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On February 4, 1938, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs first graced movie screens in the United States. Beyond changing the face of animation forever, that colorful, musical feature introduced audiences to the studio's first ink-and-paint princess, a sweet girl destined to inspire Disney damsels for decades to come. In 2012, on the eve of her 75th birthday, this heroine with a song in her heart and a wicked stepmother on her heels experienced a pop-culture revival. The grim, PG-13 fairy tale Snow White and the Huntsman arrived on the big screen. Television's Once Upon a Time continued to draw strong ratings. But for families, the fairest of them all had to be Mirror Mirror, a fun, playful film starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen, Armie Hammer as Prince Charming, and Lily Collins (daughter of musician Phil Collins) as Snow White. Plugged In spoke with Collins, who explained what it was like injecting an iconic character with 21st-century fortitude.

When we're talking about Snow White, everybody's so familiar with the Disney version where she's a meek and mild-mannered character. She's kind of passive. You play a very different version of Snow White, don't you?
I do. I wanted her to be [reminiscent] of that original version at the beginning, almost devoid of personality and unaware of evil versus good, because she's not been exposed to evil, really, that she's aware of. Almost a caricature of an animated princess, but not quite…

…Even playing with a bird, I noticed.
Even with the bird. It's like, y'know, kinda paying homage to that classic version, but then taking a step back from being that damsel in distress and really making her a fighter, emotionally and physically, and turning her into this girl who fights for what she believes in, finds beauty and confidence within herself, and ends up truly saving the prince as much as the prince saves her. That's definitely not there in the original. It was really fun to play her, because while she's holding a sword, fighting with the prince, she's also wearing ball gowns and corsets. So she maintains that femininity, but at the same time has that inner feist and action quality to her.

Yeah, it seems like this character gave you a chance to grow and evolve within the role, which must have been kind of fun.
Completely, because we shot the beginning of her personality and her story at the beginning of filming. When I look back on it, I see it as this life experience, and I see Lily growing as well as the character. That made it very special.

What sorts of lessons do you hope people going to this movie will take away, particularly when you're talking about girls?
Well, never once does Snow White herself look in a mirror, so she's very unaware of her beauty and what it's doing to people. … She really finds the beauty within herself, and it makes her confident and willing to accept spontaneity and help from others and really go after what she believes in. Young girls can do just as much as the boys. At the same time, it does take a strong man to accept help from a woman. It wasn't supposed to be an in-your-face feminist movie. It just had an undertone of a modern girl who doesn't just sit back and let life pass her by. She takes her destiny into her own hands and tries to fight for what she believes in.

Why do think there's such a focus in our society on beauty? Does it come from the media? Does it come from within ourselves?
The beauty industry is a multibillion-dollar [business]. Every year it grosses so much money and there's so much advertising out there, and it's so in your face everywhere you go. It's hard to ignore those things. Subconsciously, certain things get in your mind [concerning] physical aspects of beauty. It definitely takes making sure you surround yourself with people who love you for you—friends and family—to kind of quiet those thoughts.

Girls and their parents can butt heads over how much makeup is too much. How do you approach this, personally?
During my day-to-day life, less is more. I wear very minimal makeup, because I'm all about keeping my skin healthy, hydrated and moisturized. You wear it a lot when you're working and doing photo shoots and press. And I do like to keep those moments when I put it on as special "getting ready" moments, but I keep it to a minimum in everyday life, because the less there is on, the less there is to go wrong.

In today's culture, do you believe fairy tales are still important?
I do, especially with the world today, issues going on and what families are faced with every day. It's nice to disappear for a little while into this world where adults can kind of recreate those kid-like qualities in themselves as well as having kids revel in their imagination. Being able to share that as a family is really important, because there are less and less things families really enjoy doing together. Fairy tales are so well-known, universal and timeless that families can bond over them and disappear from issues for a little while until those bonds become more secure and families can take them back into reality.

Published February 2013

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