Lily Collins reveals she was complimented over weight loss for controversial anorexia film

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Anna Brech
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Anorexia drama To The Bone has already raised a number of disturbing questions about the pressure young women face to be dangerously thin.

And now its lead actor, Lily Collins, has illuminated exactly how that insidious process builds up, as a result of societal attitudes. 

The 28-year-old star, who is the daughter of Phil Collins, revealed that she was complimented by a neighbour after undergoing dramatic weight loss to take on the role of an anorexia victim.

“I was leaving my apartment one day and someone I've known for a long time, my mom's age, said to me, ‘Oh, wow, look at you!’” Collins told Net-A-Porter's digital magazine The Edit

 “I tried to explain [I had lost weight for a role] and she goes, ‘No! I want to know what you're doing, you look great!’ I got into the car with my mom and said, ‘That is why the problem exists.’”

To The Bone is loosely based on the real-life experiences of Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer Marti Noxon, who struggled with anorexia and bulimia growing up.

Earlier this month, Noxon, who wrote and directed the Netflix original film, faced accusations from eating disorders charities that the trailer was potentially “triggering” for those with the disease, and that it breached Responsible Coverage of Eating Disorder guidelines.

Taking to Twitter, Noxon stressed that she had worked closely with both survivors and charities to keep the storyline true to life and responsible, adding that she had no intention of “glamourising” anorexia.

“Having suffered with anorexia and bulimia well into my 20s, I know firsthand the struggle, shame and isolation a person feels when they are in the grips of this illness,” she wrote. 

To The Bone premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it was hailed for its “honest” depiction of what it’s like to suffer from anorexia.

“It’s not an easy sit, nor a terribly entertaining one, but in the hands of writer-director Marti Noxon, it delivers painful insights in a relatively fresh way,” noted Variety magazine.

The topic was important to Collins, who herself suffered from an eating disorder growing up.

“When I went through my eating disorder, I never sought medical assistance,” Collins told Noxon in her latest interview with The Edit. “I created myths in my head about how I should get through things, so the idea that I could surround myself with truth and feel comfortable enough to speak mine allowed me to breathe.

“There's a scene in the film when we're in group therapy talking about the euphoria we experience — I'd never heard that weird enjoyment we feel from being in the disorder worded that way before — and in that moment, you caught Lily understanding it as opposed to just Ellen, my character.”

For this reason, Collins explained, it was difficult for her mum to see the film.

“The first time she was a bit in shock,” she explained. “The second time I looked over at the end and she was sobbing; it really hit her hard… I never wanted her to feel responsible; she’s like my best friend. When she saw the movie, I think she recognized so much of me in Ellen.

“There’s a scene where I’m taking my clothes off to be weighed by Carrie Preston, my stepmom in the movie, who takes a photo on her phone and shows it to me. I didn’t think she’d actually take one but she did. I saw myself in the photo and my heart dropped. So when my mom saw the film, she saw Lily’s reaction because she knows me the best.”

If you or anyone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, seek help and support here.

Images: Rex Features and Getty 


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.