Gallery Links: L’OFFICIEL Global Winter 2020
Gallery Links: Rollacoaster Magazine Autumn/ Winter 2020
Reflecting on “Emily in Paris” and previewing her upcoming David Fincher flick “Mank,” Lily Collins fronts the Global Winter 2020 issue, an edition of the magazine about entertainment, art, and the return to nature.
For L’OFFICIEL’s Global Winter 2020 issue—a celebration of the different disciplines of fashion, art, and entertainment—we found ourselves musing on the escape from the cities and the returned interest in nature; a subject pervasive in every conversation right now, be it focused on politics, health, or sustainability. Historically, the countryside has always played the wholesome foil to the seductive cityscape, but as Rem Koolhaas’ recent Solomon R. Guggenheim show Countryside, The Future illustrated, this relationship is rapdily shifting. Thus, we asked ourselves: What happens when the dialectic of city and country or urban and rural becomes flipped? Where will ideas be located? What does it mean for the accessibility of art, and how will urban centers—once the loci of creatvity—fare in this shift?
In essays that question the history of follies and look at the influence of artist residencies to fashion stories that contrast life between the city and countryside we explored this. And for our cover shoot, Fifty Shades of Grey filmmaker and artist Sam Taylor-Johnson placed actor Lily Collins by the Pacific Ocean, creating haunting images suspended between past and future. Collins herself performs a balancing act in her successful career, on screens simultaneously as the romantic eponymous lead in Emily in Paris, and as Rita, Herman J. Mankiewicz’s assistant in David Fincher’s new movie, Mank, and speaks to cult-favorite fashion designer Alber Elbaz about both’s next big steps.
Ultimately, we learn that the once-opposite concepts of city and country are in fact fluid and interrelated. As we see from the many artists and creatives who are transforming their work within nature, the countryside can be much more than just a pretty background or an escape: It is a place for optimism, invention, and oppertunity.
From the story behind her recent engagement to her transformation into a prim British secretary for David Fincher’s latest black-and-white epic, the actor tells Radhika Seth about her extraordinary year.
This has been Lily Collins’s year. When I meet the 31-year-old actor on Zoom, speaking from her home in Los Angeles, she’s fresh-faced and optimistic, with her hair in perfect curls and wearing a biscuit-coloured Biden-Harris sweatshirt. “I sleep in this,” she later tells me with a grin, though the recent US presidential election result isn’t the only reason she has to celebrate.
In September, she became engaged to her boyfriend, writer-director Charlie McDowell. A week later, Emily in Paris landed on Netflix. Created by Sex and the City’s Darren Star and starring Collins as the titular midwestern marketing executive who relocates to the French capital, the show became a cultural phenomenon. But, it’s not the only project Collins has launching on the streaming giant this year. Up next, she’ll appear in David Fincher’s Mank, a glittering tribute to Old Hollywood.
Born in the UK and partly raised in California, the daughter of musician Phil Collins and actor Jill Tavelman was always ambitious. As a teenager, she wrote articles for Teen Vogue and in 2008 covered the US presidential election as a host on Nickelodeon’s Kids Pick the President. She went on to study broadcast journalism at the University of Southern California but acted too, joining the casts of The Blind Side (2009), Mirror Mirror (2012) and Rules Don’t Apply (2016). The latter earned Collins a Golden Globe nomination in 2017 and more high-profile roles followed, in the harrowing anorexia drama To the Bone (2017), the critically acclaimed Okja (2017), the BBC adaptation of Les Misérables (2018) and the crime thriller Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile (2019).
Mank, however, is a cut above the rest. Set in 1940 and filmed in luminous black and white, it tells the semi-fictionalised story of screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz as he struggles to pen one of the greatest movies of all time: Citizen Kane (1941). Known as ‘Mank’ to his friends and played with relish by Gary Oldman, he’s a gambler and heavy drinker who is given one last chance to redeem himself.
In flashbacks, Mank recalls run-ins with starlet Marion Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and her powerful lover, the media mogul William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance) — both of whom inspire the script — but it’s his British stenographer, Rita Alexander (Collins), whose help he relies on in order to keep working. Holed up on a ranch in the Californian desert, the pair become friends as Mank dictates his masterpiece to Rita. The result is a swooning epic that is close to David Fincher’s heart, as its razor-sharp screenplay was written by his own father, Jack Fincher, before his death in 2003.
Ahead of Mank’s release on 4 December, Collins shares how she got into character, what has got her through lockdown and why she first met co-star Gary Oldman at the age of two.
Mank is such a passion project for David Fincher. How did you first get involved?
