Interview: Actress Lily Collins on 'Mirror Mirror,' Modern Day Princes, Beauty in Hollywood
Actress Lily Collins may play the role of "the fairest of them all" in the upcoming adventure comedy "Mirror Mirror," but she emphasizes that beauty comes from being yourself and appreciating every moment in life.
She told The Christian Post that she doesn't wear a lot of makeup in the film and doesn't come off as the "perfect" princess like the animated character. She's "just more real so it's kind of trying to show young girls that you don't have to wear a ton of makeup or be something other than yourself to be considered beautiful," Collins said.
Starring alongside Academy award-winning actress Julia Roberts, the 23-year-old former Nickelodeon show host takes her charm to new heights in the latest adaptation of the classic fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers.
Said to be a "fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend," "Mirror Mirror" shares the story of Snow White, a princess in exile who fights to reclaim her birthright, and her prince (played by Armie Hammer), from the evil Queen (Roberts) who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom.
The movie will be the first of two Snow White remakes to hit the big screen this year, with Kristen Stewart set to star in a darker fantasy film "Snow White and the Huntsman" later in June – a role that Collins also auditioned for as well.
Though she didn't land a spot in Rupert Sanders' version, the journalist-turned-actress who previously wrote for Elle Girl, Seventeen, Teen Vogue and the Los Angeles Times magazine, was selected for Tarsem Singh's own "magical" reimagining of the tale.
Many are describing her to be the perfect fit for the enchanted role – not just for her dark and full eyebrows, which the director fell in love at first glance – but for her wide-eyed demeanor and similarity to Audrey Hepburn, an actress Singh hoped his own Snow White would look like.
The Christian Post spoke with Collins – who is currently majoring in broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California – recently, discussing everything from her new film, to her thoughts on modern day princes and the beauty craze, especially as a young actress in Hollywood.
CP: Why did you choose to take on this role as Snow White?
Collins: Well, it's more that they chose me. I would have done anything to do this movie. Especially with the version that we've portrayed in a sense where Snow White is not just a damsel in distress, she's very much a fighter in her own right and she searches for what's within herself and self-confidence and believing in herself to really kind of conquer her own dreams as much as having a prince help her.
I think having to be able to play a role like that is a complete dream come true and such an honor that it was a no brainer for me to audition. It was definitely an honor and surprise when they actually cast me and when I found out – complete joy and excitement and crying involved.
CP: How was it like reliving one of the classic fairy tale stories?
Collins: I've been asked that question so much recently but had I been asked before I went off and shot the movie I would have been so much more nervous because I wasn't really seeing it as portraying the picture perfect version for every young girl because everyone has their own idea of who she should be. It was more about creating a real girl that other girls could relate to so that's probably what I was more nervous about was making sure she was real and not a character. But if I had been asked these questions before shooting about how nervous I'd be to play something so iconic I probably would have been way more nervous because I'd realize how much of a bigger deal it actually is.
CP: What was it like working with Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, and Nathan Lane? Pick up any tips?
Collins: It was absolutely such a blast. They were hilarious. So much more funny than I was expecting. I obviously know Nathan Lane is hilarious but Julia when you get her in a room with Nathan forget it they were just so hilarious, making me crack up all the time. And Armie is such a jokester. He's kind of the prefect mixture of being goofy and aloof and so intellectual and such a gentlemen, so regal. It's kind of like that personality that he brings to the character as well as having Julia be evil but then be so nice to me off set. It was just so fun and they kept me on my toes, and we all just had such a blast and I learned so much from them really just by watching how they take into consideration the environment, costume, as well as lighting, camera angles, and so much more goes into it than just learning your lines.
CP: How did it feel like to be considered the most beautiful woman in the world?
Collins: Um...very bizarre. Someone actually asked me that today like "how does it feel to be considered the fairest of them all?" And I'm like well weird because I think of the character as that. I would never say that I see myself as that but to play her in this real way where less is more I mean they didn't put very much makeup on me at all because we wanted her to just be very natural and her hair sometimes is out of place and it's not perfect and it's not like a character of an animated feature princess. Just more real so it's kind of trying to show young girls that you don't have to wear a ton of makeup or be something other than yourself to be considered beautiful.
CP: Beauty seems to be a big theme in the movie, seen in Julia Robert's crazy pre-party beauty routine including actual bee venom and maggots. Throughout the film, beauty is seen as deceptive, quickly fading, and an obsession for some. What do you think the movie is trying to convey about beauty and its potential dangers?
Collins: Never once does Snow White herself look in the mirror so she isn't aware of her beauty or what apparently that does to people. It's really just the queen and the prince that talk about it. I think for me at least, with Snow White, it was about finding what was within herself and the beauty within her that propelled her forward and really taught her most of what she used to pursue saving the kingdom.
