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Conversation with Lynn Collins About ďJohn CarterĒ,
Andrew Stanton, and Her Sword Ė ďKittenĒ

By Dave Parfitt
Question and answer transcript provided by Walt Disney Studios: Ė January 3, 2012
Please tell me about your character.
Lynn Collins: Dejah Thoris is the Regent of Science and Letters, so sheís a very intelligent woman.  Sheís also the princess of Helium, which is one of the cities of Mars.

You really donít know exactly where they are history-wise on Mars in the film, but you do know that females are considered equals and that there are men and women fighting together.  I found it so wonderfully modern and so exciting to be part of.  I think Dejahís in touch with both sides of her persona, the feminine and the masculine, and thatís so powerful.  And as an actor it is so rewarding to play somebody who is actually so well-balanced in that masculine and feminine to where the part about being a princess in a classic sense really just kind of comes in ever so slightly. Itís so exciting to be working on a character like this because sheís such a strong feminine force with also all the vulnerabilities that come with being a female but with strength as well.

What drew you to this film when they first proposed it to you?
LC: I was drawn to this project from the very beginning because not often does a strong, powerful feminine role come on my radar. So Iím beyond grateful to be working on Dejah Thoris.  There is also a message that is a parallel to Earth and our progression that really connects me to this film emotionally.  There is this back wall of social consciousness that weíre working with that feeds a deeper level for me.  At the end of the day, thatís what wakes me up in the morning.

How did you prepare yourself mentally for this role?
LC: I thought to myself, what would be my ideal in a woman, in a warrior, in a princess and in someone who rules a people?  I really focused and concentrated on those ideas and let them remain in my subconscious.  There were moments where I thought that itís too much to embody, but there is something archetypal about Dejah Thoris.  So I sort of got out-of-the-way and let myself just be a channel for this powerful feminine force.

Whatís your greatest challenge as an actor in playing this part?
LC: I was pretty nervous about coming in and doing a lot of the sword work but after a week of training, I felt so comfortable with my sword that I named it Kitten.  Kitten and I have a rapport now, so thereís not much fear going on anymore.

What can you tell us about the dynamic of John Carter and Dejah Thorisí relationship?
LC: Itís so interesting to me because Iím really big into astrology.  So the way Iíve approached this is seeing his character like the planet Earth and her character like the planet Mars and the qualities that they embody are so different.  Taylor and I are very different people, so I think that is really bringing so much to the project and to the chemistry that we have.  We are just so different in real life that on screen you do believe sheís from Mars and heís from Earth and you wonder how they are going to get together.

Thereís a banter that happens through the tension that they are male and female, but sheís so different than he would expect and so strong that interesting things start happening to his resistance.  John Carter is like, ďWhat kind of woman is this?Ē  The way the dialogue is written is incredible; itís so much fun to play.

This movie has adventure and epic locations but it also has deep heart to it.  Could you talk about the heart from Dejahís point of view?
LC: The heart of the story for my character Dejah Thoris is very much about saving her people and thatís about as big of an objective as you can get.  When she meets John Carter everything sort of shifts and yet the prime objective is still to save her people.  She falls in love with him, and although that does not change her objective, it definitely changes her perspective.

What is the element that makes ďJohn CarterĒ a great story to be brought to the screen?
LC: The most extraordinary thing about this film to me is that it is such a milestone in science fiction.  The books, and even the script, work with ideas that are so far reaching and the visual is so huge.

The book itís based on was published in 1917.  Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the series of books and my grandfatherís generation grew up with these stories.  Many films have taken themes from them and even visual ideas.  Itís been sort of the backbone of a very archetypal story that I think we really want to see in films. Itís so amazing to be part of a project that is so broad and that is creating a world that no one has ever seen before.

