In the anorexia drama To The Bone, Lily Collins had a rare chance to dive back into a painful period from her past. In the film, she plays Ellen, an anorexic 20-year-old whose battle with the disorder leads her to a group treatment center led by an unorthodox doctor (played by Keanu Reeves). However, taking on the film presented a unique challenge for the star. When she was younger, she herself had battled with eating disorders. When she received the script for To the Bone, she had just finished writing a chapter about those battles for her memoir, Unfiltered. But while most people might be repelled at the thought of diving into such a personal issue onscreen, Collins saw an opportunity to excavate something true.
“It’s very rare that one gets the opportunity to wear shoes you once wore with a different mindset and perspective on things,” she tells Vanity Fair. To The Bone, V.F. can exclusively reveal, will be released by Netflix on July 14. An exclusive image from the film can be seen below.
There’s a lot about the disorder that Collins just “didn’t learn when I was going through it,” she continues. “I didn’t go into treatment, I didn’t seek out professional help. . . . I kind of just figured it out on my own. And this was an amazing opportunity to gain knowledge.”
Collins, of course, has since been applauded for being forthcoming about her journey, particularly as it pertains to her book. One notable fan is Michelle Obama, who recently sent the actress a thank-you letter for giving her a copy of the memoir. Collins, who has never met the iconic First Lady and plans on framing that letter, was shocked when she received it. “Crazy! Oh my goodness! I just sent the book not knowing if it would ever reach her,” she says, calling the First Lady an “inspiration to a lot of us.”
Collins worked with a nutritionist to get down to an Ellen-sized frame. Still, she found herself relating to the character in deeply personal ways, saying it was initially “terrifying” to go back into that mental space. ”I knew what depriving yourself felt like.”
The film was written and directed by Marti Noxon, who told the story from a personal place. She too had battled with eating disorders, which is why she was able to imbue the story with a “sick kind of dark humor” that people close to the disorder will understand. Collins describes one scene where her character is at dinner, but she’s so afraid of food that she chews it up, then spits it out at the table. However, all the characters are “laughing the whole time,” she says, finding the humor in the bleak moment. “You need the balance.”
Noxon’s gift for finding the balance made the twenty-something-day shoot fun for her cast. That, coupled with Keanu Reeves’s famously zen persona (“So zen!” Collins exclaims. “He’s so kind, he’s very quiet, he’s lovely, lovely, lovely”) made a potentially bleak filming experience a fond one for the actress, especially because of the way it helped her cope with a dark period from her own past.
“This movie really helped break me down in ways that I didn’t even know I could analyze. . . . I think it really helped me let go a lot,” she says. “I’m really forever grateful for Marti.”