The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Lily Collins interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
LILY Collins talks about playing the character of Clary in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and why she felt the love triangle wasn’t the defining aspect of her journey through the film.
She also talks about learning to run and kick-ass in high heels, how she coped with the special effects and how she’s dealing with fan expectation. She was speaking at a UK press conference.
Q. Clary is, I’m imagining, a dream for an actress to play because she is that rare thing, a really strong female lead character in a film. Is that what attracted you to the part?
Lily Collins: Yeah, I guess the fact that Clary is very normal. She cries, she’s confused, she’s going through an identity crisis. Which I know I sure did, I don’t think anyone really ever fully gets over. But she embraces that, and she finds the strengths and her weaknesses. She ends up kicking major butt and hanging with the guys. But all the while, still having those very feminine, young girl moments that make her very real. It’s this journey that she goes on, but never losing sight of how she actually is very normal as well. It’s too easy to play it very superhuman, but that’s not relatable to the normal person. That’s what drew me to her.
Q. You filmed in a lot of amazing sets, is there one you enjoyed filming at particularly?
Lily Collins: The first one that I remember, my jaw dropped, and very reminiscent of the scene actually – Jamie opened the door to the institute library for me to see it for the first time, and I just stood there with my mouth open, just like Clary. I was a huge fan of the books before I was cast, so you automatically picture what you assume it’s going to look like. For me it was hands down exactly how I pictured, if not even better. the depth of the sets, and the intricacy of all the props that you never even saw. There were bookcases of books, you’d think was just the spine of a book, but it was complete novels you never really knew existed. And all the weapons and the things that were made for it. So, really that set to me was just pure magic.
Q. You mentioned about kicking butt in the film. Did you have to do any training to get into shape for the movie, and what was the hardest thing you had to do?
Lily Collins: I trained for three months before filming in Los Angeles, then every day before during or after work with the stunt department, as well as our physical fitness trainer. I’ve always been an active person, and I really enjoy getting down and bruised, I guess. With this one I had to hang with all the guys, and keep up. In heels, and a very short dress. For the guys.
I guess the hardest part for me, physically, was that I didn’t train in the outfits except for the day before. Then I’m thrust into it with these heels and this dress. As Lily it was very awkward, but I could just pawn it off on Clary. I never twisted an ankle and I barely tripped, I just bruised a lot.
Q. How are you dealing with the whole build up to the release of the movie, and the hype and expectation of the movie?
Lily Collins: It’s been really eye-opening. I was a fan, and to go to these malls and see, with every one it gets more exciting. More people, more screams, more weird anecdotes. It’s very special to be there hands on, see them up close and personal. The weirdest moments for me are in Los Angeles when I go to a mall that I’ve shopped at since I was 12, and now there’s like, massive pictures of our faces everywhere, at my local coffee shops now there’s these billboards of people wearing the T-shirts and stuff. It’s very strange, but it’s really exciting. And I don’t think there’s any way that you can ever fully prepare. I wouldn’t want to prepare for anything. I like the spontaneity of it all and I want everything to be as exciting as it should be. Because if you set an expectation either it’s above or below, but if you set nothing, then it is what it is. It makes it special regardless.
Q. How did you find working with CGI?
Lily Collins: The great thing about Harald [Zwart, director], and what stuck out from my first meeting with him was that it wasn’t a movie about CGI or green screen. It was character and emotion. You could wipe away all the other stuff and you’d get the same storyline. It was just as strong. The other stuff was like icing on top. The two things that stick out the most CGI-wise was the scene where I stop the demons and they all freeze in time. Robert [Sheehan] and I and a couple of others were bouncing underneath tennis balls on sticks… very strange, fighting for our lives. He [Robert] kept drawing pictures on them to make us laugh. After the fifth take, it’s not funny anymore. We were just like: “Can we just get this done!” It’s not normal to be doing that, obviously. I don’t do that in my free time. And I guess the other scene is the dog scene, when it changes shape and comes after me and I’m setting things on fire and all of that. There was nothing to look at. Harald kept going: “It’s there [gestures movement], it’s there [gestures movement in another direction].
- In the part where the body parts are bulging back together on the floor, all he said to me – and it made sense when I saw the movie, which was the only time it did make sense – was: “OK, they’re growing, they’re growing, now they’re merging, they’re merging…” And I had this look of confusion and was like: “What is he talking about?” It actually plays into “oh my God, it’s merging”! [Laughs] It’s impossible to describe what the CGI was because I’ve never seen CGI like that anyway. So, luckily it played into it. And you know when I put my hand through and pull out the cup? We had an amazing prop guy called Mario and every time I would go down, he was holding the card like this [holds it below her] and I would go down and every time he’d just be staring at me. It was this moment of fear and all I could see was Mario gazing up at me. It was just not normal. It was bizarre.
Q. Q. If you could choose to draw a rune in real life what would it be?
Lily Collins: I created one the other day, in my spare time. I was asked to draw one on someone and as I was drawing it, I just thought of what it meant and I said it was the rune of grace and confidence – that you always carry yourself with extra added grace and confidence and it turned out that the girl I drew it on, her name was Grace [mimics Twilight Zone theme]. I don’t know – weird!
Q. What was your favourite outfit to wear?
Lily Collins: For as annoying and impractical as they were, I think the boots – just because they kind of symbolise Clary. I mean, she’s delicate like a petal but she’s also a tough cookie. So, being able to wear those boots and do all the things that I did, and to still keep up with the guys, I think was pretty cool. And it also trained me to run around the city in heels when need be.
Q. At the heart of this epic film is a relatable love triangle. How was working on that? And for Clary, why was it important to have two such different men to choose from?
Lily Collins: Well first, I think it’s somewhat of a love cube – you’ve got to remember that Alec loves Jace. I’ve not been in a love cube before. : I think when Jamie first walked into the audition room that was pretty much just it, like right away it was created – whatever was needed to be created was created. And then we both walked into the room with Robbie and they are so different in real life that they embodied their characters perfectly in those different ways. And I’m just in the middle of these two competing characters. So, I don’t think there was any work that needed to be done when it came to this triangle situation because we were so open to improv on the set. And I’ve said that my Clary is only the Clary that she was because Jamie was his Jace and then enter Robbie and he became Simon. It’s weird to be in the middle of two guys… again, it’s not something that I’ve done. You can imagine – it’s pretty weird.
But I think it’s important for Clary because it’s kind of like having the angel and the devil on your shoulders. She’s just figuring out who she is and sometimes it takes figuring out what you don’t like to know what you do, or what you do like to know what to avoid;. And she sees pros and cons in both Jace and Simon and she finds pieces of herself within both people. The romance never defines Clary, which I really loved about this particular franchise. It’s not just a girl stuck between two guys. It’s a girl who finds herself in a situation but she never lets it victimise her or define her journey. So, I think it’s important to have two types of men, because there are more than two types of men in this world… you could easily categorise them in two categories but I won’t [laughs]. I’m just saying there are ways… the good and the bad. But she finds pieces of herself within each person and I think to have that physical choice is just a metaphorical exploration of herself.