Writers and Actors Tell a Personal Story About Anorexia in “To the Bone”

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The cast of “To the Bone” discuss the impact of eating disorders at Sundance Film Festival
Source: Deadline/Michael Buckner

Sundance Film Festival has made a name for itself by showcasing independent films that tackle taboo topics rarely seen in Hollywood, but one subject has remained largely off-limits. However, that changed this year as Marti Noxon’s new movie To the Bone takes a hard look at how eating disorders like anorexia can shape a person’s life.

Those who were on hand to see the film at this year’s festival say it feels deeply personal, and that may be because those involved in the making of it have first-hand experience.

The movie stars Lily Collins as a 20-year old named Ellen who has dealt with anorexia throughout her life, going in and out of treatment. While it isn’t an exact reflection of Collins’ life, the actress says there were still many parallels.

“I suffered with eating disorders when I was a teenager as well,” Collins said in a new interview with IMDb.

“I wrote a book last year, and I wrote my chapter on my experiences a week before I got [director] Marti [Noxon]’s script, and it was like the universe kind of putting these things in my sphere to help me face, kind of dead on, a fear that I used to have and a way to explain it as someone who’s gone through it and to open up a topic that is considered quite taboo with young people nowadays, male, female, and to really start a conversation,” she said.

To prepare for the role, Collins worked with a nutritionist to physically embody the character without risking her health. Still, she says the process of reliving her own experiences through the character was challenging at times.

“It did require a different set of emotional skills and to kind of go back in time for me, with…my experiences.”

After the interview Collins shared a few more of her feelings about playing the role via Instagram. The caption says:

“Chilled to the bone but feeling so free. What a huge moment this is for me. Owning my past, being open, and having no shame or regrets about my experiences. Sharing my history with eating disorders and how personal this film has been is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. Thank you for all your love and support. I’m sending all of mine right back (especially today!) and remember, you are never ever alone #Unfiltered…”

Of course, Collins isn’t the only person involved in the film affected by an eating disorder. The story is a semi-autobiographical take on producer, writer, and director Marti Noxon’s own life.

“From the time I was about 14 to my early twenties, I was anorexic and then bulimic, and I felt like there’s only been movies on TV about it,” Noxon said during an interview at Deadline’s Sundance Studio. “I think that problem hasn’t gotten much better since I was a kid, so I wanted to try to bring it to a bigger screen with a little more humor and perspective I have now, being older.”

Several reviews have said the movie is simultaneously harrowing and surprisingly funny, but it doesn’t pull punches when it comes to depicting eating disorders. More than that, they are saying it feels important. Not just for being a rare movie to tackle a topic that is both life-threatening and stigmatized, but for telling the story from an honest and personal perspective.

“I think it’s really important to tell this story in a way that’s not ostracizing. It’s about a taboo topic that a lot of people don’t like to talk about, but it’s becoming more and more prevalent with young men and women today,” Collins said at the Deadline event. “I just thought it would be very therapeutic for myself as well to kind of enter back into this world from almost a grown-up perspective, and looking back at experience without shame, and telling this story to open conversation up for other young women and men out there.”

Noxon also hopes the film will help those who live with eating disorders feel like they aren’t alone.

“I hope people recognize that people who have trouble with eating, body-image problems and anything on the spectrum are not weak, and it’s not that they are vain or lazy or obsessing for no reason,” Noxon said. “It’s a whole host of problems and everybody (makes progress) in a different way. That worked for me. I needed to grow a pair, I needed to hit bottom. I needed to decide to live for myself.”

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