“I heard about it a couple of weeks before I was leaving for Paris [to film Emily in Paris]. David is someone that I never thought I’d have the chance to work with. I sent a tape just before I left, and then a few weeks into my job in Paris, I Zoom auditioned. When I found out that I got it, I was so confused [laughs]. I thought, ‘This is so weird. It can’t all work out like this!’ After that, I had to fly back to LA for fittings and rehearsals, but I was shooting Emily — I’m in every scene and I have no days off. So, I flew back twice for 24 hours. I flew on a Saturday morning after a night shoot in Paris, landed on Saturday morning in LA, went to rehearsals, or a fitting, or a camera test, flew back, went to bed and woke up at 5am to be Emily again. It happened really quickly and I couldn’t stop and think about it because the end result was going to be that I could work on both, one after the other.”
Was it dizzying to finish Emily in Paris and go straight into Mank?
“When I flew back to Paris the second time [from LA], they were just starting to film Mank. It was before I finished Emily, but my part didn’t start until I got back. I had two weeks after that, before I went in. But, it wasn’t that hard because Emily and Rita are polar opposites. Not only is Emily bright, bold and a little bit obvious personality-wise, but she’s also in a bright, bold and obvious world, whereas Rita is in a black-and-white world. She’s harder to read, more no-nonsense, more poised in a sense, and British. So, I could disassociate the second I got on a plane.”
What did David want the character of Rita to represent?
“Rita is, of course, a real person, but there’s little information to be found about her, other than the fact that she’s a stenographer from England and her husband was in the war. I think I saw two photos of her. So, in terms of creating her persona, it was about what she represents for Gary [Oldman]’s character, because he’s at his most vulnerable when he’s with her. They’re each other’s confidantes. For a woman of that time and in that position, Rita was very bold. She believed Mank was capable of more than he himself did, and she’d remind him of what he’d promised to do. He needed that extra kick sometimes. David wanted Rita to have an innate sense of goodness. I loved that there’s not a romance between her and Mank — it’s a soulful friendship that neither expects.”
How did you work with Gary Oldman to build that familial relationship between Rita and Mank?
“I’d actually met Gary when I was about two years old on the set of Bram Stoker’s Dracula . My dad was in Hook  and those two films were being shot on the same lot in LA. Then, years later, at the Heavenly Bodies Met gala [in 2018], I was at the valet and saw Gary and his wife Gisele [Schmidt]. I told him how much I admired him. Who would have thought that years after, I’d be playing this character who so admires his character? On Mank, we’d laugh and joke around between takes and then when they said ‘action’, he’d just go back to being Mank. I’d have to pinch myself sometimes because I’d forget that I had to respond. He was amazing.”
How did those intricate period costumes help you get into character?
“Rita isn’t a Hollywood starlet, so she’s not done up all the time, but she wants to look presentable. She has little jewellery, she wears small heels but also brogues, and she’s slightly more sporty sometimes. She wears suits, but [often] they’re quite dishevelled — for instance, if Mank and Rita have been up for hours writing and they’re sweaty. David would say, ‘Don’t touch them up unless you’re adding more sweat. Don’t make them look perfect.’ I liked the idea of roughing up that time period.”
Your other Netflix project, Emily in Paris, is one of the most talked-about shows of 2020. Why do you think it’s managed to capture the zeitgeist in the way that it has?
“We all want to travel. We all want escapism. Being an American in Paris is not a revolutionary idea, but right now it’s impossible. The gift of meandering around a foreign city and losing track of time is something that we all miss. In Emily in Paris, we had [stylist] Patricia Field on costumes, so you know you’re going to have a treat for the eyes, and Darren Star, who always [turns] the cities [his shows are set in] into characters in themselves. The show has a sense of humour, a silliness and a brightness to it, and I think it hit at a time when we all needed it the most. We all want to laugh and smile. I think there’s hope on the horizon [now] and the show leans into that.”
Now that the second season has been confirmed, what are you hoping to see more of?
“I really hope to see Emily spend more time with her co-workers at [the marketing firm] Savoir outside the office and get to know them and [her friend] Mindy [Chen, played by Ashley Park] more. I also hope Emily’s French improves as she continues to grow within her company as a useful and more positive asset, while of course still always finding herself in funny situations. I’d love for her to start to feel more at ease in the city and dive deeper into life as more of a resident than a visitor. But, who knows what will happen.”
You’ve had an eventful lockdown in that you got engaged. What was that moment like?
