Collins ready for a bite of stardom

LOS ANGELES - Actress Lily Collins knows a thing or two about being famous.

She is the daughter of Phil Collins, one of the most successful pop singers in the 1980s, with hits such as Groovy Kind Of Love and Sussudio.

Now she is a rising star in her own right, having bagged the lead in the new The Mortal Instruments film franchise. The first instalment, City Of Bones, opened in Singapore on Thursday.

But the 24-year-old wants you to know that none of this was handed to her on a platter.

Speaking to Life! and a group of other reporters at a hotel in Los Angeles recently, she is poised and porcelain-doll pretty as she chirpily answers each question about the movie, in which she plays a "shadowhunter", or a human with demon-fighting powers.

Her dulcet voice hardens for just a millisecond when she is asked, as she has been many times before, whether her parentage has been a help or hindrance.

"My last name is my last name. I'm so proud of my mum and my dad and my siblings," says Collins, whose father divorced her American mother, Jill Tavelman, when she was five years old, and who has three half-brothers and a half-sister from her father's two other marriages.

"And as with any family, if you were the son or daughter of a famous doctor, your dad or mum would be huge in that hospital and you'd face expectations because of that.

"It doesn't matter if your family is in the industry or not. Your last name is something that you carry with pride and you add your own elements to, which I think I am doing.

"I never wanted to give anyone any reason to say that it was the only reason I was doing what I was doing."

On numerous auditions, no one cared who her father was either.

"I was rejected so much,'' she says, laughing. "The only movies that I auditioned for, I got told 'no' and it took a long time for me to get told 'yes'.

"I'm thankful for that, it taught me a lot. I grew a backbone, I grew in skill and I grew as Lily. I think I am where I am now because I was told 'no' so many times."

One of the biggest no's came from losing the lead in the Twilight vampire movies to Kristen Stewart, who was also a struggling actress at the time.

She lost out to Stewart again a few years later with the 2012 fantasy adventure film Snow White And The Huntsman, but Collins was then cast as Snow White in Mirror Mirror, the rival production starring Julia Roberts that year.

Now, she has top billing in one of Twilight's supernatural successors, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones and its sequel, City Of Ashes, which has been filmed and will be released next year.

The franchise's financial backers are hoping it will have a ready-made audience from its source material - the best-selling young-adult books by Cassandra Clare, which explore a hidden super- natural world of vampires, werewolves and demons - and that it will fill the void left by the five-part Twilight franchise, which earned more than US$3.3 billion worldwide from 2008 to 2012.

There are no plans to make any more Twilight films and the author of those books, Stephenie Meyer, has declared that she wants nothing more to do with them, but there are still four tomes left in the Mortal Instruments series and this could mean four more sequels for Collins, whose character Clary Fray, is the central figure in the stories.

The possibility that this may end up defining the rest of her career and lead to her being typecast does not scare her, she tells Life!.

"If it gets the hype that movies like Twilight or The Hunger Games or Harry Potter have, then that's a blessing because it means people are enjoying the movies. It also means I would get to play Clary for a long period of time, which I would love."

She says this with the same indefatigable perkiness that she conducts the entire interview with, but one is rather inclined to believe her, if for no other reason than that she says she actually read all the books and loved them long before she got the part.

"I was a fan of the books before I was cast, so to be cast as a literary character that I admired made it so much more of an honour for me."

And although there are many young adult novel-inspired and teenagers-with-supernatural- powers themed movies crowding the movie market - among them this year's Beautiful Creatures and the upcoming Percy Jackson sequel - she feels like this franchise has an edge.

"There's a comedic undertone which I don't think I've found in most of the other franchises.

"And it deals with characters and issues that no one else has. Magnus is gay and he's the No. 1 young-adult novel gay character, and I think that's amazing," she says of the warlock character Magnus Bane, who is played in the movie by Taiwanese- Canadian actor Godfrey Gao.

"I like the fact that it's not about a love triangle. Yes, there are two males and a lead female who have a love connection but that's not what propels the movie forward," she says of the first film, which follows Clary's quest to find her missing mother.

As a reader, she is also keenly aware of the expectations that fans of The Mortal Instruments books will be taking to the movies.

"You don't have to actively seek out their opinions, they just come right up to you," she says. "I was at a concert in the middle of a field in Dublin recently and these girls came up to me crying.

"One of them said, 'What's your name?' and I said 'Lily' and she said 'No, it's Clary Fray' And then one of them yelled out 'Aug 21', the release date.

"It's amazing to have people who love the story come up to you. That passion is what drives the movie and the story, and it's really cool to see and be a part of that."

If the films are a hit and she becomes a major star, she says she is fully prepared to handle the fame and all the pressure that come with it.

This is in part because she has learnt from the example set by her father as well as some of the actors she has worked with, including Julia Roberts, Jennifer Connelly and Sandra Bullock.

"They can't go outside without being recognised and yet they're still themselves and still humble", she says.

In terms of becoming a teen idol, her role model is none other than Twilight star Taylor Lautner, with whom she appeared in the 2011 movie Abduction.

"He had 500 to 600 fans waiting outside every night to get his autograph and no matter how tired he was, he'd go outside and sign them all. And he was, what, 18 at the time? How cool is that," she says.

She also does not rule out having a music career.

Revealing that she has wide-ranging musical tastes and that "when I was little, I would introduce my dad to bands that he hadn't heard of, just as my parents did for me", she says she would love to appear in a stage or screen musical.

But with these and other ambitions - she hopes to continue writing as well, such as magazine articles and blogs on fashion she has done in the past - is a quiet determination to keep her personal life under wraps.

Collins, who has reportedly ended a recent relationship with her Mortal Instruments co-star, the 24-year-old British actor Jamie Campbell Bower, says this is why she has stayed away from social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so far.

"I like to be as private as I can because everything else is so public. I quite like that idea of old-time Hollywood mystery, where you didn't know everything about everyone's life."

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