Mirror Mirror’s Lily Collins on Snow White and Sunscreen

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Who’s the fairest of them all?

The age-old question comes to live on the big screen, in the upcoming film Mirror Mirror which hits theaters on March 30. It features Julia Roberts as the “wicked” (she’s really more neurotic than evil) queen, Lily Collins as her fair-skinned rival and Armie Hammer as the dashing royal prince.

But don’t expect the traditional damsel in distress – Collins as Snow White is feisty and fierce, bringing a fresh twist to the classic tale.

I had a chance to sit down with this 23-year-old breakout star who also happens to be the daughter of the one and only Phil Collins, and she’s every bit as sweet, smart and savvy in real life as the character she plays on screen.

When asked if she felt any intimidation about playing a role as iconic as Snow White, Collins she wasn’t as worried about staying true to the traditional archetype but wanted to make the character a modern version that was relatable to young girls.

“I didn’t want to be this caricature of a fairytale princess that was already in cartoon form,” she said. “I wanted to be someone that young girls could look at and say, ‘She’s a friend of mine.'”

Collins said the filmmakers wanted Mirror Mirror to be a story full of girl power, showing young viewers that they have the potential within themselves to prevail over adversity.

“That sense of female empowerment and confidence and self-esteem is something that I have always been a big advocate of promoting in young girls, and teen confidence among girls and boys,” she said. “And that idea that the prince doesn’t need to save the princess in the end is there from the beginning.”

But how can a story based on a main character valued for her physical beauty encourage self-worth based on what’s inside? I posed this tough question to Collins and was really impressed by the thoughtfulness of her answer:

“The prince and the queen talk about her beauty and appearance, but the thing is that Snow is never aware of her own beauty. She isn’t looking in a mirror and saying, ‘I can make this happen because I’m pretty.’  She learns from the dwarves about self-confidence and once you accept yourself and accept spontaneity in the world, you can then pursue things because you’re more aware of your surroundings. I think the fact that she is so unaware of how she looks, but she finds it within herself to love herself regardless, that’s the core of self-esteem and confidence building for young girls.”

Speaking of confidence, Collins found herself playing opposite Hollywood legend Julia Roberts – quite the challenge for a budding actress, especially since the queen is not exactly nice to young Snow White. Luckily, Collins said that in real life, Roberts is nothing like the mean step-mother she plays.

“She’d be mean to me on camera, in character, and the moment they yelled cut, she’s back to being this mom who is so lovely and able to switch in and out. Her kids were on set were almost all the time with her and first and foremost on set, she was a mother. She didn’t want her kids seeing her being mean to me, because she didn’t want that to taint their vision of her.  Whatever it was, the most important thing is that she’s a mom.  And I really respected that about her, even in a work environment.”

Not only is Roberts a great mom, she doesn’t shirk on her day job and there’s no diva treatment for this star.

“She came in for the scene where I find her in the forest… and the day they did my side of the conversation, she came in, put the cape on, and was there for my close ups. I said to her, ‘Thank you.’  She said, ‘Why are you thanking me?  This is my job. I am here because this is what I’m supposed to do.’ And  I said, ‘Yes, but you’re Julia. You could have someone else do it.’ It showed her dedication but also her desire to make me feel as comfortable as I could, because she wanted me to get the best performance I could knowing that it was her opposite me. I had something to play off of that was true and real.  She was there when she didn’t even have to be.”

After sharing what it was like to work with such a respected actress, Collins also talked about the single most inspiring person in her own life – her mom.

“My mom and I are best friends.  And there’s never been a topic that’s too awkward or too weird to talk about.  She’s always made me feel really, really comfortable.  And we share clothes; we go shopping together. I send her my scripts.  We just communicate on pretty much everything. Without her there telling me that it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to try new things or you have the potential to do things above and beyond yourself that you don’t even know… well that has truly propelled me kind of forward.”

Final question: How did she manage to keep her skin so “Snow White?” 

“Sunscreen became my best friend and I learned so much about moisturizing. And I learned on this set, because I was surrounded by salt all the time. We had 40 tons of salt for snow, and I was extremely tired.  And you know, well, you get bags under your eyes.  It’s all about moisturizing.  If your skin’s not moisturized, then you’re kind of not doing yourself any favors.” 

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