Lily Collins spoke with Crave Online about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones among other things, including kicking butt as Clary Fray and why she hasn’t read all of the books in The Mortal Instruments just yet.
CraveOnline: Had you gone out for any of the other teen literature properties? It seems like you would be in the right bracket as all of them have been developed.
Lily Collins: Yeah, one of my first auditions actually was for Twilight which is really funny now thinking about it.
For Kristen’s role.
Oh, for Bella?
For Bella, yeah. This was many years ago. I was new on the scene, new at auditioning and it was always kind of this, “What’s going to happen?” everyone in the waiting room waiting for you. One of those anxious days as a young actor. I remember reading scripts for Beautiful Creatures and all those. I think every young actor or actress in Hollywood starts to read some of the same material but I think everything happens for a reason and everyone who gets the roles they get were meant to. I’m a firm believer in that.
Of course, and by the time Mortal Instruments came along, you’re an established actor. Did they come to you?
Screen Gems did approach me. It was a lot of the same team that had worked on Priest and we had really close relationships and they knew that I was a really big fan of the series. So I was very honored when I got the potential to play a character that I’ve grown up loving.
Was Hunger Games ever on your radar?
It definitely was. I remember hearing about the book and then hearing about the movie, but Jennifer [Lawrence] is just perfect as Katniss and I’m so excited for her and happy for her. This was my thing before that news even [broke].
So this had happened even before they cast Hunger Games?
Yeah, this project’s been around for quite a while. It’s switched hands a little bit. Like I said, everything happens for a reason.
I completely agree with you. I’m just fascinated by the industry world where they call in all the contemporary talent for the same parts.
Oh, it’s totally strange. It is, and it’s funny because a lot of us are friends so if one of us doesn’t get it, a friend gets it and it’s nice because everyone can be supportive about it.
Clary is an interesting character because she can see things other people don’t. Do you ever feel that way in the real world, that you’re able to see things other people don’t?
I love old antiques and anything vintage. A lot of the things that I collect are what people might call trash. So I see the beauty in antique things and old and old world things that most people wouldn’t look twice at.
How about as an actor, do you observe the world on a different level, studying behavior?
I have always enjoyed people-watching and I think that’s kind of the best acting class, just watching others interacting and their personal twitches or how they interact with people. I’ve always just been a very analytical person when it comes to human nature, and I’m fascinated by that because you never know what you can learn or use for your next role.
Have you read all six books?
I stopped after the first few because there’s a part of me that really wants to be in this journey with Clary in the sense of experimenting and finding out what’s next with her, because when you go from translating a book to a film, obviously things change a little bit anyway. It takes like four pages to describe how someone looks, whereas in a film you just have it on camera. So I really wanted to be able to go on this journey with Clary to a certain extent. Obviously that’s assuming that it goes to a sequel. I hope that it gets to go to that stage and if it doesn’t, at that point if I don’t get to be Clary, then I’ll reintroduce myself to what could have been, but I’d like to experience it through her eyes.
So where did you stop reading, the second book?
I think it was maybe halfway through the third one, but then I purposely didn’t reread because if you start focusing too much on the actual book, it gets so confusing as to what happened in the first one and then translating it into a script, it’s like where are they going to stop it? Instead of muddling it, I wanted to focus on one thing at a time.
But some of the books don’t have Clary, right?
Right, like the prequels. Those are the same world but it’s pre-Clary.
Could you read those without screwing yourself up?
Yeah, yeah, I think it’s that there hasn’t been much time in my schedule recently. Instead of rereading rewrites of the script, that’s kind of been what was on my mind.
Since you love the books, are there things on set that you feel, “We have to do this this way?”
It’s a constant conversation between producer, director and actor when there are specific things. Because the fan base is so big for these books, taking into consideration what they’re excited about, what they hope, what they want, that’s been a big part of this process as well. It is kind of that constant battle of how will this translate? Do we have to actually act this out? Can we just show an image of it? It’s a constant collaboration.
Are there any things you’re surprised or disappointed they’ve taken out?
I can’t speak on that yet because the film’s not been fully edited, so I don’t know yet what fully is in and what’s out, but we’ll see that soon.
What was it like to actually be in the Hotel Dumort set or the nightclub set?
Oh my gosh, the Hotel Dumort set was for me, we shot in an old real decrepit hotel. It was leaky, it was dirty, it was literally how it is in the books. So we shot there all nights, so it was like two, three, four in the morning, freezing. But it was fun. How often do you get to kick butt in a vampire hotel?
Where was the hotel?
It was in Toronto but just outside of it. It was dirty.
Does Clary learn to fight by the end of the first movie?
Yes, she’s fighting midway through I think. She’s fighting midway through. She shows major potential midway through and it only gets more and more as the story goes on.
Do you hope to get to show her fully able to fight and kick butt in the next one?
Oh yeah, for as long as they’ll have me playing Clary I will be as dedicated to the stunts as possible. I love it. As much as I can kick ass, I will.
There was a little in Mirror Mirror, right?
Yeah, and it was the same stunt department as well which is great. I knew them very well, got used to them and it was an introduction to fight coordinating and stunt work in Mirror Mirror but this was an entrance in a different way.
It’s only been three years since The Blind Side but does it feel like this is your job now, you’re an established actor?
It’s funny. When they say, “What do you do?” I love acting. I find it weird sometimes to say, “I’m an actor” because I enjoy photography, I enjoy cooking. There are so many things that I enjoy that putting it as a job seems a little weird sometimes. I do definitely feel lucky to be working as much as I am, but when you put it like that, when you put a title on it, it’s a little strange.
Are you able to balance these big productions with smaller films too?
Yeah, I have two independent films coming out this summer, Stuck in Love and The English Teacher. I started doing independents just last year. I had never had an experience on a set like that. The fast paced nature of it and the way that they work differently than big budget films was really interesting to me and I love the camaraderie that you have on a set like that.
Did those films play any festivals yet?
Yes, Stuck in Love used to be called Writers and that premiered at TIFF. The English Teacher is premiering at Tribeca.
Are you going to go for that?
I can’t. I’m going to be in England, in Dublin shooting a movie.
What’s the next movie?
It’s called Love, Rosie and I play a British girl who ages from 17 to 28 and has a child. It’s set as a romantic comedy but there’s a lot of heart there, a lot of drama.
What would be your dream role at this point?
I’d still love to do a British period piece. I still would love to do that, and a full-blown comedy.
Do you get those sorts of offers?
I’m still fighting for roles. I’m auditioning. I’m meeting with people about things. I’m always open to whatever type of genre that comes my way, but I’m prepared to fight for roles.
How do you fight for a role if there’s something they maybe don’t want to see you for?
I try to get in that room and audition. You’ve got to audition. If people don’t see you one way, you have to try to show them that you can be that. I’m prepared to do that.
Is it strange to you that kids might be watching Mirror Mirror and The Blind Side now and you’re in their homes?
It’s very, very sweet when little girls come up to me, or when people come up and say that they’ve liked a film or that they’ve watched it with their family and been happy and laughed. That, to me, if I can help make people a part of a story, that’s what I enjoyed most about being little was that I was taken into another world.