Wondering how her life would change because of “Divergent,” Shailene Woodley reached out to “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence. Lily Collins, whose starring role in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and subsequent sequels could vault her to a similar level of fame, doesn’t ask for advice from actors. She observes.
“A lot of the advice I get from the actors I work with or [others] are just by watching how they handle themselves, and that for me teaches me a lot,” says the 24-year-old actress (“Mirror Mirror”) who, yes, is the daughter of singer Phil Collins. “Just because they are so themselves and it hasn’t really gone to their heads. It’s just really cool to see them still be themselves.”
In “City of Bones,” opening Wednesday, Clary (Collins) doesn’t exactly know who she is after learning that she is a half-human, half-angel Shadowhunter, who joins hunky Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and others in the war against demons. At the Peninsula Hotel, Collins (who also will star in the planned adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) talked about awful pickup lines, everything happening for a reason and the unifying power of the Fresh Prince.
In “City of Bones,” you play a half-angel. Has anyone ever used the pickup line on you, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
[Laughs] No. I remember though my friends and I got this amazing flash card book when we were in high school that had the worst pickup lines. I remember that was one of them. Just horrendous. Never try it. But there are some amazingly, immaculately bad pickup lines.
What else do you remember from there?
“Are you wearing space pants? Because your ass is out of this world.”
I know, right? Go try that on someone; see if you get slapped.
I think I will. My wife will appreciate that.
I’m sure she will.
Maybe I’ll try it on her first.
Don’t blame me, please. [Laughs]
I know you were a big fan of the “Mortal Instruments” franchise and read the books. Are there other books you’ve read and imagined yourself in the lead role?
I was obsessed with “Harry Potter.” I loved Hermione. I think Emma was amazing as Hermione and perfect, but I definitely daydreamed about playing Hermione.
You talking about this fan dream coming true of playing Clary reminded me of Mark Wahlberg in “Rock Star,” where he’s this big fan of the band and becomes the lead singer. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking of too.
Yeah, actually I was channeling Mark Wahlberg in this movie. [Laughs] I felt like a total badass rock star the whole time. He gave me some tips actually. No, I really was a huge fan of the books. Actually meeting [author] Cassandra [Clare] to me was very strange. I met her on the phone first, and we were talking about other actors for different roles. It was just so bizarre to be consulting with the person who had created this character that I now was playing.
“Let me tell you how it’s going to be.”
Yeah, exactly! But she wasn’t like that though, which was cool because I would think—this was her baby, right, so she would be more, “This is how it’s going to be, ABC, you have to do this,” and she was very much like, “I trust you. This is your character. It’s a total collaboration, but you’re the actor, so run with it.” And that was really a nice surprise to have the support but also the freedom to go experiment.
You auditioned for Bella in “Twilight” and the lead in “Snow White in the Huntsman.” You look up to Kristen Stewart and respect what she’s done, but was there any part of you with “The Mortal Instruments” that was like, “Phew, this is mine”?
It wasn’t a phew, but it was like I’m a huge believer in everything happens for a reason and with this specific story Clary goes after her mom. And that’s what fuels the whole journey for her, and her relationship with her mom is what stuck out for me as being this really important one to explore because I am so close with my mom. We’re like best friends, and so the relationship similarities between Clary and Jocelyn and my mom and myself were just so strangely connected to me that I thought, “Wow, this really must have been what I should be doing.” And also I’ve done other projects before this. I’m still very new in my career, but I’ve learned a lot since the beginning and I think timing is everything, so I wouldn’t have been the person I am now doing those projects.
I know it wasn’t easy to run around in heels for the movie. Can you demonstrate how it looked at first when you were starting out?
I didn’t actually ever fall. I never tripped, which was interesting because I’ve actually grown up loving wearing heels. So I wasn’t nervous. Iit was more like doing it at three or four in the morning, running up stairs. But the guys always had my back, so it wasn’t too bad. But I’m a pretty good heel runner.
Was it staggering around a little bit for a while?
The second day of filming I bruised my tendon on my foot because one of the stunt guys rolled over on his bike. So I was kind of making sure my right foot wasn’t twisting and stuff because otherwise you break your foot, you’re out of the movie.
You said you grew up a lot during the movie and learned a lot about yourself. What do you feel like you learned?
Well, running around in heels and a short dress at two or three in the morning with the guys. Confidence. I know that’s a silly way of building confidence, but it made me feel stronger when I could keep up with the guys in girly circumstances.
What do you mean?
In the way that I was dressed. The guys didn’t have to deal with the way that I was dressed. They obviously had Shadowhunter gear on. I was able to keep up with them and not fall behind. Like my stamina and my endurance was much better because I was training. Also she’s thrown these who/what/when/where/why sessions every five minutes and has to react differently while never making herself a victim. And for me I learned a lot about how to deal with different situations in different ways, and even though I’m not fighting physical demons in real life, everyone has demons of their own that you can kind of learn to cope with. And I think Clary helped me face some of them or deal with them in different ways.
Tell me a rap song you know all the words to.
“Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but don’t ask me to do it right now because then I won’t remember it. [Laughs]
Come on. Let’s see if you can do it.
No! I honestly—
What if I get you started?
“Now this is the story …”
Oh god, no!
“This is the story all about how …”
“All about how my life got turned upside down ...”
“I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there …”
“Just sit right there …” I don’t know right now! [Laughs] Honestly, I’m not the biggest rap person, but on set we would all start singing it, and once everyone starts singing it, it gets stuck in my head.
Why that song on set?
I don’t know! Not on this movie; I just did a film “Love Rosie” in Dublin, and for some reason no matter where you are in the world, everyone knows that song.
Do you prefer Genesis or Phil Collins solo?
[Laughs] Phil Collins solo because some of the songs are closer to me.
Or about you.
Not about me! One was written for me, so it’s like post-my birth. [Laughs]
On if this is her first time in Chicago: “I was trying to think about that in the car. I might have come when I was a kid. I don’t remember it. And for some reason I have memories of being in Wrigley field. Because we drove by and I know the sign is so popular and everyone’s seen it, but I truly had like a flashback.”
What she hopes to do in the “City of Bones” sequel “City of Ashes,” which begins filming in a few weeks: “Way more action. For me at least. Because I get to show potential in the first one, but it’s really just scratching the surface because I just find out that I’m a Shadowhunter. So I think in the second one now I’m already into that world it gives me the opportunity to do way more fighting.”
On “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”: “We’re waiting for a new script. I am playing Lizzie Bennet. I don’t know yet timing-wise. I know that it’s a dream job for me. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is something I’ve read over and over and over and over again, so I’m super excited.”
Her guilty pleasure TV show: “’Real Housewives’ of anything. [Laughs] I love watching the drama of it. It’s just fascinating to me, what these people get up to in their lives. It’s just the best at the end of a long day to just turn on and start laughing.”
A movie that scared her: “’Paranormal Activity’ I recently was just introduced to, and I don’t know what took me so long but I watched it last Halloween and it scared me. I had nightmares.”
On whether she and “Mortal Instruments” co-star Jamie Campbell Bower are dating: “I can only talk about him as an actor.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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