Could you talk about Edgar Rice Burroughs and Andrew Stanton and how the combination of talents is going to create an epic adventure?
LC: Andrew is so incredible.  He uses his power as a director with such grace and elegance and heís so specific and eloquent.  Because you have someone at the helm who is that specific, the story is going to pop.  Heís always thinking about the story and how to tell the story.  Andrew has a thorough understanding of the Edgar Rice Burroughsí source material, but is taking some liberties, which go even further than Edgar Rice Burroughs probably could have imagined.

Do you think that the characters in ďJohn CarterĒ will appeal to a wide audience even if they havenít read the original books?
LC: Definitely.  The characters are well developed and relatable.  Andrewís casting was really incredible.  He chose actors who brought their own unique qualities to the film and are very likeable.  Everyoneís so different that itís going to be a smorgasbord for the audience.

Tell me about the broad-ranging expanse and scope of the movie from the American West to the planet Mars.
LC: Itís super expansive and rich.  Itís just a beautiful sensibility that they have.  But itís so different from Earth to Mars that itís like doing two completely different films.  Itís going to be a visual feast in that regard.

The scope is huge.  I think that the fun of it is that we get to play and there are no boundaries.  It really just set a new bar.  People want something thatís going to take them to another place.  And this certainly is going to do that.

What has been your favorite scene so far?
LC: I think my favorite one is the most challenging as well.  It is a scene in which Iím addressing the scientists about a project that Iíve been working on for a long time to find a new power source.  That scene involves a monologue, and talking about science was the most challenging thing for me.  Thereís also a fight sequence that was a lot of fun where Iím fighting in a wedding dress, which was sort of irreverent.  I couldnít think about what I was wearing.  I just had to concentrate on my objective, which was to kick some butt.

Could you talk about how important contemporary social issues, like depleting the planetís resources, are to the story?
LC: Thematically itís incredibly contemporary, which is one of the reasons why Iím so attracted to this material.  Hopefully the audience is going to come out not just having the ride of their life and falling in love with these characters, but theyíre going to leave the theaters thinking about their own actions and our actions as society as a whole and how we treat the planet.

What is it like working with the director, Andrew Stanton?
LC: I just canít talk enough about Andrew Stanton.  He is so incredible and has made me personally feel so safe to explore myself in this role and in this world.  Iím not only feeling like I am expanding as an actor but Iím expanding as a human being as well.  The whole process is such a discovery and a journey with Andrew and I just I feel so safe as an artist.

And I think any story that Andrew Stanton is a part of is going to be elevated.  Heís that type of artist whose confidence is so true that his ego is out-of-the-way.  Heís really just about the work, facilitating the story.  And as an actor, I appreciate that so much because my process is made easier because heís so clear and heís so defined.  He knows this story and knows what he wants to accomplish.

There are a lot of practical sets involved, yet theyíre going to be enhanced by CGI and visual effects.  How does the balance between the two feel to you as an actor?
LC: I just have such tremendous faith in Andrew Stanton that any sort of wondering what itís going to be like when itís finished is just taken away from me.  I trust so much in his vision.  I think being in Utah really punched it home for me as to the harsh environment that my character would have grown up in.  In some ways I wish that I would have had a taste of this while we were in London.  London was difficult because we were just working so nonstop with green screen and really had to go places in our imaginations.

Youíre acting with a great cast of Tharks: Willem Dafoe, Samantha Morton, Polly Walker, Thomas Haden Church.  How are they able to get a performance across and interact with you?
LC: Theyíre doing an amazing job bringing the sort of physicality that theyíre creating and the voices to their roles.  Itís just been remarkable to watch. For me itís all about remembering to look up where their heads would be as they are like 9-feet tall in the film.  Thatís so difficult because you have these incredible actors who are so engaging, so Iím constantly looking at their faces.  Everyoneís pointing up, to say, ďLook up.Ē

But Andrew [Stanton] was really helpful by aiding in visualization from the very beginning.  The offices are just full of pictures and images and this trajectory of the story.  Everything was very clearly laid out for us in a way that enabled us to visualize as much as possible.  That really helped me a lot in my scenes with the Tharks.

