‘Okja’ interview: Lily Collins on Cannes, working with Paul Dano and acting to a ‘giant stuffy pig’

We caught up with the movie star to talk glitzy film festivals, CGI wizardry and why 'Okja' will make us all "more conscious consumers"

Ojka, Netflix film

Okja was the first Netflix film to be screened at Cannes. Do you think that’s something they should be doing more of?

“I was kind of surprised by a lot of the drama at the beginning because Netflix has been involved in the movie since day one. We were amazingly accepted into Cannes to compete, so it wasn’t a shocker that we were going there with Netflix.

I think that cinema and the way that we view movies has constantly been evolving and it’s still evolving. Right now it’s the topic of conversation, but what I hope is that, at the end of the day, people see the movie and that becomes the main topic of conversation. That seemed to be what happened at Cannes once the screening happened.

I think it’s amazing what Netflix is doing. It should be commended for taking risks on projects like this. I mean, director Bong [Joon Ho], a young girl and a pig. A lot of studios probably would say, ‘I don’t know about that’. But Netflix was like, ‘we’re on board, we’re not gonna mess with your genius and they really allowed him to do his thing so I think that’s really commendable.”

One of the underlying messages of the film is that the way we treat the animals we use for food, is just not acceptable. Did it make you think about your own eating habits?

“Yeah, I don’t really eat red meat anyway, I haven’t for over ten years. I eat fish, and chicken on occasion, but I’ve always had quite a healthy eating habit anyway. I grew up in England in the countryside, so I’ve been more aware of where my food came from, but this movie definitely made me a more conscious consumer in terms of products as well, not necessarily just food because stuff goes into everything. Whether it’s your hair products or makeup or what not. So it just made me more aware. A lot of my male co-stars, who are full on meat-eaters, have said the same thing in that it’s just made them a more conscious consumer.” 

What was it like acting to a massive green blob?

“It wasn’t a tennis ball which a lot of people think, it was actually a big, giant stuffy version of the pig which had actors inside of it interacting as the different body parts. So we really had something to play off, especially for the character of Mija because she is best friends with this animal. But yeah, it looked a little strange running around South Korea with this giant grey, stuffed pig!”

Was it your first experience of doing something like that?

“I had done green screen stuff before and actually I’d worked with tennis balls which are always the strangest thing but to this magnitude, yeah. Erik-Jan De Boer, the man who created Okja) also created the tiger in Life Of Pi, so he’s a complete genius. He would describe the skin texture and how the body would move so that we could appropriately act around it. When we saw the final product it looked like it was actually there, which was really cool.

What was it like working with Paul Dano?

“He’s amazing! He’s so intense but also so chill at the same time. I was the only female in the ALF group in our film so I really got to hang with the guys.  Paul has this interesting balance, like I said, of being super intense but his character is also weirdly, creepily calm and he kinda just set the tone for the ALF. He’s just so smart, I really enjoy talking with him and we’d all never been to Korea, except for Steven Yeun, so we were all kind of exploring it together, it was really fun.”

Okja is available to stream on Netflix now