The Badass Interview: Lynn Collins, JOHN CARTER’s Princess Of Mars

Devin sits down with the woman behind Dejah Thoris.

The last thing I expected from John Carter was to end up in love with Dejah Thoris, the female lead. In movies like this women are usually secondary to the men, and the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels had Dejah as little more than a recurring damsel in distress who also happened to be the prettiest woman in the known universe. There wasn't much to her. 

And I didn't know much about Lynn Collins, the actress playing Dejah. I knew she had been in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was a neat coincidence since John Carter himself, Taylor Kitsch, had also been in that junk, but that was about it. I think that freshness is part of what made Collins work so well in the role. Also in her favor: she's a grown woman. IMDB has her in her mid-30s, an age where Hollywood usually begins discarding actresses. Any other movie would have cast a 22 year old in this role, but Andrew Stanton saw that the experience and depth a grown up would bring to the role would make a huge difference.

I actually talked to Collins THREE times at the John Carter junket - once at a round table, once on video and once in a one-on-one. This is the one-on-one.

There’s the fine line when you’re doing something epic and big between being serious and amazing and being silly. How do you walk that fine line?

I think it’s trust. You have to trust yourself. If you commit 100% it won’t be silly. You have to go in there, focus, commit and be there. If you’re 100% committed that’s when the audience 100% commits. And that? That’s what you want.

Coming from a stage background you’re projecting and going big, but in film you want to make it more intimate. Can you talk about balancing that?

I’ve always been big, so that’s a blanket statement. Everybody’s always trying to tone me down, from my stylist to my publicist to my husband. The difference I feel is that the third wall in theater is kind of like the camera in making movies. What’s spiritual about it is this [theatrical] fourth wall becomes a cycle of human energy. This [cineman] you can’t cycle with it. But you know at some point it’s going to be a mass. So there’s another energy you have to bring to it. I bring in the universe, God, the higher self - whatever you want to call it, and it started with this movie. It started on the first take. I was in the make-up, in the costume, all this shit, I had worked out until I couldn’t fucking work out anymore, I couldn’t take it... and now what do I do? [Snaps] Bring it up. Bring it forward. Channel it through me, make me this feminine force. With the camera, having that energy there, the spiritual energy and the vibes within me, I could connect to that mass even though I couldn’t see them. Even though they hadn’t seen it yet. That’s why I love film.

How important is the physical aspect? You talk about working out until you couldn’t anymore, about the costumes, the henna tattoos - how important is that you as an actress?

Is it important? Yes it is. Is it my favorite part? Yes. I’m a morpher. That’s why I do it. It’s probably cost me some paychecks and recognition, but whatever. I love to bring my soul to a different face, bring my soul to a different body. To embody someone else. That’s where the craft is to me. I call acting the craft, and it’s sort of like witchcraft to me. I do a lot of weird stuff to get in it. What I believe other people connect to is the soul. That soul string is what Andrew [Stanton] pulls. It’s not the heart string - it’s much deeper.

You’ve lost recognition and paychecks because of your morphing - it’s different for men. Christian Bale changes his appearance and everyone loves it. Robert De Niro’s career was buil on drastic physical changes. Do you think there’s a double standard with this when it comes to women?

I do think you’re right. I think what we know as an American actress is very defined, and I’m very not that. I have a slew of people I pay to tell me no. I never wanted to be cookie cutter, because if I was cookie cutter how could i play the juicy roles? How could I touch people the way I do? How could I play roles where I was ugly? I did this role in Angel’s Crest and my mother said, ‘God, you’re so ugly’ and I was like ‘YES!’ Being able to change and touch people is amazing.

I don’t want to disparage anybody’s work, but the system seems to reward actors who play themselves in different situations, not people who become different characters.

It’s complicated. There’s Type A and Type B. Type A, you don’t have to think that much. Type B? Oh no, you gotta really kick it up. We, as a society, do not uphold intelligence. We don’t anymore. Now with these two big blockbuster movies, I’m still going to do morphing.

Dejah Thoris is an asskicker who is smart and sexy but also human in a real way. She’s the kind of female character we rarely see in film. How do you balance those elements of her?

A lot of it we came out of the gate really strong. There were a couple of [scenes of Dejah punching John Carter] we took out of the movie, and then we tempered her and gave her more accessibility and vulnerability. As these layers are being added, I’m changing. It became this marriage of Andrew and my ideas. Then you put the clothes on, and the clothes do so much. I didn’t have to think about my face or my body at all. All I had to do was follow my directive... like Wall-E!