Sunday, March 18, 2012

An Ode to Lynn Collins

How is that not the face of a star?
Whenever I see casting news for Lily Collins I always get really excited because in my head they're actually talking about Lynn Collins (I sometimes have the same problem with Emma Watson/Emily Watson. Their names are too similar!). You see, ever since I saw Lynn Collins on stage as Rosalind in the Shakespeare in the Park production of As You Like It back in 2005, I've been one of her biggest fans. She had such an ease on stage and a charisma that drew you in. Her Rosalind had a natural sexiness, even when disguised as a man. Equally adept at both the comedy and the drama and a wonderful command of the language–she made it all look so effortless. I was completely enchanted and left the theatre thinking, 'she's gonna be a big star.'

Apparently, Hollywood had other plans. Lynn Collins is hardly a household name. And despite starring in some big-budgeted projects, she never gained that fame I thought she was destined for. Stardom is such a strange beast. If it was based on talent alone, Collins would already be there. But, there's so many elements at play that are completely elusive. It all depends on what you appear in and what connects with the audience. And sometimes the public is not always the best judge of character. I mean, we're talking about moviegoers that have made Adam Sandler a movie star.

Lynn Collins spent most of her childhood in Asia, which allowed her to learn about different cultures and people–perfect training for a future actor. When she returned to the Houston area, she attended Klein High School with classmates Lee Pace and Matt Bomer. At 17, she attended Juilliard in New York. After graduation, her first professional job was starring as Ophelia opposite Liev Schriber's Hamlet at the Public Theatre. Her first big break came when she was cast as Portia in the film version of The Merchant of Venice opposite Al Pacino as Shylock in 2004. She won the role after a pregnant Cate Blanchett had to drop out. The film was to be a showcase for Pacino, but most reviews praised Collins– signaling a sign of (hopeful) big things to come. Hot off the success of Venice, her Rosalind in the park the next year showed that she was one of her generation's best interpreters of the Bard. But after that is when things started going off-track. She started to appear in indies that no one had heard of or she appeared in forgettable girlfriend roles in things that were a success. (Quick–try to remember her in True Blood or X-Men Origins: Wolverine. ) It was frustrating for me to see her in those roles as I know she was capable of better.

Being cast as Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars, in Andrew Stanton's sure-to-be hit, John Carter, seemed like it would be just the thing to bring her to that next level. Unfortunately, I think we all know how that guaranteed success is turning out. But, the thing is, I saw the movie last weekend (in IMAX 3-D!) and Lynn is great in it. I actually really enjoyed the film as well. It was a lot of fun and gorgeous to look at. I don't understand the hostile critical reaction. It's like they all went in deciding they were gonna hate it. When it was over, the kid in front of me excitedly exclaimed, 'now that's a movie!'

Collins's Dejah isn't just a damsel in distress, but an intellectual (working at the Helium Academy of Science) and a sword-welding warrior. Her years of training in Shakespeare allows Collins to give a depth and believability to what has been criticized for being clunky dialogue. With a reddish-tinged tan (complete with tribal tattoos) and outfitted in skimpy dresses, she's never looked more beautiful on screen. I started to fall in love with her all over again. The film may not have been the hit it was supposed to be, but at least Collins can be proud of the work she did. Hopefully it will just be a stumbling block on the way to a long and successful career. I've kinda given up hope that she'll be the next big thing, but I'm happy as long as I get to see her on stage or screen. And there's always Mirror, Mirror to look forward to...Wait, that's Lily Collins. Dammit...

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