Based on the best-selling book series, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is about a young girl, Clary Fray (Lily Collins) living in New York City. Her ordinary life is shattered when she discovers that her mother (Lena Headey) has never told her the truth about her heritage and her dead father. Clary discovers that she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors who are in a continuous battle to protect the world from demons. After her mother is kidnapped, Clary meets Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Alec (Kevin Zegers), two Shadowhunters who introduce her to the dangerous alternate New York, called Downworld. Now with the help of her human best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan) and the Shadowhunters, Clary must battle demons, warlocks, vampires and werewolves to get her mother back. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” opens nationwide on Wednesday, August 21st. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Website
Main Image courtesy of Sony Pictures
I had the privilege sitting in on a conference call with the cast of “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” Participating were Lily Collins who plays Clary, Jamie Campbell Bower who plays Jace the Shadowhunter and Kevin Zegers who plays Alec a fellow Shadowhunter and Jace’s best friend.
Obviously, coming into this project this is a series that is extremely well beloved by a number of people. What kind of pressure do you feel when portraying a character that so many people have already envisioned in their minds?
Collins: Well, I think coming into this situation, I was a fan of the books before I was cast because of any actress who would have played Clary, I would have definitely had expectations and my own idea of who and how Clary should be played. I just think there comes a certain point at which I had to separate myself as an actor and realize that I’m going to put little bits of myself in there and really play honor to the way that Cassandra wrote Clary, but also take on a life of its own by making her a little bit more Lily.
So, I tried not to think about all the pressures of playing Clary when I was playing her because I think that would only really distract me. I think once we got on set none of us were really thinking about what expectations were put on us, other than the ones we were putting on ourselves.
Bower: Yeah, obviously, there’s preconceived notions of who these characters are. The fact of the matter is we’re not going to be able to please everybody. But here’s the thing we were cast in the movie. In that sense somebody had to see something in us that stuck out that they believed in. So, with that we take elements of ourselves, like Lily just said, and we also take the bible that casting has given us, the books, and you work out who you want these people to be in just over two hour’s worth of visage.
Not knowing anything about these books, I want to know what is it about this story that drew you in in the first place and made you know that it was something you wanted to do?
Zegers: Lily had obviously read the books and was a big fan. So I think she had her own kind of, reason why she wanted to do it. I, myself, had just read the script and it was a really good script. I think people’s instinct is to try to group this film in with other books that have been made into films, especially sort of young adult things.
And, to be honest, that was my idea when I was reading it. I was sort of thinking it’s probably going to be just another one of those kind of things and there probably won’t be a lot to do in terms of character stuff. And I found myself really surprised at how character-driven this movie is. The emphasis on the supernatural stuff, it’s certainly in there, but it’s definitely not a movie relying on werewolves and vampires and stuff like that.
This is a story about a girl in search for her mother and sort of finding out who she is. I think any pre-conceived notion you would have having not heard of the books or not read the books, this is just a good film. It’s certainly the reason why I wanted to get involved is because I liked the character and the script was great.
Bower: Yeah, the characters are all there – this is Jamie, by the way – the characters are all there. There’s no sort of empty calories, let’s say, when it comes to characters. For me, what I was excited about was I guess throughout recent history we’ve seen the male superhero or the male, I don’t know, love interest be this big beefcake, jockey kind-of a bit untouchable. Yeah a bit like Kevin, you know? I was really excited to be able to try and redefine that and make him into a bit of a wily rock-star.
That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I think I was able to do. And that’s cool, because from my experience of young girls and teenage girls, that’s what they’re into. My cousins like that and that’s what they dig.
Collins: For me, I was a fan of the books before I was cast. What I loved so much about it is that for the first time I really felt like a reality and a fantasy world were married together in such a great way. That the second you think we’re taking ourselves too seriously in this magical fantasy world we have a moment of humor and realness that brings it back down to Earth.
And I mean, yeah sure there’s romance but it doesn’t define Clary’s story. There’s drama, there’s action. The work that these guys did and I trained with them, but my potential as a shadow hunter only shows in the second book. I mean, it shows now, but it’s mainly in the second and third and continuing on. The action is some of the best action I’ve seen in a film in a long time, let alone a teen franchise. And I think there’s something for absolutely everyone in this story. That you’ll walk away just feeling like you’ve seen a good film. It doesn’t matter that it’s maybe geared more towards teenagers. I think it goes way beyond that.