“It was totally surreal. It was a complete surprise and you can tell from my face [in the Instagram post]. I’m not that good of an actress [laughs]. I knew from the moment we got together that I wanted to be with him, but I didn’t know when that was going to happen. We were on a road trip, which we love to do with our little dog, and he’d planned the whole thing. There were no other humans around for miles and miles. It was so beautiful and now I get to be a fiancée and get into the planning of it all. I’m really excited.”
From your Instagram, it also looks like you’ve been surfing a lot recently?
“[My fiancé] Charlie’s been surfing since he was a kid. He’s so great at it and a really good teacher. He taught me how to surf during quarantine. It’s cool because it makes you strong. You have to be balanced when you’re up on the board and you’re not in control, so you just have to let go, be calm and roll with it. I feel like that’s a perfect metaphor for right now. Also, I’m a Pisces — I love the water.”
What’s making you feel hopeful for the future right now?
“The [US] election results and the idea that we’re headed towards four years of hope, not hate. I don’t think I’d ever been as involved and invested before. With Obama’s  election, I was covering it for Nickelodeon and I was involved because it was my first year of voting, but this year I wanted Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to win so badly. I’ll never forget the moment it happened. With these results, we’ve proven that we can use our voices collectively. And, how crazy is it that this was an American election that [felt like] a global election? I had friends in England sending me videos of them celebrating. It’s so powerful and such a relief.”
‘Mank’ is on Netflix from 4 December 2020.
Grab the pinot grigio because ‘Emily in Paris,’ starring Lily Collins, is coming back for a second season that is sure to be anything but ‘ringarde.’
After a buzzworthy first season of berets, croissants, and steamy French love affairs, Netflix officially renews Emily in Paris for a second season. The Darren Star creation, which both critics and fans could not stop watching, stars Lily Collins as Emily Cooper, a wide-eyed 20-something who moves to Paris for her job as a marketing associate. However, while there, she manages to ruffle a number of French feathers with her overtly American style, which extends from her fashion to her…well, everything.
While Emily struggles to adapt to the French way of life, that’s not to say she doesn’t find a few allies along the way. Ashley Park and Camille Razat play Mindy and Camille, two of Emily’s first Parisian friends, while the Internet’s new French boyfriend, Lucas Bravo, stars as Gabriel, Emily’s neighbor and love interest. Très mignon!
The news of the upcoming season dropped via letter from Emily’s persnickety boss, Sylvie Grateau, to her former boss in Chicago, explaining that Emily must stay in Paris to help Savoir, the fictional marketing firm where she works.
No word on when production for the new season will begin, but it’s safe to say audiences won’t be seeing Emily traipsing through the Jardin des Tuileries anytime soon, as rising COVID-19 cases have put France in a second lockdown. Until then, season one of Emily in Paris is streaming now on Netflix.
n the surface, everything about my lunch date with Lily Collins appears normal. We’re dining in the outdoor restaurant of one of L.A.’s most storied hotels, frequented by Hollywood legends like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, and famous for its ivy-lined walls, currently filtering in L.A.’s seasonless sunshine. But there has been nothing “normal” about the year of 2020, as the entire world grapples with a deadly virus, and the words “pandemic” and “contagion” spell out our reality (instead of an apocalyptic film featuring Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow). This explains why Lily, dressed in a pewter Maje blazer and dark jeans, is palpably hesitant when the hostess leads us to our table in the center of the outdoor space, flocked in every direction by groups of chattering guests. Los Angeles has only recently eased its dining restrictions to allow for outdoor service, and thus, something as “normal” as an afternoon lunch interview carries with it the added weight of months of social distancing, optics, and the unease of safety protocol (are the tables really six feet apart, I wonder…).
“This is the first time I’ve eaten at a restaurant since quarantine started,” Lily whispers to me, eye wide as we sit down. She seems slightly shell-shocked, which is understandable since the beginning of quarantine was in March and we are now dining together at the tail-end of October. I flag down our hostess and request a quieter, more socially-distant table. Luckily, there happens to be one in another area of the restaurant, and as we sit down, Lily visibly relaxes with a sigh. “I’m sorry, it’s just that I haven’t been around this many people for so long,” she apologizes, swirling liquid Stevia into her hot black tea. “It was a lot.”