The queen does put beauty above everything else and is obsessed with beauty and is obsessed with Snow White's beauty and trying to maintain that for herself and as a result she was not as beautiful within because she was so consumed, whereas Snow White was so unaware of the physicality that it was all internal beauty that mattered to her and she tried to see the good in everyone so I think it really is important to feel comfortable and confident and beautiful being yourself no matter what that means. I think it's different for every single person, but once you find that within yourself that just comes out and it's kind of like an inner grow that really does attract people in a positive way and does propel you forward when you feel confident.
CP: Do you feel pressured to stay or be beautiful working as a young actress in Hollywood?
Collins: No, I like to wear as least amount of makeup as I can during my everyday life because I'm just all about keeping my skin healthy and hydrated and I love to laugh and have a great time and smile – that's when I feel the most pretty so I just want to make sure that I stay happy. It's not about staying pretty ... it's all to me about enjoying my experiences and appreciating every moment and just making sure that I stay healthy.
CP: What was it like working with the dwarves played by Martin Klebba, Joe Gnoffo, Danny Woodburn, and others?
Collins: They were so much fun. We all laughed everyday on set and they really became my comrades and taught me a lot and we just laughed a lot and they made me feel very comfortable and confident and we just had a blast on the set.
CP: There's a scene in the movie where the dwarves talk about how they were expelled from the town and labeled as the "uglies." With so many people today judged for their own looks and appearance, what lesson do you hope can be gleaned from that scene? And as a woman compared to Audrey Hepburn by some, did you ever relate to what they were saying?
Collins: Well I think that it's easy to be led astray. [For example], the queen was the ruler of the land and everyone had to obey her and so when she said banish all the "uglies" and associated that word with those people, by association people then saw them as the "uglies." And I think that that is the herd mentality when you go along with the pack. It's really important to stand up for yourself and not always agree with what people say if indeed you don't feel that that's true.
When Snow White returns the gold [to the townspeople] and then [credits it to] the dwarves, everybody again was like, "wait, it was them? Okay, nevermind." They put aside that word the "uglies" and saw them again as who they were and that just kind of proved that that they didn't necessarily associate that word with them themselves it was more because the queen had.
I think it's just important to not judge people based on their physicality because it's really about personality and people's hearts and souls. That's what drew me to Audrey Hepburn who is kind of like my icon. It was all about her personality on and off set. She was such a charitable woman such an amazing actress and a lovely human being and you could see her heart and soul on screen because her eyes would tell you things without having to speak and the work that she did charity wise she just proved that she was such a beautiful woman and I think that's way more important than the way that she looked.
CP: The film tries to subvert a lot of expectations, for example seen in how they depict prince charming – silly, bored, un-heroic at times, easily deceived and beaten. Do you think the idea of a prince charming is outdated in today's world? I know Snow White mentions in the movie that she wanted to change how the prince always rescues the princess.
Collins: Yeah, I think a modern day prince is really someone that just makes you feel like being you is enough and makes you happy and the thought of them makes you smile but also it does take a strong man to accept help from a female. The prince [in the film] does accept Snow's help and allows her to go off and fight her own battles as well as helping her.
I also think that a modern day prince acknowledges the fact that girls and guys have the same abilities and they can really help each other along the way, not necessarily just the girl having to rely on a guy. But I still think that chivalry exists, although it may not be the idea of a prince charming, because Armie plays our prince charming in such a complex way and has so many different characteristics, he wasn't just a pretty face.
CP: I have to ask, what's with the Bollywood number in the film by the way?
Collins: Well it's paying homage to Tarsem Singh. He is Indian. It's kind of like the bright colors of it and the idea of believing in yourself and positivity and smiling and having fun that's kind of what Bollywood numbers show and for this story it's actually just kind of perfect because it is about believing in yourself and life and love.
CP: As an actress, do you hope to use the platform to be a good role model to teens? Is this reflected in the roles that you choose and will choose in the future? Or is there a separation between art and being a role model?
Collins: I don't choose projects according to the idea of being a role model. To be considered as one, is definitely an honor. It's something that I don't think you really search to become a role model. Or at least I try to maintain my sense of self and choose roles that speak to me in some way and challenge me but in my everyday life staying true to what I believe in and being open and honest about it and if that is then I guess thought of as being a role model, then that's definitely an honor to be thought of that way but it's not like I search for roles that will allow me to be that.
CP: What are you working on now?
Collins: I am filming right now actually a film called "Writers" which is an independent film. It's like a dark, dramatic comedy so that's different for me. I'm also doing "Mortal Instruments" which is a new franchise, which should be really fun.
CP: What would you say is your dream role you hope to come across one day?
Collins: I would love to do a British period drama.