Based on the bestselling series of young adult novels by author Cassandra Clare, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is the story of a New York City teenager named Clary Fray, (Lily Collins) who discovers she’s a descendent of a half-angel warrior sect called Shadowhunters.
When her mother is abducted, Clary joins a Shadowhunter named Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) to infiltrate the supernatural underworld – inhabited by demons, vampires, werewolves and more – to bring her back.
If you’ve seen the TV ads for “The Mortal Instruments,” you know that Collins (daughter of rock legend Phil Collins) and Campbell Bower hit the road this summer to promote their film at shopping malls across the country. And earlier this month, the actors, along with author Clare, made an appearance before hundreds of fans at Philadelphia’s Franklin Mills mall.
Before meeting the screaming crowd, I sat down with Clare, Collins and Campbell Bower at the Philly’s Four Seasons hotel, where our window view of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (and a nearby roundabout fountain) gave us a “supernatural” sighting of our own.
David Onda: Jamie, you’ve appeared in both the “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” film series. How does the hype around “Mortal Instruments” compare to those previous projects?
Jamie Campbell Bower: I came on board with “Twilight” in the second movie, so they’d already obviously had the success of the first film, they weren’t expecting it to do as well as it did… so I came on board at the point where it had blown up. It’s funny, because coming into this and doing “The Mortal,” it feels very much the same sort of hype that movie two for “Twilight” had, which is insane because of the fact that no one’s seen our movie. I’m not sitting here saying this could be [like that] – obviously Cassie’s novels are 22 million books sold and New York Times bestsellers. I mean, that’s insane. But for myself and Lily, we didn’t know when we were shooting the first movie that we were even gonna go back and do a second movie. We’re taking it very, very much day by day, when it comes and how it goes, really.
Lily Collins: And, we’re already on to number two, so if they don’t like the first one, there’s already a second one. So, too bad! [laughs]
Campbell Bower: We said this morning, “Bring it!”
Cassandra Clare: Learn to love it.
Collins: Learn to love it, ’cause you’re gonna be living with Clary and Jace for a very long time.
Onda: There are hundreds of people waiting to see you at the Franklin Mills mall today.
Collins: Every mall has gotten progressively louder and more crowded and more exciting. It gives me tingles every time we hear them start chanting our names before we go out there. It’s very strange. It’s this hype and this anticipation. It’s electric. If people walking around the mall don’t know what’s going on they’re all like, “What’s going on?”
Campbell Bower: That’s my favorite thing to see when we’re at the mall, is people going, “Who are those guys?”
Collins: They’re dining next door and they’re like, “We didn’t expect a show. Is it One Direction”?
Onda: Cassie, this is your baby. What fears did you have going into the film, and what have you seen so far that made you realize, “Ok, this is exactly what I wanted.”
Clare: I think the initial fears I had going into the movie, way back when it got optioned, would be that they would not talk to me about any of it and that they would just change everything and it would be an unrecognizable, generic fantasy movie that had almost nothing to do with my books at all. And that didn’t turn out to be the case, which is lucky and has to do with our producers and our director. There was a lot of me talking to the producers and they were [saying], “We want you on board for casting and we want you on board for the screenplay.” And literally to approve each prop. They would send me photos – there are these things called Witch Lights, which are stones that Shadowhunters use like flashlights – and [director Harold Zwart] sent me 16 pictures and in each one he’s holding a different rock. And he’s like, “Which is the correct rock?”
Campbell Bower: [laughs] “They’re all the [expletive] same!”
Clare: “Rock number eight looks real promising!” I was just like, “You don’t have to consult me on this stuff.” The fact that they did consult me so much definitely made me feel more confident.
Onda: What made Lily and Jamie right for the roles of Clary and Jace?
Clare: It’s really interesting with Lily – she’s perfect for Clary because she has the great combination of strength and vulnerability, and Clary really ricochets between the two. She’s a very ordinary girl and she gets all of this stuff thrown at her and she has to rise to the occasion. And one of the things about Clary is that she’s tiny. She’s a small girl, petite framed and she has to become this fighter and people constantly underestimate her. That’s part of her character and part of her quality and kind of what makes her a badass. And the first time I met Lily in person, I thought, “Oh my god, she’s so small, how is she gonna do all of these stunts and get thrown against walls? We’re gonna break her!” She had bruises from training, and I felt so bad. And then I saw her actually do the stuff, having to fall over and over again onto really hard floors and get thrown against things, and she just bounced back from all of it. And I thought, that’s really fascinating, because just like everybody in the books, I underestimated her.
Collins: I like being underestimated!
Onda: How hard was it to keep bouncing back?
Collins: I do bruise really easily. You could just touch me and–
Campbell Bower: She’s made of rubber, to be fair, so she does actually bounce.
Collins: I am bouncy. I had to keep up with the guys. Look, I never thought I’d be doing stunts. I never thought action was gonna be my thing, but on my second film I was thrown off a train on a wire and I was like, “This is fun.” And for some reason, it just stuck. Yes, I’m on the smaller side, but I’ve always loved proving people wrong and I’m a tough cookie. I may be a delicate petal, but I’m a tough cookie as well.
Clare: Which is perfect for Clary. And Jamie – oh god, we had so many people come in and audition for this part.
Clare: We were experiencing this trauma separately from other sides of the continent, but she was super game and came in and read with lots and lots of people.
Collins: It was entertaining.
Clare: I was sitting there ripping my hair out, because I’m watching all these auditions and I’m like, “I hate them, I hate them, I hate them.” And they’re like, “Don’t you like anybody?” And I’m like, “I really don’t.” And then Jamie comes in and they were like, “You really have to see this audition.” It was the first time I had heard that. I turned it on and started watching and was like, “This is really good.” It was him reading with Lily and, the thing about Jace is that he has to move really quickly between moods. He has to go from arrogant to happy to funny to sad to brokenhearted to dangerous in a very short period of time, and it’s hard to do that, and Jamie can do it. I was so happy. I was like, “I like that guy.”
Onda: In this movie, the world is packed with supernatural beings of all kinds and humans unknowingly walk amongst them. Do you think that’s true of our world?
Campbell Bower: I believe in angels. I do believe in angels. I believe that there are certain people in this world that are incarnations of – I don’t wanna use the word “heaven,” because that alludes to my belief in God – but there are people in this world that are more than they think they are, and more than they appear to be. And in that sense, I do believe in the supernatural, absolutely.
Collins: I was actually gonna say something quite similar. I was gonna use the word guardians – guardians of the heart, the mind, that kind of thing. I believe in it in that sense. I’m not a very religious person, but I believe in having faith in yourself and somebody else. And when someone else has faith in you, that kind of otherworldly characteristic has got to come from somewhere.
Onda: I’m glad you didn’t say werewolves—
Campbell Bower: [distracted by something out the window] There’s a woman walking around in the pond with her jeans on. Just strolling around in the pond with her jeans on.
Collins: Look at her. There she is!
Onda: She’s a mermaid.
Campbell Bower: I believe in mermaids!
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is in theaters everywhere now. Click here to order tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.