INTERVIEW WITH LILY COLLINS
Howard Hughes has to be one of the most intriguing characters in American history. While a majority of his life was explored in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator—in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the eccentric billionaire—now, Hollywood legend Warren Beatty takes a look at the latter stages of Hughes’ life with Rules Don’t Apply.
The film sees Beatty return to directing for the first time in more than a decade. Here, he also portrays Hughes as a man who wants to shun public life but has just hired a new driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who dreams of becoming a businessman himself, along with a young actress who has stars in her eyes named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins).
Rules Don’t Apply is a change in direction for Collins (the daughter of music legend, Phil Collins), who, up until now, has appeared in big films such as Mirror Mirror and the ill-fated The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones. Collins says it was almost fate that she landed this role, seeing she knew about this film when it was still in concept stage.
“I first became aware of this film five years ago when a friend of mine was telling me about these magical meetings that he was having with Warren Beatty at his house and spending time with his family. He was telling me all these amazing stories and I just sat there in awe thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that is the dream; that’s crazy. That is something I’ll never get to do, but just, wow. Good for you.’ Then, cut to five years later and I got a phone call while I was prepping for a premiere of a film that I was about to premiere and they said Warren Beatty wants to talk to you about his film, and I just would never have thought that five years later I would have come full circle.”
It is obvious as Collins talks that she really admires Beatty and is proud of the fact that she has now had the opportunity to work with him and she says that she became aware of Beatty’s work at a very early age. “I was very aware of Warren Beatty’s work before the film,” she explains. “One of my Dad’s favourite movies is Heaven Can Wait so I’ve been hearing about Mr Beatty since I was a little kid. After I was cast, my mum and I rewatched all of them to just update me again and I loved seeing them a second or third or fourth time… they never get old.”
Collins wasn’t awestruck though and admits that she saw the chance to work with a screen legend like Warren Beatty as something she could gain valuable lessons from. “I can’t count on one hand the amount of stories that Warren told us, and every single day as I heard them, I soaked them in and thought: ‘I’m going to want to remember these when I’m older so I might write that one down.’ I actually kept a journal while we were recording of these interesting tidbits of information that he told us, the wisdom that he imparted on us—stories—as well as creative critiques that he gave me throughout the shoot that I wanted to remember because I would be doing myself a disservice not to remember those, because he was really like a mentor, as well. I was constantly getting the note from Warren to ‘let go more.’”
“It was something I had never been told before so I was hyper-aware of it when he said it and I didn’t realise how useful and magical things can get when you just let go, especially when you are doing take-after-take-after-take. You have to start just relinquishing all self-control in a way and really stop thinking about what you planned to do. Even as an actor, I know it is all about spontaneous moments, but you do have to have a bit of a guideline to where you are going. But once you get to that fifth, sixth or even seventh take, you have to start playing around with ways that you weren’t even expecting and it is in those moments when some of the most brilliant things happen that would never have happened on take one. So I think I will always take that with me.”
She also says that Beatty really did put his own stamp on the story and the film. “What is so brilliant about what Warren created in this tonally is that it is what one would call a very dramatic story, but he has such a lightness to the tone. He adds a sense of humour when you are least expecting it. Part of what you are not expecting is this romantic relationship between Mr Hughes and Marla and that is what makes the film so comedic. Our scenes together, especially the drunken scene, are epically long – I think it was a twelve or thirteen-page scene that is just so funny and I love that you can mix a drama with comedy in such a beautiful way and have it become something that people not only enjoy but are constantly surprised by.”
The film’s title raised some eyebrows when it was first talked about in the States, but as Collins talks about her character, she says the title fits perfectly. “Marla Mabrey is a young, very religious girl that comes from Virginia. She is contracted under the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes to become a Hollywood star and she comes under the assumption that there are a certain set of rules that a young woman must abide by in the entertainment industry to be successful and it’s throughout her journey in Los Angeles and throughout the important lessons that she must learn. It’s also through her relationship with Frank, who is also a contracted driver under the Hughes Corporation, that she, throughout her experiences, realises that the rules really don’t apply to everyone and it is about their interactions with the craziness of Mr Hughes. I think it’s really interesting because at the start of the story, Mara comes to Los Angeles with her mother and she is very naive, she is very religious, and she kind of thinks she knows it all; which I think anyone coming to L.A. at that age would have thought the same thing. But throughout the story and throughout the lessons that she learns and through her relationship with Frank and her interactions with Howard Hughes, she really becomes a strong and independent woman. And it’s throughout those experiences that it really defines her character as strong. She has to become independent because she is no longer there with her mum and it’s through those roadblocks that she is thrown that she realises that she is in a sink-or-swim situation and she develops an individuality from that.“
Rules Don’t Apply is in cinemas right now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au
Written by Dave Griffiths