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Lily Collins sees herself in 'Mirror Mirror'

Like the Snow White character she plays in the film, the actress says the experience of playing opposite Julia Roberts helped her move from naive to empowered.

March 29, 2012|By Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times
  • Lily Collins blows out the candle on an apple cake for her 23rd birthday at a party after the premiere of "Mirror Mirror."
Lily Collins blows out the candle on an apple cake for her 23rd birthday at… (Lawrence K. Ho, Los Angeles…)

Snow White was driving hastily through West Hollywood, swerving her SUV out of a lane of cars jammed in traffic.

Opportunities to make U-turns on Santa Monica Boulevard don't come frequently, so Lily Collins — who plays the classic fairy-tale princess in Friday's"Mirror Mirror" — pulled a quick illegal maneuver to minimize her time in the car.

"It would have taken forever otherwise," the actress said in the parking lot of the French Market Place, a West Hollywood compound housing a restaurant and various stores selling kitschy costume jewelry and movie memorabilia.

Photos: Lily Collins

Collins' aggressive driving — in the Land Rover she got seven years ago for her 16th birthday — was about all that didn't seem to square with her guileless demeanor, the one that helped her land her first leading role as the innocent Snow White.

"The eyebrows sealed the deal," said "Mirror Mirror" director Tarsem Singh, only half-joking about the full, barely plucked brows that have quickly become Collins' trademark. (There's even a Twitter account devoted to them. Sample tweet: "Haters can pluck off. #imflawless")

"But no, she doesn't look made up — and maybe that's why I keep making a joke out of her eyebrows," Singh continued. "The girl walked into the audition and looked like she just got out of bed. She looked pure."

Timeline: Snow White through the Years

"Mirror Mirror" is the first of two Snow White adaptations to hit theaters this year. The second, out in June, is Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman,"which features Kristen Stewart as a far more outwardly fierce heroine. While Stewart's version appears colder in her hard battle armor, Collins' is brighter, often decked out in colorful corsets and ball gowns. “Mirror Mirror” follows the cloistered princess discovering a world outside her bedroom in a light-hearted spin on the fairy tale, replete with ample court-jesting and lively action scenes.

"Lily had a great sense of what we were looking for in our movie," said Bernie Goldmann, one of the film's producers. "At one point, the word 'damn' was in the script, and she said, 'I don't think Snow White should say that.' And I felt like kissing her because she had an overall awareness of who she was supposed to be and was thinking about the young girls who would see the movie."

While "Mirror Mirror" is only the fourth film the actress has been a part of, she's already well versed in the world of kid-friendly fare. Her first role came in the 2009 blockbuster "The Blind Side,"playing the doting, well-behaved daughter of Sandra Bullock's spitfire mom Leigh Anne Tuohy. There was a slightly more adult turn in last year's thriller "Priest," but then came the teen action flick "Abduction," where she landed the role so many teen girls coveted: the supportive girlfriend to Taylor Lautner's action hero.

Photos: 'Mirror, Mirror' premiere

Like many of her characters, Collins had a relatively cosseted upbringing. She's the daughter of '80s pop mainstay Phil Collins; her parents divorced in 1996 and she moved to Los Angeles with her mother. There, she began attending the tony private school Harvard-Westlake and obtained an agent at age 16. Occasionally, she'd take on a red carpet hosting gig for Nickelodeon or a modeling job for Tommy Hilfiger. In 2007, dressed in frilly Chanel couture, she attended the annual Bal des Débutantes in Paris. The moment was captured and later appeared in an episode ofMTV's aspirational reality show "The Hills."

Now, with "Mirror Mirror" posters — depicting Collins looking like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn — plastered all over town, she's already secured her next high-profile project: the lead in an adaptation of the bestselling young-adult book series "The Mortal Instruments."

And in perhaps the truest sign of young Hollywood fame, she's begun to be pursued by paparazzi: A photograph of her with Zac Efron on a rumored Valentine's Day date catapulted across the Internet last month.

She's reluctant to talk about her private life — a repercussion, perhaps, of the nasty rumors surrounding her parents' divorce. (Tabloids reported that Phil Collins divorced Lily's mother after 12 years via fax, a claim the musician later disputed.)

"The amount of stuff that's created in the press that's fake to tear people apart — I think it just creates tension that's unnecessary," the actress said. "It's such a different time now and I don't think my dad is as aware of what it's like today. Even when I would go out with my dad when I was little, we'd go to a restaurant and there'd be a bunch of people — but a bunch was like, five. He just keeps telling me, 'I'm not worried about you. You're smart. You're not going to let other people dictate how you live your life.'"

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