Beatty's 'blink': how veteran trusted his gut with his latest muse, Lily Collins
Beatty didn't hold formal auditions for Rules Don't Apply, a nostalgic look at an aspiring actress, her boyfriend and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes
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To hear Hollywood legend Warren Beatty tell it, casting Lily Collins as the lead of his latest film happened in a blink.
The movie is Rules Don’t Apply, a nostalgic look at an aspiring actress, her limo driver boyfriend and Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire they both work for. There were no formal auditions for the film, just Beatty’s gut instinct and “the blink.”
“I believe very much in what I call ‘the blink,’” says Beatty. “That is the superiority of the unconscious knowledge as compared to conscious knowledge. The knowledge that when we sit and we really give it some thought, the thought we feel it is due. That thought can be misleading when we could have trusted our initial instinct, the blink. I think the unconscious has a lot more intelligence in it than the conscious.
“It was a blink with Lily. I can only say I loved the way she looked. I loved the way she sounded. I loved the way she talked. There was an integrity about her I felt I could believe in this circumstance and at the same time she looked like someone to me who Hollywood would want to exploit.”
Collins plays Marla Mabrey, wannabe movie star and “devout Baptist beauty queen from Virginia.” On the surface the 27-year-old doesn’t have a great deal in common with her on-screen character, but the actress says she understood Marla immediately.
“I could relate to it,” she says. “Starting out acting in Hollywood, very wide eyed, innocent, naïve. Wanting to please everyone. Having my mom there with me. Marla was very adamant and passionate, determined and steadfast. All these things I think I was when I started.”
The actress, who has three movies lined up for next year including Okja with Jake Gyllenhaal and To the Bone with Keanu Reeves, calls working with Beatty a master class in acting. She even kept a journal on set. “I have all these tidbits of information. Things I witnessed that I can now draw on. I would have been a fool not to.”
In particular Beatty taught the star how to think differently about breaking down a script.
“Whenever we would do a scene he kept saying, ‘What are you doing? What is your action? What is your intention?’ At the beginning I read the script as someone who had never broken it down in the way he had, and I’d be like, ‘Right now she’s really emotional. She’s sad. She misses her mom.’ He’d say, ‘Show me what that looks like.’ I can’t because that is an adjective. ‘OK, put it into words. Put it into a verb.’ As soon as I started breaking down a scene based on verbs, it didn’t matter if I cried when it said ‘Marla cries,” because as long as my intention was the same as what her intention was, whatever naturally occurred, occurred. Nothing was fake. Nothing was put on. I think audiences are smart, they can tell. If something seems fake or put on they will not associate with it.
“I soaked in everything,” she says. “Even when I was tired, I subconsciously soaked in everything because I thought, ‘It’s a joy and an honour to be in this situation.’ He could have just picked someone else so I need to take in everything I can.”
In Focus: Richard Crouse