How do the Thernsí actions affect your character in ďJohn CarterĒ?
LC: The Therns possess a technology, which is like a parallel to our nuclear technology.  They have given that power to the Zodangans as part of their master plan.   My character, Dejah, is also working to perfect the same technology.  Dejah is striving for this technology to be used for peace, whereas the Therns have ulterior motives that are quite selfish in the end.

Who are the villains in the film?
LC: Dominic West plays Sab Than, king of the Zodangans, and Mark Strong plays the leader of the Therns.  Andrew Stanton, with his genius, cast these guys perfectly.  They are able to bring up villainous qualities to portray these characters, but youíre still attracted to them as an audience member and want to watch them and be excited by them.

How do you think Taylor Kitsch handled the physical aspects of his role?
LC:  I admire Taylor very much for the way heís handled his very physical workload.  It was definitely a process for him to learn how to manifest his energy and how much to expend and how much to hold back to pace himself throughout the day.  Itís a tough job and he tackled it well.

Is there a physical side to your part too?
LC: Thereís a lot of fighting and a lot of wirework.  I had this terrible fear of heights but that fear has been completely dashed because of this movie.  Taylorís character, John Carter, does a lot of jumping and a lot of those jumps involved holding me.  So, Iím being flung everywhere in the process.  Itís hard work, but itís so great to have a director whom you trust and you can believe that the hard work that you put in is going to pay off.

People donít realize how much interaction and collaboration it takes to make a movie.  Can you talk about that?
LC: I think people would be surprised at the amount of time and the number of people that go into just creating the characterís look, from the leather to the metal to the makeup to the hair, even to the spray tanner Iím wearing.  The armor and the swords used by all the characters had to specifically created and ready when needed.  So many people go into creating every aspect, every small detail.  But itís really fun to collaborate along the way with this great group of people.

Youíre a classically trained actor from Juilliard and got your start as Ophelia on a New York stage.  Is there something that you take from that experience and bring to this?
LC: In the Juilliard program, they donít really get intense about methods but they do get intense about voice and speech.  I was from Texas and I had a Texas accent, which I worked really hard to not have.  In this film I have a British accent and that training at Juilliard was invaluable to me to know how to be able to use my voice and to create new ways of speaking.  So in that aspect Iíve been able to bring that skill to whatever play Iím doing, or film or TV project.  To me itís how the character speaks that really makes me feel like Iím getting into the role.

And now that you have been working so much in films are you still going to work in theater?
LC:  Yes.  But the lifestyle of the theater is really intense.  Your whole day leads up to your performance and I always feel like it has to be right and when I do it, Iím 110% in it.  It really is your life and thereís something so intoxicating about working with an audience and feeling them, and them feeling you, in this amazing cycle of energy that happens.  And that interaction gets you through that lifestyle and gets you through that process.  Iím just waiting for the right play to come along to get back into it.

Did you enjoy working in London and did you enjoy spending that much time in Europe?
LC: Yes, I did.  I love London.  I went to Oxford when I was 17 and did a summer program there and fell in love with it.  I really enjoy the city and the people and the richness of its culture.  It was a pleasure to work there and meet new people.

Do you enjoy roles that are in the science fiction genre?
LC: It was always a dream of mine to play a powerful female character, no matter what genre.  I was so happy to see, on the page, such a strong, charismatic, powerful female.  I jumped at the opportunity and was so excited to even be considered for the role.  Itís so exciting to be here.

How do you like your costumes?
LC:  Mayes Rubeoís costumes are great.  Sheís an incredible designer.  My costumes range from warrior attire to a wedding gown, which was quite spectacular with all of its Swarovski crystals.  The look of Dejahís costumes had me rather scantily clad at times, but I got used to it!

Is it true that the story has a lot of surprises and constantly changes?
LC: Yes.  The wonderful thing about this story is that it just keeps you guessing and it keeps moving.  It has an almost mercurial quality to it because there are so many elements.  I think people will want to see it again because there is so much to the story that they will get something different from it every time.