Zegers: Which is why I think they’ve green lit the second movie. I think we were focused on making a good film and I think because we’ve done that they’ve sort of had the confidence to go ahead and let us start making the second one. Certainly for me that instilled a lot of confidence. Clearly they liked what they saw with the first film.
I just want to ask all of you what is it like coming into a franchise like this? What does it mean for your careers to know that you’re going to be set for another five or 10 years and to know that you have to kind of be this character for a while? Are you afraid of being typecast?
Collins: I think what’s interesting and what’s great for us in this film is that this isn’t our first film, so we were able to do other projects before this one in order to kind of avoid any ability to be typecast. I think our characters go on so many different experiences and journeys through the series of books. That if we get to continue to do more than the two that are planned, then we get to show different sides of our personalities as the character, but also of ourselves. I think it goes so many different places in this series that we’re able to experiment so much and have so many different opportunities.
But I signed on because I wanted to play Clary for as long as I was able to and I loved her, I loved what she stood for and I loved the world in which Cassandra wrote. It’s an honor to be able to continue to play Clary and to experience it with her.
Zegers: The same goes for me. I think grateful that I’ve been able to work on stuff before this. I think it’s a little more difficult when you’re introduced to people as the one character. People have never seen you in anything before and they sort of go, right, you’re Clary Fray from “The Mortal Instruments.” I’ve never seen you in anything else so I have no association with you doing anything besides that. I think all of us have ambitions outside just this one film, so I think the good news certainly for us, and we’ve spoken about it is, we love this story and the longer we get to be a part of this franchise of films is great. It’s certainly great for our careers and great for all the stuff that comes along with that.
But this is not intended to be the last thing that any of us do by any stretch of the mind. We’re all young and ambitious and have many different things. Jamie’s got his music and Lily and I have different sorts of films that we like to do. This enables us to have so many options in terms of that and alongside being able to do these films that are a lot of fun and certainly a lot better than they need to be or people may even expect them to be. Because I saw this film a couple of weeks ago and as a 28-year-old guy I was thoroughly impressed and I’m not in a lot of it. I’m not patting myself on the back at the beginning, but it’s a really great film and it’s not just about 14-year-old girls. I went in and the two hours sort of flew by and I was looking forward to more.
Bower: I think what Kevin said is really important actually. I just want to add to that. What’s interesting and I think what’s great for all of us is we’ve all worked before. This is by no means, sort of the first job that any of us has come to, so this is, hopefully, not going to pigeonhole us in a way. I could be totally wrong, but I think that was always something that I think subconsciously sort of led me to the not being concerned about this going on for five or six years.
Because it’s great that I get to go back, and it’s great that we get to go back and work together as a team and I get to work with my best friends again. When I was cast was that at the forefront of my mind? No, because I’ve been in shows or I did movies where we thought it was going to be more, and you always prepare yourself for a no; you just have to focus on the elements on the movie that you’re shooting at the time rather than if it’s going to last forever. So, yeah. How’s that?
Would you guys say that the fantasy genre is something that really attracts you? I mean, Jamie, I know, for example, you played a vampire in “The Twilight Saga.” So, are those roles really like?
Bower: I’m English, so I suppose I’m always cast either as the weirdo or as someone who has a little bit of something wrong with them. That’s how my career has gone. Let’s be honest here, let’s be open, you look at the movie industry. The movie industry is an industry at the moment which is in a little bit of trouble.
Studios need to make movies that they know people will go and see, so an adaptation of a book that has sold over however many, 22 million copies is a bankable bet, put it that way. I’m just thankful and happy and proud that we made it so good because there have been adaptations that haven’t been anywhere near as good as this. So, when it comes to fantasy I just suppose everyone likes to be taken away from the mundane elements of life.
Collins: I personally have always loved fantasy. That’s why, for me, playing Snow White was such a big deal and I grew up loving “Harry Potter” and anything magical, but for me, this series was the one that popped out from those, at least I’m thankful that I got to be involved in it, but the idea that it is edgier and darker and bit sexier and is quite funny are elements that I didn’t really find in the other ones. But I definitely love to escape reality for a little while, and if I get to be a part of that and then taking other people with me in that kind of journey, then that’s awesome to say that’s my job.
Last month, you guys did a panel at ComicCon where you showed the fans some exclusive footage from the film. Tell us what it felt like to be on that stage in front of that audience and get that kind of ovation?
Zegers: It’s all a bit surreal. We were all sort of cast to shoot a film, which is something we all love to do and you go about making the film and you shoot it and you do your best, and you create a character and then you finish and then this whole, that ComicCon thing included, is a completely separate side of things. It’s a little overwhelming.