Now that we’re alone(ish), I begin to experience what can only be described as the Lightness of Lily. I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly—her openness, easy laugh, or maybe just her smile—but there’s an unmistakable aura of happiness emanating off of her, made more noticeable by the fact that it’s so rare to encounter this type of joyful lightness during such a difficult year. Seconds after sitting down, she immediately dives into stories about her road-tripping adventures with her fiancé, writer and director Charlie McDowell. “It’s the best way to create a sense of adventure,” she tells me earnestly. “You’re taking yourself from A to B. You’re part of nature. We go camping and we’re in the middle of the Redwoods or driving through cities that we never would have gone through before.” She credits these road trips and moments in nature for keeping her grounded as everything else in the world feels so uncertain: “You’re literally breathing in clean air. You’re not feeling at a loss of creativity and you’re doing things with your hands and getting outside and building fires, and feeling really at peace in a time when there’s just been so much darkness.”
Each time her fiancé comes up throughout our interview, Lily’s face lights up. The pair was recently engaged during one of her aforementioned road trips through Santa Fe and Sedona, and though it happened after only a year and a half of dating, Lily says she wasn’t surprised at all by how quickly it happened. “I’ve known he was ‘The One’ since the very beginning,” she says frankly. “All my friends joked with me at first. They’re like, ‘How can you know’ I’m like, ‘I know. I just know.’” When the proposal happened—which she describes as “a surreal moment that you just replay over and over in your head”—she said yes without hesitation. She beams as she tells me this, then stirs her tea: “Can I just say? Honestly, I’m so excited to be a wife.” I ask her to expand. “I don’t think of it in any way, shape, or form to do with whether or not I’m a feminist,” she clarifies. “To me, it’s more like, I can’t wait to be with this person, and now we get to plan something that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.” When she explains it like that, it’s hard to argue. The Lightness of Lily—it flickers stronger.
The fact that Lily Collins became a household name in 2020 has nothing to do with the pandemic, and yet everything to do with it. In October, Netflix released a saccharine-sweet, Darren Star-helmed show called Emily in Paris, which—in case you’ve been recently kicked off your family’s Netflix account and somehow haven’t watched—follows the life of Emily Cooper, an overly-earnest beauty marketing executive who moves to Paris for a new job opportunity. What follows is a fun, frothy journey of self-discovery as she learns how to handle the clashing of American brashness and Parisian subtlety in every aspect of her life, from work to romance. Copious shots of Paris’ charming cobbled streets, the extravagant Grand Palais, and, of course, a glittering Eiffel Tower moment helped satisfy the wanderlust (or perhaps fanned the flame) within us during a year when most people haven’t been able to travel overseas at all. That, coupled with Emily’s brightly color-coordinated wardrobe (unironic beret included), made Emily in Paris a rainbow-swirled, glitter-flecked treat millions eagerly devoured 10 months into a year that was mostly grim, heavy, and gray. It’s no surprise that it quickly became the number-one show on Netflix globally, or was just recently confirmed for a second season—Lily’s Instagram post announcing the second season received over 500K likes in 12 hours. “It was so crazy,” Lily says with genuine wonderment when I ask her about the show’s reception. “To me, it just translates to: people needed an escape. They’re able to get that wish fulfillment of travel when they watch it. They can laugh and smile. And I don’t know what I need now more than ever other than smiling and laughing.”
She has a fair point. And though both the show and her character Emily have now been criticized, discussed, and analyzed endlessly, Lily is adamant that Emily—”basic” as she may be, Eiffel Tower keychain be damned—is empowered in her own right. “Emily is very much the woman of now, who is just as much of a romantic as she is a work-driven girl,” Lily says. She calls Emily “unapologetically herself” and someone who finds passion in her work. “I love to work, too,” she affirms. “The fact that sometimes that gets a bad reputation of like, oh, you’re too focused on work. No, I find romanticism in my work and I really am passionate, and I love to do what I love to do.” In fact, she says that playing Emily may have been the best thing to happen to her before going through a pandemic, even if she didn’t realize it at the time: “She has a steadfast, passionate way of being like, ‘Okay, I’m going to figure this out.’ She almost subconsciously prepared me for what was coming. You’re going to have to pivot, you’re going to have to do things differently, you’re going to vote differently…I think she filled a bank of optimism within me that I would then be able to cash out during COVID.”
If Emily is a sunflower—home-grown, All-American, and charmingly obvious—then Lily’s latest character Rita Alexander is a bluebell—British, prim, and hardy. Lily joins Gary Oldman and Amanda Seyfried in the new David Fincher-directed film Mank, inspired by the life of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he wrote Citizen Kane and set in the backdrop of mid-1900’s Hollywood. In the film, Rita is Mank’s stoic secretary and script transcriber; her serious demeanor is the complete opposite of Emily’s buoyancy (as is the film itself, which is shot in grainy black and white). Rita is responsible for keeping Mank off the wagon, encourages him when he grows frustrated, and ultimately becomes a confidant who helps him complete the monolith, Academy Award winning manuscript.