©Disney Enterprises, Inc.


Lynn Collins Interview II
Ref: http://collider.com

So how are you geared up for the fights?
LYNN COLLINS: Iíll let you see part of the costume. As you can see, thereís not much of it. The tattoos are being rubbed off because of the armor. Hereís the armor. A beautiful breastplate. So yeah, hit me. Itís amazing. It feels so different. Itís like weíre in a different movie now. We shot for three months in green screen in London. Now that weíre outdoors and dealing with the natural elements, itís totally different. Utah and Arizona, this area that weíre in is just awe-inspiring. Thereís an unforgiving beauty to it all. It was helping me, Iím sure, get into it more.

We hear you did some sword-fighting. How are you enjoying the staged combat?
Several sword-fighting scenes! Iím a trained martial artist. My parents were both martial artists. I came into this project with a little extra Umph. Iíve been boxing with my trainer and thereís something so gratifying wielding the sword. We just donít have that in this day and age unless youíre going to the renaissance faire and getting dressed up. Itís so empowering and fantastic. The people that are coaching and teaching me are just wonderful. Andrew Stanton, heís so wonderful and created such a great group that everything is so fun.

Do you have a lot of mobility with that armor?
You know, they have several different pieces. This is the classic version and theyíve got a hero version which is metal. Theyíve had to adjust the arms, which are detachable, so that I can move. One of the things about Dejah ó and I donít know if this makes sense to you all ó is that, when sheís fighting, sheís operating on a diagonal so that it doesnít look like a normal sort of fight. Itís sort of on a spin. We had to adjust, because it was rubbing me raw. As you can see, itís rubbing the tats right off.

Can you talk about the tattoos and what they mean for your character?
Yeah, the makeup people decided that the red men would, instead, be these beautiful tattoos. And then you can see my blood. Weíve got blue blood as red men. Instead of painting people crimson. Nobody looks good that way. Everyone, instead, has what I call a ďhyper-tanĒ with different shades and hues that separate them from Taylorís character, who is all white.

Whatís the prep time when you come to set?
Three and a half hours. Underneath this, I have freckles and very light eyes that arenít blue. Theyíre green. And my hair is a dirty, dusty blonde. Itís really so fun to go through this transformation every day. I could complain about the hours but, when everything is said and done, I look in the mirror and think that this is what I dream about. Playing characters that are benevolent, powerful females.  Theyíre doing such a great job making the image something that everybody can bite into.

Can you talk a little about your character?
Yeah, Dejah Thoris is the regent of science and letters on Helium, which is sort of the peaceful city of Mars. But sheís also the Princess of Helium. Thatís sort of revealed in the movie. Thereís an incredible masculine/feminine combination that Iím working with. Itís just dealing with that personally, myself. Every role that you accept makes you grow in some way. Itís part of the creative process. Sheís just a benevolent, powerful feminine force. I feel like Iíll be able to take so much of that away with me and filter that into the next roles I play.

Sheís not just a princess that the prince fights for her?
No, she gets right into the fights. And may fight even better.

Whatís the interaction like with the actors wearing motion-capture suits?
Oh, itís fantastic. Their job is so difficult, especially here. Itís one thing to be against a green screen in London. To be out here in this environment in the green suits must be so difficult for them. But Samantha and Polly and Willem and Thomas ó what theyíre doing is really so difficult. Theyíre having to create these characters that have multiple arms. They have to rely on so much. We have to rely on so much as well. Really, creativity is blossoming on this set. Because we donít have a choice! (laughs)

How is the acting against looking at the fake head?
Iím horrible at it! We keep doing takes and everyone keeps pointing above his face. ďLook up! Look up!Ē Itís really difficult. Especially because these actors are so fine. I want to be engaging with their faces! I donít want to look at the grey head. When theyíre on stilts, itís a lot easier.


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