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Video/Q&A: 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' star Lily Collins

(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
August 19, 2013|Matt Pais, @mattpais | RedEye movie critic

Wondering how her life would change because of “Divergent,” Shailene Woodley reached out to “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence. Lily Collins, whose starring role in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and subsequent sequels could vault her to a similar level of fame, doesn’t ask for advice from actors. She observes.

“A lot of the advice I get from the actors I work with or [others] are just by watching how they handle themselves, and that for me teaches me a lot,” says the 24-year-old actress (“Mirror Mirror”) who, yes, is the daughter of singer Phil Collins. “Just because they are so themselves and it hasn’t really gone to their heads. It’s just really cool to see them still be themselves.”

In “City of Bones,” opening Wednesday, Clary (Collins) doesn’t exactly know who she is after learning that she is a half-human, half-angel Shadowhunter, who joins hunky Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and others in the war against demons. At the Peninsula Hotel, Collins (who also will star in the planned adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) talked about awful pickup lines, everything happening for a reason and the unifying power of the Fresh Prince.

Click here for our video/Q&A with co-stars Jamie Campbell Bower and Kevin Zegers

In “City of Bones,” you play a half-angel. Has anyone ever used the pickup line on you, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
[Laughs] No. I remember though my friends and I got this amazing flash card book when we were in high school that had the worst pickup lines. I remember that was one of them. Just horrendous. Never try it. But there are some amazingly, immaculately bad pickup lines.

What else do you remember from there?
“Are you wearing space pants? Because your ass is out of this world.”

“Space pants.”
I know, right? Go try that on someone; see if you get slapped.

I think I will. My wife will appreciate that.
I’m sure she will.

Maybe I’ll try it on her first.
Don’t blame me, please. [Laughs]

I know you were a big fan of the “Mortal Instruments” franchise and read the books. Are there other books you’ve read and imagined yourself in the lead role?
I was obsessed with “Harry Potter.” I loved Hermione. I think Emma was amazing as Hermione and perfect, but I definitely daydreamed about playing Hermione.

You talking about this fan dream coming true of playing Clary reminded me of Mark Wahlberg in “Rock Star,” where he’s this big fan of the band and becomes the lead singer. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking of too.
Yeah, actually I was channeling Mark Wahlberg in this movie. [Laughs] I felt like a total badass rock star the whole time. He gave me some tips actually. No, I really was a huge fan of the books. Actually meeting [author] Cassandra [Clare] to me was very strange. I met her on the phone first, and we were talking about other actors for different roles. It was just so bizarre to be consulting with the person who had created this character that I now was playing.

“Let me tell you how it’s going to be.”
Yeah, exactly! But she wasn’t like that though, which was cool because I would think—this was her baby, right, so she would be more, “This is how it’s going to be, ABC, you have to do this,” and she was very much like, “I trust you. This is your character. It’s a total collaboration, but you’re the actor, so run with it.” And that was really a nice surprise to have the support but also the freedom to go experiment.

You auditioned for Bella in “Twilight” and the lead in “Snow White in the Huntsman.” You look up to Kristen Stewart and respect what she’s done, but was there any part of you with “The Mortal Instruments” that was like, “Phew, this is mine”?
It wasn’t a phew, but it was like I’m a huge believer in everything happens for a reason and with this specific story Clary goes after her mom. And that’s what fuels the whole journey for her, and her relationship with her mom is what stuck out for me as being this really important one to explore because I am so close with my mom. We’re like best friends, and so the relationship similarities between Clary and Jocelyn and my mom and myself were just so strangely connected to me that I thought, “Wow, this really must have been what I should be doing.” And also I’ve done other projects before this. I’m still very new in my career, but I’ve learned a lot since the beginning and I think timing is everything, so I wouldn’t have been the person I am now doing those projects.

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