Acting alongside Gary Oldham, Lily says, was a career highlight. “It was everything,” she gushes. “There were so many moments when I’d have to remind myself I was in a scene, because I’m just sitting there going, ‘Oh wow,’ soaking it all in. But when you’re opposite someone who’s been at the top of their game for the past 30 years, it truly elevates you to be at the top of your game, in whatever context that is, in all aspects.” The fact that Lily plays both Emily and Rita so believably is made even more impressive by the knowledge that she was flying 11 hours back and forth from Paris to Los Angeles every weekend during the filming of Emily in Paris to rehearse for Mank. I ask her if it was difficult to turn off Emily and emote Rita, and vice versa. “The time periods are so different, and the subject matter and the themes and the genre,” she responds. “So for me, finding that character was just such a different process than Emily. Also removing myself from Paris and back to L.A…it was like I could leave Emily there, and then come here and have Rita.”
If you first got to know Lily through Emily in Paris, it’s easy to assume Lily and Emily are similar. Lily is instantly open, warm, and outspoken, like Emily. Or perhaps, given the fact that Lily’s father is British music legend Phil Collins and she spent most of her childhood in the English countryside, you’d think Lily is more like Rita. Even she tells me, “I definitely feel more British than American in a lot of ways. I’m drawn towards British period dramas and British female authors…Whenever I play a character with a British accent, I feel so weirdly connected to myself in a different way.” But the more Lily talks, the more you glimpse the different sides of her beneath her cheery exterior—the softer parts, the jagged parts that are never quite as obvious as a first impression, but are what make a person who they are. Because though I can feel the Lightness of Lily emanating across from me at the table, there are also dark times from her past that she doesn’t shy away from discussing.
As the daughter of Collins and his then-wife Jill Tavelman, Collins grew up with a certain level of notoriety, amplified even more so by her decision to become an actress. After a breakout role in the Sandra Bullock-helmed film The Blind Side, Lily went on to star in young adult blockbusters such as Mirror, Mirror and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. She quickly rose to beauty icon status (her brows…enough said). A beauty contract with Lancôme soon followed, and seven years later, she still serves as ambassador (during our lunch, she raves about the brand’s Génifique face mask, crediting it as a plane staple for keeping her skin hydrated during her jaunts between Paris and L.A.). But Hollywood’s shiny cellophane exterior was a very different world than her bucolic countryside upbringing in England, and as her fame grew, so did a gnawing sense of self-criticism. “I was definitely trying to be the version of myself that I thought people wanted to see,” she reflects. “I had a people pleaser quality and I didn’t allow myself to reflect on, how do I feel, what do I want to say? How do I feel comfortable being me?” The more she focused on what others perceived and wanted, the harder it was to keep sight of who she was. “I think because I’m so introspective and reflective, I’ve in the past tended to look so inward that I take things out on myself,” she says. “I was in a bad relationship where I felt definitely quieted by that person. And it wasn’t encouraged to gain more of a voice or use my voice more.” Her intense self-scrutiny manifested in an eating disorder and a period of painful insecurity and self-doubt, which she documents in her book Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me. “My lack of control turned into: how can I control myself?” she says.
Video placeholder image
Then, came a saving grace—a role that reminded her of her higher purpose. To the Bone, a film from Netflix released in 2017, documents a pivotal period in the life of Ellen, a young woman struggling with anorexia. “When I got that script, I had just written the chapter in my book about my experiences with eating disorders,” she says. “So, to then have this script come into my lap, which mirrored the same subject matter at a time in my life when I was finally able to talk about it, was one of those very rare meta moments when your craft and your life mold into one experience—where you know they’re going to aid one another and say something bigger than you thought you could say.” She recounts the many messages she received from fans after the movie debuted, thanking her for shining light on the reality of eating disorder recovery and playing such a vulnerable character that made so many of them feel seen for the first time ever. It marked a turning point for her. “That experience—to have my job turn into something that was part of the healing process for not only me, but to viewers—was really powerful,” she reflects. “Maybe that’s why I tended to be drawn towards darker, more introspective characters—I see so much healing through characters like that.”
Healing through darkness seems to be an overarching theme for all of America in the second half of 2020, as we pick up the pieces from a tumultuous election, racial upheaval, and economic crisis brought on by a global pandemic. In many ways, quarantine has amplified things we’ve previously been able to push aside—with less physical distractions, we’re forced to face our secret fears and doubts. Lily recounts how, in the beginning of the pandemic, she would wake up some mornings and just cry all day. “These days, we have less voices of people physically around us, but more voices in our own heads—and that’s sometimes even harder,” she says. “You’re sitting within your thoughts going, well, what do I do with all this? Who are these people in my brain? We’re finding ourselves with this feeling of having no control—so, how do I stay sane, stable, and centered without reverting back to my old ways?”
