It was great to catch up with Lily Collins, star of this week’s release “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” based on the best-selling series by Cassandra Clare. The last time I spoke to Lily, she was playing a princess in the Snow White story, Mirror, Mirror. This is another fantasy story, though with a lot more action. This time, she plays a girl who discovers that she is not human. She is the descendant of a line of warriors who protect the world from demons that cannot be seen by ordinary people.
I was. I had read the first book and so when I heard there was going to be a movie I sent out a bunch of emails saying, “I have to get in on this!” Then it happened very organically. I got the call that I had the role. I was a huge fan of the series and to be cast as a heroine I admire so much was a huge honor for me.
Tell me a little about what makes her such an admirable character.
She is on this whole journey because her mom has been taken. She has this entire adventure story based on finding her voice in this fantasy world that is new to her. What drives her the whole time is is getting her mom back. I am really close with my mom so I could relate to that. She is this really passionate, feisty, determined young woman who never lets herself be victimized, and I really admire that about her.
These books have some very committed fans. What have you heard from them about their hopes for the film?
I’m a fan as well, so like them there were certain things I wanted to see on screen. They want that connection to all of the characters that they have read about in the books. Cassandra wrote it in such a way that you really do feel like you could be friends with everyone in the books. Even though it is fantasy, everyone is down to earth and realistic. And Cassandra wrote comedy in there, too. You just laugh out loud reading some of the lines. And the action, of course. They’re hoping to see that brought to life, and the spark, the romance between Clary and Jace. It’s one thing to envision all the fight scenes and the weapons and another to bring it to life on screen. You’re going to be on the edge of your seat the whole time.
The characters in the book get markings on their skin called runes. What was that like?
My character only has two in the first book because I am just discovering that I am a shadow hunter and discovering my power. But the other guys had them all over their bodies. They had hours of makeup because they had to cover their real ones and then get the tattoos for the story put on top. I didn’t have as much time in the makeup chair getting them put on but when I did it was a cool process. Clary gets bit by a ravener demon, the reason I have the first one put on me, and there was a lot of prosthetic that took about two hours to put on. But it was cool and it really helps enhance the translation to fantasy out of reality.
This is your second big fantasy film. What are some of the challenges of fantasy?
In this film we luckily didn’t have that much green screen. [Director] Harold [Zwart] really wanted the set to be very realistic and for us to have the depth and the sense of being immersed in the world that Cassandra wrote. But of course there was some guy in a green suit where I was being pulled into something and had to imagine what it was. Having to emote to a stick or a piece of paper is very strange and not something you’d get in an independent drama. But you’re surrounded by other people who are going through the same thing and understand how it can seem ridiculous and you can have fun with it together.
There’s one scene where I have a newfound power and use one of the runes that basically freezes time and motion. So we had to avoid certain things in the environment but all we had were tennis balls on sticks showing us where things would be. How ridiculous do you look — there are lots of outtakes where we are laughing. But you get over it after two or three takes and you get through it.
And now you’re going to film the next chapter, right?
We start filming in September!