Actress Lily Collins has fulfilled, in a way, a life-long wish.
She grew up in the English countryside, which she describes as very “Shire-like”, recalling the home of the hobbits in the work of The Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien. There she would dash through the fields pretending she was an elven princess.
“I used to go around the garden pretending that there were magical creatures everywhere,” she recalls, speaking to press at Soho Hotel in London.
“I would read anything with a hint of fairy tale – C.S. Lewis, Harry Potter, Tolkien and immerse myself in that world. I really wanted to share that with other people.”
The 30-year-old auditioned for the role of woodland elf Tauriel when film-maker Peter Jackson was casting for his The Hobbit trilogy (2012 to 2014), losing out to Evangeline Lily.
Collins’ latest role, however, has seen her dream come close to reality. She plays Edith Bratt in Tolkien.
The biopic stars English actor Nicholas Hoult in the leading role and deals with the author’s formative years – growing up in a boarding house, attending Cambridge University and fighting in the trenches of World War I.
Bratt was Tolkien’s first love – and wife – and the inspiration for one of his best-loved elves, the princess Luthien who, in his canon, sacrificed her immortality for the mortal man Beren.
The actress says: “Though I didn’t get the part in the Peter Jackson movie, here I am eight years later playing the woman who was a muse for all of Tolkien’s elven characters. He found the magic in the mundane and in nature and that really connected with me from a young age.”
Collins is the daughter of English musician Phil Collins and his second wife, American Jill Tavelman. She lived in England until her parents divorced in 1996 and then moved to Los Angeles with her mother.
She studied broadcast journalism and wrote for a number of magazines before deciding that she wanted to pursue a career on screen.
“When I read books and disappeared into my head as a kid, I always wanted one day to translate that to other people,” she says.
“Acting is exactly what that does for me.”
In 2009, the actress-model appeared in two episodes of the teen drama series 90210 and also co-starred in the film The Blind Side alongside Sandra Bullock.
Her performances earned her a co-starring role in the 2011 actioner Abduction with Taylor Lautner before she broke out internationally with the role of Snow White in Mirror Mirror, opposite Julia Roberts, who played the evil queen.
Collins adds of her career choice: “Something that I have always been taught from an early age is to follow your gut and your heart and to do what it is that pleases your soul,” she adds of her career choice. “But that doesn’t always come easily.”
Her failure with The Hobbit audition is a case in point. “I didn’t do well. There was no script to read and we had to speak Elfish. And we had to make it up.”
She says that growing into adulthood has been “a journey of discovering what it is that I really enjoy and why I enjoy it, as well as learning about myself”.
Integral to this journey was her decision to write her 2017 book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, in which she opened up about her battle with anorexia. She started the memoir while working on the film To The Bone (2017), which deals with the same issue.
“I was receiving a lot of messages on social media, specifically Instagram, from young women expressing to me their insecurities, fears and feelings about themselves,” she says of her decision to share her painful memories.
Writing the book relieved her of “a lot of baggage” she was carrying. “I had to get rid of that in order to take on the baggage of the characters I played.”
Given the positive response to her recent performances and the messages of thanks she has received from young women the world over, it seems to have been the right move.
Collins adds: “I’m not sure that there was a lot that I left out, to be honest. Who knows, though, maybe there will be a part two one day.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network