Dressed in a two-piece, leg-baring neon pink Osman ensemble and electric blue heels with her brown locks gathered in a disheveled ponytail, Lily Collins is every inch the young Hollywood ingenue as she works her way through the press junket at Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto. The 24-year-old actress and daughter of rock icon Phil Collins takes on her biggest role yet as the lead in the film adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s New York Times bestseller The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (the first book of a six-part series).
Read by millions of teens, the story has that magic mix of supernatural romance, teen angst and life-or-death action. Collins plays 15-year-old Clary Fray, a Brooklynite who discovers she’s a Shadowhunter—a half-human, half-angel warrior tasked with protecting the world from demons. When the enemy kidnaps her mother, Clary sets off to find her with the help of her dorky best friend Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan) and a trio of Shadowhunters, including mysterious blond Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower, Collins’ real-life ex-boyfriend) and antagonistic Alec (Canadian Kevin Zegers). Collins sat down with FLARE to talk about fashion and her breakout role in one of the year’s most-anticipated films.
FLARE: Did you read the books before you were cast?
Lily Collins: I was a huge fan [of the books]. I felt like I knew Clary pretty well already, which is a huge advantage when taking on a project like this. The books are like a Bible; I’d be silly not to use them. Although I focused only on the first book when shooting the first movie, because, in reality, you don’t know your future and Clary wouldn’t either. I wanted to go through this genuine story with her about finding out who she was in these situations and not pre-planning what I’m supposed to know or not know.
FLARE: What do you like about Clary and why do you think she struck a chord with millions of people who have read the books?
LC: I’m really close with my mom, and the fact that Clary goes on this journey to find her mom in the first book is very appealing to me because I’d like to think that I’d do the same thing. She never victimizes herself, which I think is really important. The men in the story don’t define her—it’s not a romance. Sure, there’s romance in it, but it’s so much more than that. She is a representation of girl power, but she’s not this kind of superhero that is all-knowing and preachy. She cries, she’s vulnerable, she’s normal, she’s confused, she’s upset—she’s all these things that every young girl can go through as a teenager going through this self-discovery, identity-crisis period in life.
FLARE: In the story, both Jace and Simon are in love with your character. Let’s say you weren’t in the movie, but a member of the audience. Who you root for and why?
LC: Clary’s torn because there are good and bad elements to both. Jace isn’t great for Clary because he’s dangerous, but he’s so appealing because he’s such a mysterious guy and shows a vulnerable side. Simon is the best friend who she’s always relied on, but he’s also appealing because he’s like that goofy guy next door. It’s extremely hard to choose between the two because they are so multifaceted. I can’t choose one. I can’t!
FLARE: Can you share one of the highlights of making the film?
LC: I remember the action sequence at Hotel Dumort when we stormed out of the door onto the roof. We were shooting that at four in the morning, at which point everything is funny because you’re in giggle mode. [When the director yelled action] we had to burst out of the door, having just burst out laughing, and be serious and fight for our lives. That was so typical of us…we were all having the best time. It was really hard to decipher what was work and what was play because it was kind of like being at summer camp. We were all trying to crack each other up all the time, and that lightness transferred onscreen. In such dark world, you need those moments of lightness for relief for the characters, but also for the audience, because if it’s too intense all the time it becomes a downer or the movie feels too long or you’re like, ‘They’re taking themselves too seriously.’ It’s the light moments, I think, that enhanced our experience as actors.
FLARE: We know you love fashion and we can usually spot you in the front row during fashion week. Which designers are you excited to see for Spring 2014?
LC: I don’t think I’ll be able to go to many shows because we’re going to be filming [the sequel, The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes] here [in Toronto]. I’ve never been to an Alexander McQueen show, but I love McQueen. I’m excited for Marchesa and Alexander Wang. And I think Tom Ford is awesome, I love seeing his stuff. Even Victoria Beckham, I love her stuff as well.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones hits theatres nationwide August 21.