Lily Collins is no longer the rock star's daughter. The rock star is Lily Collins' father.
"I was listening to a radio show about a year ago, and after they played one of my father's records, the DJ said: 'That was Phil Collins, and for those of you who don't know who that is, he's Lily Collins' dad.'"
The 24-year-old actress giggles as she tells that story. She has waited a long time to emerge from her father's shadow (he and Lily's mother, Jill Tavelman, divorced when she was 5). Lily said her father couldn't be happier with her success. "He burst out laughing when I told him what happened on the radio, and he said 'That is fantastic.'"
Collins has been coming out of the shadows for a couple of years _ she played the daughter in "The Blind Side" and Snow White in "Mirror Mirror" _ but it is her starring role in the new adventure film "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" that should allow her to fully realize her dreams.
"I love my last name," she explained, "but I didn't want it to define me."
In "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," which is based on a series of young adult fantasy novels written by Cassandra Clare, Collins plays a young woman named Clary who lives a quiet life in Brooklyn until she discovers that she is a key player in an alternate supernatural world inhabited by demons, warlocks and vampires.
The new film, which opened this week, is expected to be the start of a Harry Potter-like franchise with Collins at the center of it.
The British-born but California-raised actress, whose eyebrows are almost as famous as her father, will explain how her love of the Harry Potter books influenced her approach to playing Clary, what impact a delay in filming had on her career and how she is handling the tabloid and paparazzi fascination with her relationship and subsequent break-up with co-star Jamie Campbell Bower.
Question: Whose critique of your performance in this film means the most to you _ professional movie critics, fans of the book or Cassandra Clare?
Answer: Wow. That's a really good question. But it has to be the fans.
A: Because I was a huge fan of the books before I was cast in the film. When the Harry Potter books came out, I was obsessed. I'd wait in line dressed as the characters, and I envisioned which actors should play the characters. To me, it would have been a big letdown if the actor who played Hermione was not who I thought it should be. They picked Emma Watson, and that was my heroine up on the screen. She was absolutely perfect for the role. Frankly, I probably would have felt the same about the actor who played Clary. I'm my biggest critic, and being a fan, I wanted Clary to be played by the right person. I want the Clary fans to be as comfortable with me as I was with Emma.
Q: Did you read the first book in "The Mortal Instruments" series with an eye on one day playing the lead character?
A: No. I found it in a book shop. Nobody told me about it. I was scouring the book shelves, and saw this book. I like fantasy books, and it was a fantasy. I like young adult books, and it was a young adult book. And I saw that it was a series, and I love a good series.
Q: At what point did you realize that it might be made into a movie?
A: A few months after I finished the book. I heard that they were making it into a movie, and I immediately sent out letters and emails asking who was involved.
Q: At no point during your reading of the first book did you imagine yourself as the lead character in a movie?
A: Not at all. I read it as a fan. I never read books thinking of myself as the character. I have never identified with the mindset of some people in Hollywood who read a book with an idea of optioning the book for a movie.
Q: The fact that you were one of those Harry Potter geeks who was obsessed with who might play Hermione ...
A: I have to interrupt you for a moment. I want to point out that I was 10 at the time (laughs).
Q: Fair enough. But you were concerned about the casting, which I would imagine put a lot of self-inflicted pressure on you when you were cast as Clary. You had to be thinking about little 10-year-old girls out there worried about who would be cast as Clary.
A: You've got to remember that I just played Snow White, a character that is even more world renown than Clary. A lot more 10-year-old girls have an idea of who should play Snow White than Clary, not to mention the adults who remember who they thought should play Snow White when they were kids. Going through that scrutiny really helped.
Q: How did you get through it?
A: It has to do with the ability to separate Lily the fan of the character from Lily the actor and Lily the person. Once I got over that hump, it was easier to get over the hump of playing Clary. I just wanted every young girl to be able to relate to Clary, but I didn't want my version to define their version of Clary. I wanted to do justice to Clary. I didn't want to make her a victim. She isn't the total representation of girl power, a super-human girl who shows no vulnerability. That's not realistic.
Q: How do you think the fans felt about your casting?
A: They were very kind, but one of the most gratifying moments in the casting process was when the fans and bloggers finally accepted Jamie as Jace. I believed in him since the moment he walked in the room. I knew he was Jace. Everyone went into an uproar at first, and I knew they would eat their words one day.
Q: You never caught any flak from the fans, did you?
A: Not really. They thought my hair was the wrong color red. But that was minor. I was lucky.
Q: Have you met Cassandra?
A: I met her the day before filming started.
Q: What did you talk about?
A: We talked about the hair color controversy. She said she never specified which color red, but everyone in the world of fans created their own idea of which red it should be.
Q: Did she show any concern with how you were going to play her heroine?
A: She said I got this role for a reason, so I should just run with it. She knew I was a fan, so she knew I was genuinely on the side of Clary, and only wanted to make her (Cassandra) happy. She never pushed me to play the character in any way. I couldn't believe she didn't have concerns about her baby, but she insisted that she was just the writer, and that I should create my own movie character. It was very generous of her.
Q: There was a long delay in the start of this movie after you were cast three years ago. How disappointed were you in the delay?
A: I am a huge believer in things happening for a reason, and I loved the director who was originally set to direct this movie, but I also love Harald (director Harald Zwart), and the project was made by the people who were supposed to make it. I grew up a lot in the three years we waited to make this movie, and that helped me in playing this character.
Q: That's a nice perspective of a 24-year-old with a movie about to open. But how did you feel about the delay when you were three years younger with no film in the can?
A: Sure, I was frustrated. I passed on another big project to do this one. But I'm glad it worked out this way.
Q: Are you signed up for all seven movies if each book is made into a movie?
A: I'm signed on for at least three, but you never assume a sequel. So many movies have failed recently that a franchise isn't guaranteed. You have to have no expectations, but hope that it will go further. In this case, the film wasn't even edited yet, and they said we were talking about a sequel. That's a good sign.
Q: The last time we spoke, you were adamant that you didn't want to live your life in a media fishbowl, and were confident that you could stay above the fray. I've seen a small crack in that recently, with tabloid stories about your recent break-up with Jamie. If this film starts a franchise, the loss of privacy is only going to get worse. How do you deal with that?
A: It's been weird over the last two weeks. I am a person who likes to be in control, and this is something I can't control. What I can control is whether I comment on them. Photos can be taken, but I don't have to comment on them. My personal life shouldn't be scrutinized, but that's the world we live in. They make stuff up. You want to say that it's made up, but then you're just feeding into it. It's best not to speak. It does bother me, but when you're the most visible person in a project being talked about, you have to put yourself out there.
Q: There are people who believe you asked for it by being a movie star.
A: Nobody asks for their personal life to be talked about by strangers. But I know it's a high-class problem, so nobody wants to hear me whine.
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