Andrew Stanton‘s John Carter is based off the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lynn Collins plays the novel’s eponymous princess, Dejah Thoris. But rather than a damsel in distress waiting for the Earthman John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) to come to her rescue, she can hold her own and kick some ass. When I went to the set of John Carter with some of my fellow movie bloggers, Collins spoke to us about her martial arts training, Dejah’s fighting style training, the three hours it takes to cover her body in intricate tattoos, what the tattoos mean, and more. “John Carter” may be the title of the movie, but don’t be surprised if we’re paying just as much attention to the Princess of Mars.
Hit the jump to check out the interview. John Carter opens in 3D on March 9th.
Question: So how are you geared up for the fights?
LYNN COLLINS: I’ll let you see part of the costume. As you can see, there’s not much of it. The tattoos are being rubbed off because of the armor. Here’s the armor. A beautiful breastplate. So yeah, hit me. It’s amazing. It feels so different. It’s like we’re in a different movie now. We shot for three months in green screen in London. Now that we’re outdoors and dealing with the natural elements, it’s totally different. Utah and Arizona, this area that we’re in is just awe-inspiring. There’s an unforgiving beauty to it all. It was helping me, I’m sure, get into it more.
We hear you did some sword-fighting. How are you enjoying the staged combat?
COLLINS: Several sword-fighting scenes! I’m a trained martial artist. My parents were both martial artists. I came into this project with a little extra Umph. I’ve been boxing with my trainer and there’s something so gratifying wielding the sword. We just don’t have that in this day and age unless you’re going to the renaissance faire and getting dressed up. It’s so empowering and fantastic. The people that are coaching and teaching me are just wonderful. Andrew Stanton, he’s so wonderful and created such a great group that everything is so fun.
Do you have a lot of mobility with that armor?
COLLINS: You know, they have several different pieces. This is the classic version and they’ve got a hero version which is metal. They’ve had to adjust the arms, which are detachable, so that I can move. One of the things about Dejah — and I don’t know if this makes sense to you all — is that, when she’s fighting, she’s operating on a diagonal so that it doesn’t look like a normal sort of fight. It’s sort of on a spin. We had to adjust, because it was rubbing me raw. As you can see, it’s rubbing the tats right off.
COLLINS: Yeah, the makeup people decided that the red men would, instead, be these beautiful tattoos. And then you can see my blood. We’ve got blue blood as red men. Instead of painting people crimson. Nobody looks good that way. Everyone, instead, has what I call a “hyper-tan” with different shades and hues that separate them from Taylor’s character, who is all white.
What’s the prep time when you come to set?
COLLINS: Three and a half hours. Underneath this, I have freckles and very light eyes that aren’t blue. They’re green. And my hair is a dirty, dusty blonde. It’s really so fun to go through this transformation every day. I could complain about the hours but, when everything is said and done, I look in the mirror and think that this is what I dream about. Playing characters that are benevolent, powerful females. They’re doing such a great job making the image something that everybody can bite into.
Can you talk a little about your character?
COLLINS: Yeah, Dejah Thoris is the regent of science and letters on Helium, which is sort of the peaceful city of Mars. But she’s also the Princess of Helium. That’s sort of revealed in the movie. There’s an incredible masculine/feminine combination that I’m working with. It’s just dealing with that personally, myself. Every role that you accept makes you grow in some way. It’s part of the creative process. She’s just a benevolent, powerful feminine force. I feel like I’ll be able to take so much of that away with me and filter that into the next roles I play.
COLLINS: No, she gets right into the fights. And may fight even better.
What’s the interaction like with the actors wearing motion-capture suits?
COLLINS: Oh, it’s fantastic. Their job is so difficult, especially here. It’s one thing to be against a green screen in London. To be out here in this environment in the green suits must be so difficult for them. But Samantha and Polly and Willem and Thomas — what they’re doing is really so difficult. They’re having to create these characters that have multiple arms. They have to rely on so much. We have to rely on so much as well. Really, creativity is blossoming on this set. Because we don’t have a choice! (laughs)
How is the acting against looking at the fake head?
COLLINS: I’m horrible at it! We keep doing takes and everyone keeps pointing above his face. “Look up! Look up!” It’s really difficult. Especially because these actors are so fine. I want to be engaging with their faces! I don’t want to look at the grey head. When they’re on stilts, it’s a lot easier.
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