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Exclusive Interview: Lily Collins on The Mortal Instruments

Lily Collins talks about her audition to play Bella in Twilight and why she hasn’t read all the Mortal Instruments books.

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones Lily Collins

The movie based on the first book in Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments series opens August 23, but Screen Gems didn’t wait until San Diego Comic-Con to introduce its stars to the fans. Lily Collins and her costars came to Annaheim for their panel on The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Collins plays Clary, a Shadowhunter in a world of mundanes who discovers her powers and vital role in a supernatural battle. We got to sit with Collins in a press room before the panel for an exclusive interview on the latest teen lit franchise, and her passing encounters with the other ones.
 

CraveOnline: Had you gone out for any of the other teen literature properties? It seems like you would be in the right bracket as all of them have been developed.

Lily Collins: Yeah, one of my first auditions actually was for Twilight which is really funny now thinking about it.
 

Which role?

For Kristen’s role.
 

Oh, for Bella?

For Bella, yeah. This was many years ago. I was new on the scene, new at auditioning and it was always kind of this, “What’s going to happen?” everyone in the waiting room waiting for you. One of those anxious days as a young actor. I remember reading scripts for Beautiful Creatures and all those. I think every young actor or actress in Hollywood starts to read some of the same material but I think everything happens for a reason and everyone who gets the roles they get were meant to. I’m a firm believer in that.
 

Of course, and by the time Mortal Instruments came along, you’re an established actor. Did they come to you?

Screen Gems did approach me. It was a lot of the same team that had worked on Priest and we had really close relationships and they knew that I was a really big fan of the series. So I was very honored when I got the potential to play a character that I’ve grown up loving.
 

Was Hunger Games ever on your radar?

It definitely was. I remember hearing about the book and then hearing about the movie, but Jennifer [Lawrence] is just perfect as Katniss and I’m so excited for her and happy for her. This was my thing before that news even [broke].
 

So this had happened even before they cast Hunger Games?

Yeah, this project’s been around for quite a while. It’s switched hands a little bit. Like I said, everything happens for a reason.
 

I completely agree with you. I’m just fascinated by the industry world where they call in all the contemporary talent for the same parts.

Oh, it’s totally strange. It is, and it’s funny because a lot of us are friends so if one of us doesn’t get it, a friend gets it and it’s nice because everyone can be supportive about it.
 

Clary is an interesting character because she can see things other people don’t. Do you ever feel that way in the real world, that you’re able to see things other people don’t?

I love old antiques and anything vintage. A lot of the things that I collect are what people might call trash. So I see the beauty in antique things and old and old world things that most people wouldn’t look twice at.
 

How about as an actor, do you observe the world on a different level, studying behavior?

I have always enjoyed people-watching and I think that’s kind of the best acting class, just watching others interacting and their personal twitches or how they interact with people. I’ve always just been a very analytical person when it comes to human nature, and I’m fascinated by that because you never know what you can learn or use for your next role.
 

Have you read all six books?

I stopped after the first few because there’s a part of me that really wants to be in this journey with Clary in the sense of experimenting and finding out what’s next with her, because when you go from translating a book to a film, obviously things change a little bit anyway. It takes like four pages to describe how someone looks, whereas in a film you just have it on camera. So I really wanted to be able to go on this journey with Clary to a certain extent. Obviously that’s assuming that it goes to a sequel. I hope that it gets to go to that stage and if it doesn’t, at that point if I don’t get to be Clary, then I’ll reintroduce myself to what could have been, but I’d like to experience it through her eyes.
 

So where did you stop reading, the second book?

I think it was maybe halfway through the third one, but then I purposely didn’t reread because if you start focusing too much on the actual book, it gets so confusing as to what happened in the first one and then translating it into a script, it’s like where are they going to stop it? Instead of muddling it, I wanted to focus on one thing at a time.
 

But some of the books don’t have Clary, right?

Right, like the prequels. Those are the same world but it’s pre-Clary.
 

Could you read those without screwing yourself up?

Yeah, yeah, I think it’s that there hasn’t been much time in my schedule recently. Instead of rereading rewrites of the script, that’s kind of been what was on my mind.
 

Since you love the books, are there things on set that you feel, “We have to do this this way?”

It’s a constant conversation between producer, director and actor when there are specific things. Because the fan base is so big for these books, taking into consideration what they’re excited about, what they hope, what they want, that’s been a big part of this process as well. It is kind of that constant battle of how will this translate? Do we have to actually act this out? Can we just show an image of it? It’s a constant collaboration.
 

Are there any things you’re surprised or disappointed they’ve taken out?

I can’t speak on that yet because the film’s not been fully edited, so I don’t know yet what fully is in and what’s out, but we’ll see that soon.