Fans of The Mortal Instruments book series can rest easy: Lily Collins, who’ll bring Clary Fray to life on screen, is just as obsessed with Cassandra Clare’s books as you are. (“Join the club!” she says with a laugh.) Collins, who was cast as Fray over two years ago, has been a fan of Clare’s work for quite some time. Now the story, which centers around a young girl who discovers a brand-new (to her) supernatural world, is finally coming to the big screen this summer, with a cast that includes Jared Harris and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
“The special effects and the CGI are going to be incredible, but it’s not a film based on that,” Collins says. “It just adds to the other elements of the film. We’ve kept the humor [from the book], and we’ve really made it about human emotion and character. I’m just excited to see the action and giggle and swoon over the romance. I hope that everyone loves it as much as I loved making it. I would love to play Clary over and over again.”
Collins talked to EW about what she likes about Clary, her thoughts when she saw the Institute set for the first time, and her reactions to Jamie Campbell Bower (Twilight) as “cocky” bad boy Jace.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know you were a longtime fan of the books. Did you envision yourself as her while you were reading it?
LILY COLLINS: Well, I think any young girl who reads a series like this, where there is such an amazing female character, I think everyone is secretly like, ‘I wish I was Clary.’ Not because she has these two guys fighting for her attention —
But it’s kind of nice!
[Laughs] Not going to lie, that’s a perk to Clary, but the thing about her that I love is that she’s this strong, empowered young woman who is going through normal teenage life, and yet all these different crazy situations are thrown at her and she handles it with such grace. I [always thought], “She’s feisty and she kicks butt and she’s got this amazing adventure story.”So I totally would have loved to play Clary when I was reading it but never did I imagine that the day would come that I actually got to play her. So for me, like you said, I was a fan before, so it was a fan getting to live out a dream. So that made it all the more special for me.
What was your reaction the first time you saw some of the sets?
Oh my gosh! When I saw the Institute library where Hodge (Jared Harris) hangs out and where a lot of the fight sequences take place, that was the first time when I went, ‘This is exactly how I imagined it!’ The epic proportion of it, the detail — so many books had been hand-painted that you don’t even see. The amount of time and energy that went into making those sets…they were just vast and massive. And then the City of Bones, all the graveyards and skulls they had put in [it]. The art department is just so incredible and the aging on all the weapons and everything, they spared no expense to make it perfect. Even if the audience doesn’t see every particular thing that they put in the set, walking around it truly felt like we were there. It transforms you and transcends any reality that you’re in. All of a sudden, you’re just a part of it.
So as a fan, what was your favorite scene to shoot?
Hmm, there’s so many different scenes [that] are all so different! I mean, the fight sequences were fun.
What was your training like for that?
We trained like three months before filming. Stunt training and physical fitness, and then every day while we were filming, getting up at four or five in the morning I would train and then go to set. We had the stunt coordinators, we had aerial training with wires. We were training with swords and knifes — it was the most intense experience I ever had with training. I came off the project so exhausted, but it was worth it because I got to learn so many new kinds of tricks. Hopefully if [the movie] goes to sequel I would get to show more skill with it which would be amazing.
NEXT PAGE: Collins talks about Cassandra Clare and her feelings about Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace. Plus: That ending!