In his latest film, “Rules Don’t Apply,” Warren Beatty takes us into the world of 1950s Hollywood, a land of superficial glamour, empty promises and clandestine attractions. For aspiring actress and devout Baptist Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), life in the limelight challenges her Christian beliefs. Mabrey’s convictions are further shaken when she and her driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), find themselves attracted to each other. Under their contracts with billionaire filmmaker Howard Hughes (Beatty), the two are forbidden to act on their love.
In anticipation of the film’s nationwide release on Nov. 23, The Phoenix sat down with Collins and Ehrenreich to discuss how they prepared for their roles, their thoughts on working with Beatty and the significance of their characters in the film.
For both Collins and Ehrenreich, their roles in Beatty’s latest film come at a time of noteworthy personal success. Collins was honored at the 2016 Hollywood Film Awards with the New Hollywood Award for her role in “Rules Don’t Apply.” She is also expected to star in three films and release her memoir, “Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me,” next year. Ehrenreich is set to star in several films, including a “Star Wars” spin-off, in which he will be replacing Harrison Ford as the lead role of Han Solo.
Collins said she prepared for her role in the film by immersing herself in 1950s cinema to capture the movie’s distinct, vintage vibe.
“[I watched] old movies because actors moved differently back then … You were able to linger more,” Collins said. “I think this film is a little more slow-paced than normal because old films were more slow-paced, since they weren’t editing so fast … I think there’s a feel and a tone that you have to become one with, in a way, when you’re doing a period piece.”
For Ehrenreich, tapping into the world of old-school cinema wasn’t a new experience. The actor expressed how his love for old films since childhood fueled his decision to become an actor, describing the exciting change that comes with starring in a film.
“When you’re a kid and you see the movies, you have one understanding of what [acting] is, but when you’re actually doing it, you learn so much more about what really goes on behind the scenes … you’re seeing it from the first-person perspective instead of from the outside,” Ehrenreich said. “So, I feel like with each movie, it becomes your life. You take it on in this first-person way, and it actually becomes a flesh-and-blood daily life thing, which [it] turns out, for me, is the best part of it.”
Reminiscing on the filming process, Collins described how Ehrenreich’s inherently easygoing attitude made it easier for her to loosen up and personally connect with her character.
“I felt like I could play around, try new things [and] be emotionally raw,” she said. “I had to sing, I had to do all these things that I had never done before in a film, and it makes a world of difference when the person opposite you is one that you kind of feel you can do anything with, or you’d do anything for. It really changes how you move forward … It just gave me more confidence to really let go more.”
Ehrenreich expressed similar thoughts on his compatibility with Collins, saying they “definitely developed a friendship and a bond” during filming.
In terms of her experience working with Beatty, Collins shared how constructively challenging the director was in comparison to others she has worked with in the past.
“I’ve never been so creatively challenged by any other director … [Beatty] knows exactly what he wants and how he is going to get it. He can do that with each individual person because he has gotten to know each person so well that he knows almost the ins and outs of every person, and he knows how to switch it up,” she said. “It’s a creative manipulation of sorts that, in the end, is really beneficial because he really cares and he really takes the time to understand you as a person.”
Collins finally reflected on the film’s major themes, noting her character’s profound ability to prosper despite the fact that the rules of Hollywood simply don’t apply to her.
“Even though [Marla Mabrey] got lost along the way within this magical world of Hollywood, … she was raised to have such deep-set morals and values and a belief in herself … that she was kind of unwavering when it came to a lot of her values,” Collins said. “With Marla, I think she says her piece and she makes her point, but she stays true to who she is … and it makes her grow into a stronger, more independent woman.”