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John Carter - Lynn Collins interview

John Carter

Interview by Rob Carnevale

LYNN Collins talks about some of the challenge of playing warrior princess Dejah Thoris in John Carter and how it became quite a spiritual journey for her.

She also talks about her martial arts training and how she had to suppress some tendencies for the action scenes as well as pondering what she’s going to be doing next.

Q. What was the biggest appeal of playing Dejah Thoris in John Carter?
Lynn Collins: The biggest appeal of playing Dejah in John Carter was embodying feminine strength in such a way that your masculinity is also tapped into. So, it’s the marriage of masculine and feminine but also with that strength is vulnerability. So, masculine and feminine and strength and vulnerability and mixing these four things… where would they be coloured? Where would they come out? And how would they come out? So, Andrew [Stanton, director] and I really did this dance with her about her accessibility and where does it come out when she’s very dominant and strong and where is she more available to be loved and love. It was really a trip [laughs].

Q. Were you pleased that she emerged as a stronger character in the film than she is in the books?
Lynn Collins: Yeah, she’s very much a damsel-in-distress in the books and yet we created a Dejah that’s incredibly capable of taking care of herself, which is why I think the love story is then so beautiful because she’s making a choice. It’s not falling into something. It’s a choice to love this man.

Q. Talking of being able to take care of yourself, you’re pretty adept at that anyway with your martial arts training…
Lynn Collins: Yeah [laughs]. My parents were martial artists of the Shito-ryu karate, which is an Okinawa style. They started me working with it when I was four until I was 17. And then I went to Julliard and there was a lot of stage combat sort of work and things like that. So, when I got to this movie I was like: “Yeah, I know how to do all this and all of that…” But it’s totally different – to practice karate and all of these combat skills is one thing; to have a camera and time and an entire crew watching you and having to hit point after point is like a whole different situation because you’re adrenalin is involved and that’s ultimately like… yeah, I worked out a tonne and I had to eat a specific way but really the biggest challenge was handling this chemical in my body that would rage. I’m sure that it informed the fighting but I also had to learn how to control that in myself. So, a lot of meditative things came out of it and a lot of spiritual aspects came out of playing this role as well.

Q How so?
Lynn Collins: I would before every scene… because they were about to shoot the first scene and I have a torch in my hand and I’m in this outfit and I’m going: “I don’t know what I’m going to do… I don’t know what I’m going to do.” And so I lifted this hand and was like: “Universe, God, higher power, my high self, whatever is out there, help me channel this feminine archetype, help me channel this feminine power because I can’t do it by myself – certainly not yet, if ever!” And before every scene I would go through this sort of prayer mantra to make sure that as a vessel, as an artist, I was working as pure as possible, so the audience could come out with not just a character but possibly a role model.

Q. Do you think you’ve come out of this more confident as an actress?
Lynn Collins: Definitely, to the point we’re not trying to choose what is next. It was like, ‘wow, I learned so much about myself’ and your self when you’re an actor is your tool; your soul is your tool. So, now it’s like I feel – and I hope it’s not lofty – but I feel like I can do just about anything now. So, I have to be careful as to what I choose because I’m going to go for it!

Q. Have you noticed an increase in action-led roles being offered to you? There’s certainly a trend at the moment in Hollywood to get women more involved in them…
Lynn Collins: I know, it’s great! And I have. So, I’m torn because if we do a John Carter 2 that will be another action role for me, so do I need to do another action that is not John Carter? We’re all in a holding pattern right now.

John Carter

Q. How were the outfits? Some of them look uncomfortable at times…
Lynn Collins: Yeah, it was uncomfortable but I just used it. Everything that came my way that could have been a road-block I was like: “150 degree heat? Just gonna use it! My butt showing… just going to use it!” [laughs].

Q. Three hours in the make-up chair…
Lynn Collins: Three hours in the make-up chair, just going to get into her as much as I can in thought and spirit and enjoy the people that are working on me – let the transformation happen and the mask come on.

Coming back to the outfits, there’s one that reminded me of Princess Leia in a certain dress… I was wondering, are you prepared for that kind of thing, and how long did you spend wearing that particular dress?
Lynn Collins: Oh, that dress is amazing. Mayes Rubeo designed it and it has something like 100,000 Swarovski crystals! Yeah. It was incredible. It was much lighter than you’d think. To answer the first part of your question, I never once really, honestly, felt sexualised, and I wasn’t wearing very much clothes. We’ve spoken about this recently; it’s just the way it was, it’s just what they wore on Mars, and that’s how she existed. And that dress is actually Zodangan – it’s not from Helium. She actually says: “This is too vulgar for me.” What you would normally see Dejah in is what you see her in the Hall Of Science, in the long robes. But I don’t think the young guys are going to be having posters of me in the long robes!

Q. How was working with Taylor Kitsch?
Lynn Collins: He’s amazing and I think in this movie he offers a sensitivity that I think women and men are going to freak out over.

Q. The quote I read from Andrew Stanton was that when you got into the audition room with Taylor he felt he was watching Cinderella put on her slipper… How did you find that chemistry test?
Lynn Collins: That’s what he said? That is so funny. He said it would be an honour to work with me and I knew then that this guy is not from LA [laughs]! This was a different kind of guy. But there’s something about my training, which is in the classics of stage such as Shakespeare and his contemporaries, Chekhov, Ibsen and all of those sort of keeping your spine erect, like regal roles… these amazing characters where you have to embody the royalty of it. And in some ways Dejah is very much like this amalgamation of Greek tragedy and Shakespeare and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Read our review of John Carter

Read our interview with Taylor Kitsch