Interview: The cast of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Whatever endless comparisons and contrasts are drawn between the forthcoming teen fantasy epic, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bone, director Harald Zwart assures that the much-anticipated film was made neither with other successful franchises in mind, nor to curry favor with any invested parties.
“It’s been a really funny and intimate process, because it’s been the producer Robert Kulzer and myself, the writer [Jessica Postigo] and author Cassandra [Clare],” began Zwart in his discussion of adapting the first in a lengthy series of novels by Clare into a feature film. “That’s partly the reason why it has broad appeal. None of us have been sitting second guessing what people wanted.”
Zwart has created a 130 min fantastical story, complete with vampires and werewolves, angel and demons, and while a second film is already in preproduction, there is hope that more will follow suit. At times scary, and often filled with action, Zwart most difficult endeavor was creating a love story that felt authentic.
“I think the tricky bit is to make sure the romance comes across as a real love story, and doesn’t become schmaltzy and shallow,” said Zwart. “You have to make sure the acting is absolutely perfect, and there is nothing false about how they perform,” he added in regards to the younger stars, many of whom struggle with their latent or sudden feelings. “I think their performances are the secret to why people respond to the story.”
It is indeed a rather diverse cast, as the Dutch director brought actors from across North America and Europe to make up an interesting ensemble cast. While there are veterans actors such as Jared Harris, CCH Pounder, John Rhys Meyers, Lena Headey, and Canadian Kevin Durand, the younger, perhaps less recognizable actors are the ones with the most screen time, and the most important roles.
That is to say, they may have been less recognizable, until now. For Londoner Jamie Campbell Bower, Irish actor Robert Sheehan, Canadian Kevin Zegers, French actress Jemima West, and the heroine at the heart of the film, Lily Collins, are now overwhelmed with doting fans.
Collins has undoubtedly the most important role, as she plays the young Clary who, upon the kidnapping of her mother, discovers she is part of a lineage of ancient, angelic hunters who track down demons. With her best friend Simon, align with Jace, Alec, and Jemima, all shadowhunters. The character of Clary inspired Zwart and his wife, a producer on the film, to undertake the project with their eight-year-old daughter Stella in mind.
“We agreed to do this project largely because we don’t necessary think that our daughter is exposed to great female role models in media in general,” said Zwart. “There is something you can look up to; it’s the idea that you’re not there for the sake of the boys, that you can find your own strength.”
During the Toronto Premiere, Collins walked the red carpet and offered her thoughts on why Clary is different than the current young, female heroines. “She’s funny, she’s comedic, and she is already a shadowhunter – it’s not that she’s choosing something that’s not herself,” Collins explained. ”What makes her great is she’s normal: she’s vulnerable, scared, she cries, she freaks out, she’s having an identity crisis, she’s confused, which I think everyone is as a teenage girl.”
“She is more relatable in a sense because she has mixed emotions. It’s okay to be confused.”
One element that adds quite a bit of confusion for Clary is a love triangle she finds herself in, as Simon has an obvious crush, but the enigmatic and cunning Jace feels enamored as well. “It’s rooted in reality,” said Bower of the romantic interlude among the characters. “Particularly as a young kid I felt confused and awkward and trying to find my voice,” he added, but then was wonderfully thrown off a bit in a moment of shy awkwardness after screaming girls shouted at him, “I love you.”
The third element of the triangle, Simon, must deal with a different reality: that he is in fact normal. While those with superpowers run rampant in this movie, those without, such as Simon are dubbed as the Mundanes.
“It very much has a negative stigma, negative connotations,” said Sheehan during his time on the red carpet, before pondering the triumphs of a Mundane such as Simon. “I think it’s about the fact that this guy has a superb amount of a love for a women who he considers a friend, and as it goes on, he earns a superb amount of strength in a world where everybody else is a little bit super, he’s the normal guy until he proves he isn’t”
While the characters worry about the present and future, one thing is for certain: they will be returning for a second film, The City of Ashes, and we will have another opportunity to explore the growth of a young heroine and those that love her, protect her, and seek to destroy her.