Her secret, she reveals, is simple: relinquish control. “I was always thinking about the past or worried about the future, so for me letting go has always been a big thing,” she says. Surrendering to the process is what ultimately helped her emerge from her dark period, and it’s a concept that continues to help her navigate the uncertainty of 2020. And perhaps it also explains the Lightness of Lily; the unbridled joy she exudes in a way that only happens after a person is completely comfortable in being still with themselves—someone who has sat with their pain already, felt its prickly corners, and set it free. That, plus a mix of dopamine-inducing podcasts (she recommends former monk Jay Shetty’s On Purpose, in which she was a recent guest, and The Happiness Lab), reading (she often posts excerpts from the aptly-titled The Art of Letting Go on her Instagram), and therapy, of which she’s a strong advocate. “Self-help isn’t selfish—it’s self-love,” she says simply. “With therapy, I just want to know more about myself to make myself a better person, so that I’m a better friend, daughter, fiancé, future wife and mother—all of those things. I don’t think there’s a thing as too much introspection. You have to do the work.”
Video placeholder image
Without the need to control, she tells me that she’s finally been able to tap into her true self again—”the young Lily in the countryside in England” who craved adventure and spontaneity, who had a voice, and didn’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations. When I bring up the Black Lives Matter movement, she’s quick to vocalize the importance of speaking out while acknowledging privilege. “Those conversations with ourselves, with our friends, or with our family are so awkward and hard, but they’re the ones that promote the most change, and we have to do it,” she says. “I think if we allow shame and embarrassment of not knowing what we ‘should have known’ prevent us from moving forward and learning more, we’d be missing out on so much growth.” On the adventure aspect, she describes her current state as “very experience-driven” and less focused on material things. “I’ve learned so much about myself through my experiences, as opposed to what I accumulate,” she says simply. It’s part of the reason why she’s pushed herself out of her comfort zone and started surfing, coached by her fiancé, a seasoned surfer himself. As she describes her first surfing experience, an almost too-perfect metaphor emerges, and should perhaps best be kept in her own words for full effect:
“I can’t tell you the last time as an adult I tried something new, putting aside the fear of failing publicly. And so it was kind of really freeing again, this feeling of physically letting go. You’re sitting on the surfboard and you’re going, ‘I’m actually really out of control right now because the wave and the board are going to take me.’ You can’t predict the wave. I literally see one coming and I’m like, ‘Oh, stand up.’ It’s the act of letting go—the art of sitting still in the moment, looking at the waves, appreciating where you are. Sometimes a whole horde of dolphins just comes by and is right there and you’re going, wait, that’s a form of meditation—I’m just so here. And then once you get up—if you get up—it’s so freeing. You feel so strong, because you’re like, my core is centered. I’m balanced. It’s this cool, emotional and physical balance of strength and surrendering when it comes together in one moment and you’re going, I feel so proud of myself…I got up.”
In ancient Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin and yang illustrates how seemingly opposite forces can be complementary—and in some cases, accentuate each other as they interrelate. Take, for example, an American girl in Paris and a British secretary in Hollywood; the countryside of Surrey and the lights of Sunset Boulevard; pain and comfort; joy and grief; strength and softness. We’re all made of dualities, but it’s the intricacies between them that make up our truest parts. Look between Lily’s, and you’ll see someone happily surrendering her next chapter: floating, light, and free.
Lily Collins wants to tell a story. No, really—that’s why she’s Zooming from her Los Angeles home on a mid-October day, talking about why she became an actor. “I have always loved telling stories, since I was a kid,” she reflects. And as the child of Phil Collins and Jill Tavelman, it’s only natural that she got bit by the performance bug. “I knew that, as an adult, I wanted to take people on that journey with me. It’s a form of escapism. There’s such a magic to those worlds that we create onscreen.”
She’s been creating that magic for the last 11 years, from her feature film debut in “The Blind Side” to worlds horrific, thrilling, fantastical, comedic, dramatic, and beyond. She’s escaped typecasting, instead disappearing into stories near and far, past and present, each one different from the last. Her two most recent projects are both for Netflix, but they continue the trend of falling on opposite ends of the genre spectrum.
