as well, I couldn’t care less if people didn’t go see it because what I got from the movie is worth way more. Of course I’d love people to see it but I take what I learn from each one and go to the next one. And use what I’ve learned.
Do you share some common points with your character?
Yeah, I definitely think that I’m passionate, I’m very determined, I’m a loyal friend and I’m very close with my mom. And she’s very close with her mom. The fact that this whole journey starts with her trying to find her mom was something that I could relate to the entire time. I would love to say that I would do the exact same that she would. So I could completely emotionally relate to what she was going through.
Have you had a chance to talk with Jennifer Lawrence or Kristen Stewart about the situation you’re in? It’s quite similar.
It’s funny, I do know them, but we never talk about work. So whenever anyone wants to know did you guys discuss it, it’s like, no we just discussed food and how different cities are and how you are and how your family is. We’ve never discussed the situations that we’re all in. But I do admire both of them for their ability to be a part of something so big yet still pursue other jobs and not have them defined by their franchises but also not have them defined by their work. They are amazing women who have been able to do so much but also stay themselves and be funny and be cool and nice, and just great people. It’s amazing to see.
How was it like on the set during the breaks. You don’t talk about work, right so…?
No, we all make fun of each other…we’ll be filming long hours doing crazy things at three in the morning, you know, like stunts and whatever, in order to keep us all awake we just would joke around and literally make fun of each other, play games to keep ourselves awake or sing songs.
Do you sing?
I like singing but it’s more like we’re not having a voice competition. It’s like humming something and then someone else starts singing. It was really just how do we stay awake right now and stay sane. But yeah, we all got along so well, we really became a family. Everyone was just so much fun that at the end of the day that’s the best thing that you get to go home exhausted.