Certainly for me, it’s something I’ve never experienced before, so seeing a billboard that’s the whole length of the side of a building with your face on it and 6,000 people in a hall watching exclusive; it’s all a bit strange. It feels like something that if I were involved in watching I would go, oh, how cool would that be, except you’re sort of a part of it, so it’s a strange dichotomy of being involved in something, being proud of it, but also feeling slightly detached in the machine that is sort of putting it out there.
So, we’re just trying to have fun. You can’t take it all too seriously. It’s sort of great, and we’re excited that people are excited about the movie, but it sort of becomes a machine in and of itself. The film kind of sells itself and I think even when the film comes out, certainly the three of us have seen it, and you saw some footage and stuff, but the movie would really kind of sell itself. It’s a good movie, and I think we’re just excited to kind of be part of it, not to speak for all of us, but I just did.
Bower: One has to detach oneself from it at that point. I think we’re all smart enough and we’re all mature enough to know that this may not last forever. The industry that we’re involved in is incredibly fickle. So, we take pride in every single thing that we do and we’re also very objective about it I think and we have to be.
It’s amazing to sit in a room like Hall H and also we did WonderCon as well in Anaheim and it’s amazing to sit there and get to show something that a lot of people are excited about and to show parts of the movie and to talk to people about it because I think we’re all very aware of the fact that without those fans we would not be in the position we are.
Collins: For me, I’ve been attached to this project for about three years now, so it’s been something I’ve believed in from the moment I read it and I’ve felt passion about it and I think every single step of the way during this process has ignited my passion more and more and to finally have it come to fruition and to be coming out in three weeks and to go to a place like ComicCon and share footage with people and have them be as excited as I was the first day I read the script is just the best feeling. And I’m just so proud of all of us and the work that we’ve done and I can’t wait for more people to see it. And it excites me to, hopefully, go back next year with the sequel and just continue the excitement because I know that I get more and more excited as we get closer to opening.
With so many books in “The Mortal Instruments” series, I mean, we’re closing in on seven of them now with projected of nine, are you committed to commit to something of that duration?
Bower: Yeah, we committed to be committed. I think we have to be committed to be committed. I think when I got into this I, obviously, was aware that it’s a series, I was aware that it could go on, but you have to focus on job by job, you have to focus on it movie by movie. We didn’t, while we were shooting the first one we didn’t even know if we were going to go back for the second movie.
And if we do end up, you say projected possibly; we’re closing in on seven, like you say, who knows how many more. We’ve got to get a move on, because most of us we’re in our mid-20s and I don’t know if I can be playing Jace at 19 when I’m 34. Maybe I can, that would be awesome and maybe that would do me a favor. But I doubt it. I sort of think I might look like the back end of Keith Richards by that point. So, in that sense we have to focus on it job by job, but I’m committed to being committed. Kevin, are you committed to being committed?
Zegers: Yes, of course. I mean, listen, I’m a big sports guy so I use a sports analogy more often than I should, but when LeBron James went to Miami, all signs can point to things going well and it seems like people really excited about the first movie, they’ve told us they’re doing the second movie and so we’re getting prepared to do that.
But, aside from that, who knows? It’s a stupid saying called like we plan, God laughs. It’s kind of this as far as I’m concerned, all I know is that we’re on this great press tour, I’m spending time with my good friends and I hope this is the beginning of a long thing, but as far as I know; the only thing I know for sure is that we’re starting filming the second movie in September and I’m excited about that. And we’ll see where it goes from there because who knows? People could decide that they hate me in this movie and they could recast me for the third movie. It’s not; we’ll picket and Lily says she’ll picket, I doubt it. But I think all three of us come from the same place of just being grateful that they’re even considering doing a second movie before this first one comes out. So, we’re just excited.
Collins: Yeah, for as long as people will have me as Clary I’d love to continue her journey. I was a fan of the books before I was cast and there’s just too much in the story to not continue I think. It would be a shame to stop prematurely. And it’s already so difficult introducing ideas and kind of wrapping them up in a way that makes people want to learn more, but also makes them feel like they’ve not been gypped of certain things in one movie, let alone a series.
And you don’t sign onto something like this without the hope that it will continue on past one movie, maybe two. But you also don’t focus on that when you’re shooting the first, because the most important thing is to make yourself proud with the first one and go from there. But, yeah, we’re all there.
Thanks for spending some time with us and good luck with “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.”
Zegers: Thank you.
Collins: Goodbye, thank you.
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” opens nationwide on Wednesday, August 21st.