Just before the industry took a pandemic-induced pause in 2020, Collins was jumping between France and Hollywood—first to lead Darren Star’s “Emily in Paris,” on which she plays a millennial marketing executive who becomes a fish out of water after she’s transferred to the City of Lights for work, and then opposite Gary Oldman in David Fincher’s “Mank,” which charts the Oscar-winning screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz’s co-writing of “Citizen Kane.”
“I love every genre, in a sense. I don’t want to ever say I’ll never do one, because an incredible filmmaker may put a bizarre, interesting twist on a genre that you never thought you’d associate with, and all of a sudden you’re going, ‘I couldn’t imagine not being a part of this,’ ” Collins says. “I want to feel like there’s something I’m going to learn about [myself] through a character, and then there’s something that people will be able to learn about themselves.”
“I really love teamwork. I collaborate with everyone I can who has a hand in creating the character, and it all ends up piecing together.”
Collins’ bold beginnings in acting make it clear why she uses each role as a chance to learn. In fact, her whole career in acting has been self-taught. “I was part of plays and musicals when I was a kid, and I think I was 16 years old when I thought, OK, I actually do want to do this. Not just at school—I really want to pursue this professionally. I started auditioning for jobs to get more experience, but I was told no,” she remembers. “I mean, I was still so green. I was auditioning, and I didn’t really understand what ‘green’ meant. I would ask for feedback, and they would say things like, ‘You just need to keep doing it. Just train, in whatever way that means, practice, and do more research. You’re new, and that’s fine.’ ”
And while rejection is something most teenagers will go out of their way to avoid, a burgeoning modeling career and aspirations to become a broadcast journalist gave Collins some experience with the feeling. When she developed her acting convictions, she knew she’d be faced with more of the same. “I waited until I was at an age where I felt I was strong enough to continue to be told no. If I had felt that it would discourage me too much, I would have known to not pursue it, I think, but I really felt strongly about it.”
Gallery Links: Photoshoots 2020
Not to mention the dream of working with Patricia Field on Emily in Paris.
Patricia Field is known for her amazing costumes in fashion-favorite films, from Sex and the City to The Devil Wears Prada to Confessions of a Shopaholic, each of which take a person on a fantasy-inducing sartorial safari through unexpected pattern combinations and ostentatious yet modern silhouettes. So when Lily Collins got the offer to work with not only Field but also Darren Star, creator of Sex and the City and Younger, she was immediately hooked on what she calls “a golden nugget.”
Their new show, Emily in Paris, available on Netflix as of October 2nd, is by no means the beginning of Collins’ fashion journey. The young actress has worked in films like Mirror, Mirror with corseted gowns and The Mortal Instruments with edgy, leather-filled looks. On the other side of the camera, she has the privilege of experimenting with the best that fashion has to offer on the red carpet and more.
As those have been put on hold for the time being, Collins has swapped gowns for sweats. So she couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little socially distanced shoot. Along with her costar Ashley Park, who plays Emily’s best friend Mindy, the two staged an impromptu shoot with the clothes they had on hand at their director’s ranch in Northern California (COVID tests were administered beforehand, of course). “It was really special also, because we were like, ‘Wait, this is so “Emily and Mindy” of us to do,’” says Collins. “Little did we know that a year after we met, from Paris to a ranch, we’d be having some crazy Emily in Paris experience together documented in photos.”
Have you always loved fashion, or has it been something you’ve had to embrace since you’ve started acting?
“I’ve been a fashion lover since I could put clothes on. My mom tells me stories about how I would have such a specific point of view on what I wanted to wear. I would go vintage shopping with her. I loved color and patterns. My style has definitely evolved over the years, but fashion has always been something constant. For me, fashion designers are artists, and sometimes I get so overwhelmed meeting them, more so than other actors. It’s such a fascinating craft, and their mind works in ways that I deeply admire. I feel very fortunate that my job allows me to experiment with fashion in different ways, but it’s definitely something that I always wanted to tap into.”
“I’VE BEEN A FASHION LOVER SINCE I COULD PUT CLOTHES ON.”
How does being in the spotlight affect your personal style?
“I think every character that I play informs me of new fashion personalities, if you will. When I did Mortal Instruments, and it was more gothic and dark—there was a lot of black and leather and stuff like that—I started incorporating more of a darker ‘rock and roll’ feel. Then when I did Mirror, Mirror, it was obviously more princess-y and more feminine and regal. And then Emily. Oh my god, working with Patricia Field, it was like patterns and colors and textures and designers and just all of those things all at once, and it was never too much for Emily. I get to express myself in different ways through my characters and through fashion.”
