‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ seeks new life with Lily Collins

May 02, 2013 | 6:44 p.m.

Lily Collins is about to add a new leading role to her résumé: The “Mirror Mirror” actress is in negotiations to star for director Burr Steers in the long-delayed big-screen adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s genre-defining literary mash-up, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.”

Released in 2009, the book became a monster success, with its brilliant blending of Jane Austen’s classic romance and classic horror tropes, recasting fiercely independent protagonist Elizabeth Bennet as a budding zombie slayer in an England that’s been overrun by a plague of “dreadfuls.”

The novel set off a wave of similar projects, even spawning a prequel and sequel from publisher Quirk Books. But making it into a film proved to be a complicated proposition. Such directors as David O. Russell, Mike White and Craig Gillespie boarded, then exited, the project; a number of actresses, including Natalie Portman and Emma Stone, were said to have been set to play Elizabeth, but none of them remained attached. The talks with Collins were first reported by Variety.

In a 2012 interview with Hero Complex, Grahame-Smith conceded that “the stops and starts have been very public.” The trick, he believed, involved finding the right tone.

“You cannot run away from the humor in that book,” he said. “You really have to embrace the humor.”

Collins, 24, the daughter of ’80s pop mainstay Phil Collins, already has demonstrated her knack for gleeful fantasy with a starring turn for director Tarsem in “Mirror Mirror,” one of the two Snow White-themed movies that saw a more action-oriented take on the fairy-tale princess to hit the multiplex last year (the other being Kristen Stewart’s “Snow White and the Huntsman”).

She made the leap from unknown to leading lady quickly — her first role came in the 2009 blockbuster “The Blind Side,” playing the doting, well-behaved daughter of Sandra Bullock’s spitfire mom Leigh Anne Tuohy. There was a slightly more adult turn in the 2011 thriller “Priest,” and she played the supportive girlfriend to Taylor Lautner’s action hero in the teen action flick “Abduction.”

She’ll next be seen on screen in “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” director Harald Zwart’s adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s novel about a young woman who discovers she’s descended from a secret race of half-angel warriors.

“The Mortal Instruments” is set to be released Aug. 23.

– Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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