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The fairy tale life of "Mirror Mirror" star Lily Collins

By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - With her dark eyes, dark hair and pale skin, actress Lily Collins certainly fits the bill to play 'the fairest of them all' in the new retelling of classic Snow White tale in the upcoming film, "Mirror Mirror."

The movie, which comes out on Friday, sees an exiled Snow White teaming with seven rebel dwarfs and one prince (Armie Hammer) to defeat an evil Queen (Julia Roberts), take back her kingdom and restore it to its former glory before Snow White's father died.

Yet the 23-year-old Collins, whose previous acting credits include playing Sandra Bullock's daughter in "The Blind Side" and Taylor Lautner's love interest in "Abduction," learned she had a lot more in common with Snow than just looks.

"I feel like Snow and my experience paralleled a lot during the shoot," Collins told Reuters. "At the beginning of the story, she's very wide-eyed, innocent and unsure of what's happening. I started out very wide-eyed and excited, but unsure of what was going on."

As the "Mirror Mirror" story progresses, Snow White learns to stand up to her evil step-mother and fight for her rights when she becomes part of the dwarves' army.

Collins said she also became a fighter, both emotionally and physically, during the shoot and pre-production as she learned about the acting craft and studied fencing and sword fighting.

Snow White blossoms into a young woman who embraces life and love and believes in herself, leading to a deeper understanding of the world around her.

"I too became more open to living life to the fullest and believing that you can put your mind to doing anything and really accomplish it. I left a very inspired young woman based on what I learned as Snow," Collins said.

SINGER, DANCER, JOURNALIST

Not that Collins needed much inspiration -- in the performing arts, anyway -- because showbiz already runs in her veins. Her father is Grammy and Oscar-winning British musician Phil Collins of Genesis fame. Although the younger Collins was born in the U.K., her parents divorced when she was five, and she moved to Los Angeles with her mother, where she grew up.

In at least one way, "Mirror Mirror" proves that Collins is indeed her father's daughter. A Bollywood-style song and dance sequence during the end credits of the film showcases her singing talents.

"I didn't tell my dad I was singing in the movie because I wanted to shock him by playing him the song," said Collins. "He loved it! He made me replay it a couple times because he didn't believe it was me!"

Although Collins enjoys singing, she is not looking to pursue a career in music, saying that at the moment, "my heart and soul is in acting."

But that wasn't always the case. As a teenager, journalism was her passion. She was published in Elle Girl and Seventeen magazines and in 2008, she worked as a journalist for kids network Nickelodeon, covering the U.S. presidential campaign.

She went on to begin studying broadcast journalism and communication at the University of Southern California, but she had to decide between school and acting when she found herself shooting "The Blind Side" in Atlanta and flying back to L.A. for exams. She has since deferred her schooling but plans on returning.

"That was grueling," said Collins, "but it was worth it because I was able to finish the semester. When I do go back, I want to be there fully and not think about what time I need to be at my next audition."

No matter what happens with school, Collins said she'll always be a journalist even as her acting career grows.

"Journalism is something I've always loved and continue to use everyday," she confessed. "I'm a genuinely interested person. I carry a notebook. I ask questions, and I'm social. In learning about character traits for roles, it's the best way to do research. So I'm still going to be a journalist at heart."

(Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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