It’s such a cool thing that acting and fashion share that ability to create a character:
“For me, the relationship with the costume designer and creative designer of any TV show, movie, or any project that I do is so important because you’re creating the essence of the character. It’s what you feel like every day when you step into those clothes that helps inform how you’re going to move and breathe and live as that person. Every single outfit that you wear really dictates how you feel that day. Like in real life, if you’re wearing comfortable sweatpants versus a very fitted dress to go out, you carry yourself differently. The way that you dress really affects your mood and it affects the way that you create a character.”
“I THINK EVERY CHARACTER THAT I PLAY INFORMS ME OF NEW FASHION PERSONALITIES, IF YOU WILL.”
On creating her character Emily through costume:
“Emily is bright and bubbly and unafraid to take risks. That translates directly into her fashion. I didn’t want her to be a character that has some kind of transformation in order to be accepted, to have that scene where she goes in the dressing room looking one way and comes out Parisian. We wanted it to be that she’s very much herself in all ways throughout the season, she just starts to pick up a little bit of Parisian fashion sense here and there. I think she, like myself, grew up loving Carrie Bradshaw, she loves French Vogue, she loves all these magazines that allow her to soak in the culture. And what would she wear when she goes to Paris? She’s going to wear the Eiffel Tower on her shirt. That’s who she is. Then she’ll do something like throw a beret on, but it’s always in that Emily way. It’s never understated, but that’s what you love about her, or at least that’s what I love about her.”
“EVERY SINGLE OUTFIT THAT YOU WEAR REALLY DICTATES HOW YOU FEEL THAT DAY.”
You said you grew up watching Carrie Bradshaw. Was it so exciting for you to work on a Darren Star show and work with Patricia Field?
“Oh my god, I was over the moon. It was already so cool knowing it was a Darren Star project; if you add Patricia Field to it, I was like, ‘This is a golden nugget.’ I so admire her and all her work throughout the years and just her eye. She’s so specific and so unafraid. That obviously so deeply translates to Emily as a character, that idea of embracing different colors and patterns and textures. It’s like, ‘How do you express yourself through fashion in a way that says everything you want to say and you stay true to who you are?’ That’s Patricia. She was so adamant about being so collaborative with me right off the bat. She really wanted this to be a mutual experience. And Marylin Fitoussi, the French designer who came on board with Patricia, was also just so incredible. Her eye mixed with Patricia’s just created such an amazing character that we all could just every day giggle at and go, ‘Oh my god, how fun is this?’”
I know you’ve been very open about your relationship with self-image, and I was wondering if fashion has played a role in all that for you?
“One’s relationship with their body is so personal. I’m really somebody who embraces feeling at peace with myself and that mind-body-soul connection of learning and educating myself on how to be more comfortable in my own skin. My stylist Rob and Mariel have had a really big impact on me in terms of pushing me outside my comfort zone of what I thought I’d feel good in. They allow me to feel unafraid to wear different silhouettes that I maybe didn’t think would suit me before. Understanding one’s body through clothes is a really interesting experience. It’s all in the tailoring, and they’ve taught me so much about that.”
“ONE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH THEIR BODY IS SO PERSONAL. I’M REALLY SOMEBODY WHO EMBRACES FEELING AT PEACE WITH MYSELF AND THAT MIND-BODY-SOUL CONNECTION OF LEARNING AND EDUCATING MYSELF ON HOW TO BE MORE COMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN.”
“Sometimes there is something that’s super in style at the moment [that] just doesn’t work for me. And I’m kind of like, ‘OK great, I can appreciate it on her, but it doesn’t work for me,’ instead of wearing it just to wear it and then feeling awful in it. What’s the point of that? Literally what’s the point? I can appreciate it in a magazine. I can appreciate it on a friend or on a model. I think it’s just realizing that not everything’s going to work on your body type and to embrace what works on you. Obviously, when you’re younger, everyone wants to wear the same trends. The older you get, you’re just like, ‘Cool, if it doesn’t work on me, there’s 10 million other fashion things that I can wear that will look good.’”
What have been your favorite red carpet looks so far?
“This year for obvious reasons the Met Ball didn’t happen, but I always love that experience. The Met Ball is always a moment where I get to play and have fun and lean on my hair, makeup, and stylists to create a character. Every year is different. It’s an opportunity to play. In those situations, I don’t want to just look the same. I don’t want to just look like myself. I want to allow them to create a character and do what it is that they do best. That’s what I rely on them for and what I respect them for. Then we can come together and have fun.”
Gallery Links: TELEVISION SERIES > EMILY IN PARIS > SEASON 1 > SCREENCAPTURES