Set in contemporary New York City, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones tells the story of Clary Fray (Lily Collins), a seemingly ordinary teenager who discovers that she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret organization of young half-angel warriors in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. Adapted from the book by Cassandra Clare, action-adventure fantasy also stars Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lena Headey, CCH Pounder and Aidan Turner.
While at Comic-Con to promote the film and share footage with fans, author Cassandra Clare spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what she thought when she finally saw the film, that it achieves emotional closure while leaving the plot open for the second film, why this movie also appeals to guys, what makes Clary Fray a good female lead, who she feels comes the closest to the way she envisioned the characters, and which actors asked her the most questions. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
CASSANDRA CLARE: I was shaking. I was so nervous. One of my best friends was there with me ‘cause we were in L.A. together. Harald [Zwart] has always been really open. He believes in transparency. So, he was like, “You wanna swing by and see where it’s at?,” and I was like, “Yeah, I’d love to! Sure!” So, I went by and my hands were literally shaking, the whole time. Afterwards, I turned to my friend and was like, “I thought it was good. Was it good?! I’m not objective.” She was like, “Oh, it’s really good! I’d tell you, if it wasn’t good. I’d tell you to go in there and have them fix it.”
Did you have moments where you got lost in the movie and forgot it was adapted from your book?
CLARE: Yeah, I totally did! There were a bunch of moments where I was like, “Oh, that’s so nice!” There are some really great character moments, where the actors just become the characters, and the way they play off each other is really fascinating. And there are some beautifully romantic moments. I was just swept up in the cinematic aspect of it, which was fun.
Does it feel like there’s a sense of closure at the end of the film, or does it feel left open for the second one?
CLARE: We talked a lot about that. I think it achieves a sense of emotional closure. These characters have gone on an emotional journey, and they’re in a different place than they were before. The characters have come to a new emotional realization of who they are, but there’s not what I would call final plot closure. There’s clearly a sense of further mystery, further adventure and more to be explored. I’m happy with it being in that place.
Was it reassuring to know that they’ve already greenlit the next film?
CLARE: Yeah, I know the studio has been really excited with how the film turned out, and I know that the production company was really thrilled. They’re barreling ahead with movie two, which is almost unheard of. They’re making the second movie without the first one being out. It’s really exciting that they’re building sets and casting. The director has put his kids in school in Toronto, where the set is. They’re moving! At some point, it becomes an engine that just goes without you. I’m like, “Okay, this is pretty cool! I look forward to seeing it!”
Do you want to stay as involved, the second time around?
CLARE: I feel like the first time around was a real learning curve of how to be involved, in the most productive way. Now, I feel more like we have a system, so I’m happy to be involved, in terms of that system. I didn’t know how they made movies. They gave me the first draft of the script and I was like, “Well, here’s 75 pages of notes.” But, it’s not like a book. The script changes so much. By the time you see a second draft, you don’t even recognize it. So, I know now not to do that. Until I get the shooting script, I’m going to keep my calm.
CLARE: I would say that this is not a romance. There’s a stigma that guys hate romance and hate love, but that’s not true. Look at Iron Man. There’s a whole through-line plot about his relationship with Pepper, and everybody loves it. This is about that much level of romance. The rest is about demons and ass-kicking and things blowing up. There’s no reason to feel like your girlfriend has to drag you to see it. It’s a very fast-paced movie that’s like an adrenalin rush, from the beginning to the end. In the same way that so many people read Harry Potter and went to see Harry Potter, just because a movie is about a kid, doesn’t mean it’s for kids, and just because a movie is about a girl, doesn’t mean it’s for girls. I think The Hunger Games taught us that, in an important way, and I would say this is definitely of that ilk.
What makes Clary Fray a good lead character?
CLARE: She’s a really strong character. Obviously, Katniss is a fantastic female character, but Katniss has been tough her whole life. She’s struggled and she’s a fighter, from day one, in a really dark society. Clary is an ordinary girl. She could be anybody. This is the story of what happens to an ordinary girl under extraordinary circumstances. For me, she’s a good role model because she says that you can be an ordinary girl living an ordinary life, and then if something incredible happens to you or you find yourself in a spectacularly difficult situation, you can become a hero. You don’t have to start out a hero, you can become one. There are so many stories about boys becoming heroes, learning their powers and becoming incredibly heroic. There have to be those stories for girls, too.
CLARE: Not real people. I have pretty clear images of what they look like, in my head. Part of the casting process was throwing that out. I had to be like, “They’re not going to cast people who look exactly like the people in my head because those people don’t exist.” So, it was a matter of, “Is this person an interpretation of that character, that I could love? Do they have a piece of that character inside them?” I feel like all of the people who have been cast have a piece of that character in them. Lena Headey has that really fighting spirit. Robbie [Sheehan] is a ridiculous joker like Simon. Jamie [Campbell Bower] has that sarcasm. Lily [Collins] has that vulnerability. They all have a little bit of what makes the character, the character.
Now that you’ve seen the film, who comes the closest to how you envisioned the character?
CLARE: Physically, the person who most looks like what I imagined the character to be like is Lena Headey. She comes the closest to being exactly the way I pictured Jocelyn. Emotionally, it’s probably Jamie and Lily who come the absolute closest to embodying Clary and Jace. When Jamie opens his mouth and starts talking, I’m like, “That is exactly what Jace talks like.”
Which actors came to you to ask the most questions, and who wanted to know the least?
CLARE: Kevin [Zegers], who plays Alec, and Jemima [West] and Godfrey [Gao] asked me lots of questions about their characters. Jamie and Lily wanted to really play it like their characters, who didn’t know what was going to happen to them. Lily had already read the books, so she knew what happened. At that juncture, I think Jamie had read the first book, but now he’s read them all. So, they didn’t want too much information about what’s going to happen to them, down the road, whereas Kevin kept coming up and being like, “Am I going to die? You’re going to kill me, right? Do I die? Are you going to kill me?” And I was like, “I’m not going to tell you!”
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opens in theaters on August 21st.