Lily Collins on Playing a Character with Anorexia After Her History of Eating Disorders

lily collins anorexic
credit: @lilyjcollins/Instagram

Lily Collings was extremely open with her history of facing eating disorders in her memoir Unfiltered. But that doesn’t mean she was ready to relive the experience. But that’s precisely what the actress does in her new Netflix film, To the Bone.

Collins had just finished writing the chapter on her anorexia for memoir Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me when she received the script for To the Bone. She told Refinery29,

“It was like the universe literally throwing it in my face saying, this is something you need to address either for yourself or for other young people going through it out there.”

In the movie, Collins plays a young artist who is currently in treatment for her severe anorexia. It required Collins to shed a few pounds, which understandably made her nervous.

“It was something that I thought is risky, because there’s a fine line between facing something head-on and succeeding, or falling back into it. But I knew that this time, I would be held accountable for it. I would be [losing weight] under the supervision of a nutritionist and surrounded by all these amazing women on set. So, I knew that I would be in a safe environment to explore this.”

Even with all of Lily’s personal experiences with the disease, she still took immense measures to prepare, in order to get the character just right.

“We went to an Anorexic Anonymous group beforehand for prep, and I met with the head of the L.A. Clinic for Eating Disorders. I could actually openly talk about my history for the first time with people, and receive feedback from them, and get the sense of not being alone, which was the whole point of writing my book: to make people understand that they’re not alone or to at least have them feel a little more comforted in knowing that everyone goes through the same struggles. So, for me to be able to talk openly about my history with them for the first time was something that was so healing for me in a way that I wouldn’t have expected. I always assumed the second that I admitted these things, people would judge me more. In fact, it was just a freeing experience of letting go and then not having these restrictions and feeling like I was in a box in my own head. I was also shedding myself of the title, girl with a disorder. I was able to get rid of that and work through it as the character and also as myself.”

The experience sounds like it was almost cathartic for Lily, who had rarely talked about her disorder out loud to anyone before this. She says she was even able to see herself for the first time, really see herself. As she explains,

“It’s very rare when you’re in the disorder that you can actually see what other people see. You have a distorted view of yourself and you get so sucked into it that you don’t see yourself in that way, and I was so shocked by her showing me. I was really living in that moment, the question of, do you think this is beautiful. Like, do you see yourself? I really saw it and it was so disturbing. It was a moment that I think really resonated a lot, not just as Ellen, but really as myself because I was actually seeing myself. It was a really powerful moment that I was shocked by.”

Eating disorders are often riddled with relapses, so we hope that these experiences will help Lily stay healthy for good.

To the Bone partnered with Project HEAL, a nonprofit dealing with prevention, treatment, and recovery of eating disorders. You can learn more about Project HEAL here.

Watch the trailer below.

Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.