Interview: Lily Collins on Corsets, Julia, and what Made Mirror Mirror so Special for Her

Lily Collins, star of the Snow White movie “Mirror Mirror” opening this Friday, doesn’t have many roles to her name.

But the movies she’s filmed have really counted.

She’s gotten to work with the likes of Julia Roberts, who plays the evil queen to her Snow White. She’s also starred alongside Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side,” Julianne Moore in the upcoming “The English Teacher,”  and is currently filming “Writers” with Jennifer Connelly.

That’s quite a list for a girl who’s only been working in acting since 2009.

“I’ve admired them for so long,” she told me by phone from L.A., “I keep in touch with Sandra and Julia and Juilanne too.  There’s nothing like being with actors I so admire and I’m so in awe of. I learn so much by watching them and seeing how they interact with the crew and how they take into consideration so much more than just lines. Lighting camera and angles and editing and treating everyone the same.”

Working with Roberts was a lesson in life as well as acting. “Juilia is first and foremost a mother. She had her kids on set. She’d maintain herself as a mother around them when she’s working and it was great to see.”

Roberts’ queen is a woman desperate to remain “the fairest of them all,” even if it means allowing bees to sting her lips and servants to slather her with bird droppings. She’s even willing to eliminate the competition. “She had so much fun with it. She’s so graceful, she’s about gracefully growing older because she’s all about what makes her happy, which is her family. [The Queen] is so not who she is, but I think she played it in such a way that she’s poking fun at the reality of today.”

The actors who played the seven dwarfs taught Collins a great deal too. Much updated from the story of years ago, the dwarfs are outcasts who turn into outlaws, but who have hearts of gold inside their diminutive bodies. “They were so wonderful, so nurturing and enthusiastic and passionate and wanted to make the experience magical as we all did…. We ended up changing the dwarf names a couple times because the actors became so much their characters. The character traits of the dwarfs were very much of the actors themselves. They really put so much time and energy to become memorable modern day iconic characters.”

The costumes in the movie are almost a character on their own, all elaborate and puffy and colorful. Collins called them “so much fun.”

“They were works of art in themselves. Wearing the corsets and big ballgowns it definitely helped get into character every day. It was impossible to feel like you weren’t living a fairy tale.”

“When you see [Snow White] in the ballgown fighting with a sword, I think you see right then and there that she has inner strength all the while maintaining that she is a princess.”

You see, not only are the dwarfs updated, but Snow White is a modern day princess as well, fighting along with the boys. “She’s more modernized. She doesn’t wait for the prince to save her. She becomes a fighter and learns sword fighting and wrestling, all while wearing corsets and ballgowns, so she keeps her femininity.”

Fairy tales are all the rage nowadays. “Mirror Mirror” will have to compete with the much tougher “Snow White and the Huntsman” starring Kristen Stewart as a battle-hardened princess. There’s also the hit “Once Upon a Time” on ABC and “Grimm” on NBC.

“With all the things going on in the world now in reality now,” speculated Collins, “I think adults like to be able to let go for a little while and go back to that childlike quality you get from fairy tales. And kids are already kind of reveling in that imagination when very young anyway and it makes something a family can enjoy together. There aren’t many things that families do together and enjoy together. Fairy tales  have something for everyone.”

She didn’t expect to enjoy the response from children quite so much though.

“The premiere was the other day. Little girls, even little boys, came and they think I’m Snow White and they come up and give me a hug and ask me what it’s like to be a princess. To be able to tell a story kids enjoy is so special. I don’t think I really realized what it was going to turn into until I had these little kids come up to me and talk to me.”

“Mirror Mirror” stars Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, and Armie Hammer. It opens March 30. Rated PG, it’s a delightful movie for the family. Review coming soon.

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