Coming, as she does, from music royalty, Lily Collins strives to be more than just the daughter of Phil.
While her early years in acting were tentative, 2021 saw Emmy, Golden Globe and MTV Award nominations for her portrayal of the eponymous Emily in Paris, on Netflix.
Here, the 33-year-old discusses career, contentment, and periods of conflict in her life.L
Lily Collins was born into show business. The daughter of singing legend Phil Collins, she was always primed for success. Vivacious and sparkling in person, in interviews she approaches every conversation with an upbeat and confident manner, ever smiling and gracious.
Yet this sociability shouldn’t disguise a drive and ambition that is every bit her father’s. While her ascent into the mainstream hasn’t quite been as accelerated as that of the former Genesis lead singer and drummer, she remains a singer and actress who has considerable clout, and incredible potential.
From a major breakthrough in 2019 opposite Zac Efron in the movie Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, a dark crime thriller that told the story of serial killer Ted Bundy; to the publication of her first book, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, which provoked To The Bone, in which she plays a young woman struggling with anorexia, Collins is on a creative acceleration that pushes her further towards fulfilling what are some lofty personal ambitions.
“I am at the stage where lots of opportunities come crashing in at once,” she begins. “That’s no bad thing, but it does put the pressure on selecting the right one.” Certainly, if her career can play out to quite the same length as her father’s, she will be happy. Phil Collins recently reunited with band mates Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, playing out the band’s first live dates together in a decade-and-a-half, and the actress has always been unapologetically proud of what “dad” has achieved, although piggybacking on his success has never been of interest. She wants to carve her own niche… and appears to be doing a pretty good job.
“It’s a challenge to be in the limelight when you are the offspring of someone who has done so much, but I wasn’t the first and I won’t be the last,” says Collins. “Of course, things were different growing up and that’s undoubtedly given me a different perspective on life, but the passion I have to do something important and impressive is no different to that of someone who had grown up without such an obvious inspiration around them.
“In my heart, I would say you are either driven about drama and performance or you aren’t. It’s inherent and you can’t change that.”
Collins admits she did grow up in a household that was immersed in Hollywood culture, a factor that perhaps led her away from music and into drama. “My mother is very interested in the history of the film industry and our house is full of memorabilia. My grandmother was a ballerina during that period, and I studied a lot of her photos and watched a lot of movies of that era to get a feel for how people carried themselves and spoke.
“There’s something so mysterious and alluring about old Hollywood,” she continues. “I’ve always admired legendary actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood and Lana Turner. I love the way the camera lingered on actresses of that era. You see them take in information and respond to it. It’s incredible how they would allow their characters to reveal themselves to audiences.”
Surprisingly though, it wasn’t her hugely successful father who inspired the actress and singer most when it came to extending her reach into the entertainment world.
“The biggest influence on my career is probably Warren Beatty,” she admits, referencing when the pair first met on the lm Rules Don’t Apply, from 2016. “He would tell us great stories about old Hollywood. He has such a talent to isolate us from our environment and the 21st Century tag.
“Warren was like a true mentor to me. How many young actors get the chance to have someone so smart and kind and who knows everything about the business spend a lot of time trying to guide you and impart their knowledge to you.
“When it came to acting, his main advice was to be very present and allow yourself to surprise yourself. That way you can be true to all the emotions your character is experiencing and allow yourself to be more spontaneous and real rather than acting in the strict sense.”
The Netflix series Emily in Paris has undoubtedly taken the 33-year-old into new territory. Certainly in so much as sustaining a comedic role across a premium series, it’s a significant diversion from what has gone before. It also positions the actress as far away from her father as possible; something she says is intentional.
“I’ve made a very conscious effort during my career not to ask my father for support. I didn’t want that to be a factor in my career. I adore him and we stay very close and he’s really my best friend, but I wanted to be able to feel that whatever success I’ve achieved I earned it on my own… I would never even use my father’s name to get into parties in Los Angeles. I just don’t want to be that person!”
Away from the film and TV cameras, Collins is noted for her fashion sensibilities, and treads a careful line between modern and classic. “I’ve always loved vintage because my mother was always wearing vintage,” she says. “I love going to vintage shops and finding old clothes— also furniture. I love the sensation of hunting and discovering objects that you rarely see. I don’t get a chance to do that as often as I used to, but when I do, London is the perfect place for that!”
There is also a passion for journalism that permeates through the work she does. “Despite my father’s success, I grew up in a small town away from London, so my connectivity in the days before the internet was all through magazines.
“I love to write, and I still consider journalism to be something which makes me more attentive to the world and a lot of the critical issues we are facing. “Even now I keep a daily journal and enjoy noting down my observations and thoughts on what is going on in my life and the world around me. It keeps me grounded; it keeps me sane!”
The publication of her first book in 2017 represented a first step in expressing many of the thoughts and ideas that had followed Collins around since childhood, not least when her parents’ divorce meant splitting time between Beverly Hills and the UK.
“I wanted to explore what it’s like to become a young woman… on both sides of the Atlantic. “I wanted to expose a lot of the taboos that girls do not like to talk about: the relationships we have with ourselves, with our parents, with the other sex, and with our bodies.
“As soon as you start discussing these issues and dealing with these feelings you realize that you’re not alone. I felt very vulnerable and exposed while writing it, but I tried to be honest.” That honesty and courage has now carried itself through into Collins’ desire to stay healthy in body and mind.
“I’m glad we’ve got to the point that it’s almost as unusual to find someone who doesn’t look after themselves, than does,” she says.
“When my dad was at the peak of the entertainment world in the 1980s, the notion that the stars of the day would work out, think about mental health, have PTs, and keep an eye on their nutrition, was something out of the lefteld.
“You look at it now and this is the norm, and I take that seriously myself. There is no better way to start the day than getting up and out and exercising, and it feel it really sets me up, mentally and physically.
“I’ve done a lot of self-reflection and a lot of work on myself. I see myself as a young woman who wants to evolve and learn as much as she can about herself and the world around her.
“I’ve thought a lot about my relationships that did not work out” – Collins married film director and writer Charlie McDowell in 2021 – “and I discovered a lot about myself that I hadn’t really understood or appreciated before.
“Everything happens for a reason, so go with the flow!”