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. For more on the film, watch the new trailer.
While at WonderCon, actor Jamie Campbell Bower spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about how he came to this project, that the underlying love story was what really drew him to the film, just how deeply hurtful the negative fan reaction about his casting was, that the look and physicality for the character was total collaboration, how much he enjoyed the neck tattoos, his favorite action sequence, what it’s been like to have Lily Collins to go through all of this with, what he likes about Jace Wayland, and why he loves worlds built around extensive mythologies. Hit the jump to watch or read what he had to say.
Here’s the video. The full transcript is below.
JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER: I was in Los Angeles for pilot season and the script had been in development for awhile. They sent me through just the sides, actually, for an audition. I responded really well to the sides, and I really, really liked it. It was a real last-minute thing. I was due to leave the day after, and I did leave the day after. And then, I got a call-back for a screen test here, so upon getting the call-back for the test, I read the book. I read book 1 and 2, actually. I read book 1 quite fully, and then just went through book 2. And then, I did the test and got the role. That’s how I came to be involved in the madness.
Once you found out there were a series of books and that it could be a series of movies, did you ever have that moment of, “Oh, god, what did I get myself into?,” or were you already sold on it by then?
BOWER: I suppose that I focused on it as a one-by-one thing. Until we’re making movie 2 and until we’re making movie 3, we’re not in production for them. People ask, “Did you go through the subsequent books while you were shooting #1?,” and no is the answer. Yes, it’s great to have those there, but at the time we were shooting movie 1, I didn’t want to really cloud my vision of what movie 1 and book 1 is about.
Was part of the appeal of this the fact that it’s not just another werewolf or vampire mythology story, but it’s really its own world with a really layered mythology?
BOWER: Yeah. The adult nature of the layered mythology is a perfect way to describe it. Also, the honesty and the truth that lies in the love story between the two characters. Yes, they’re going through some really messed up stuff, but with any great story and with any great movie, there’s always an underlying love story there. I think that’s what really drew me to it.
When you started to see the negative fan reaction to you being cast as Jace, was that difficult to hear or did it make you want to prove them wrong?
BOWER: It’s deeply hurtful. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. It’s deeply hurtful. But, one has to really pull yourself together and show people that, actually, this is what I do. I’m an actor. That’s who I am. I can play this character, and I only hope that I can prove that to people.
At the same time, at least it means they’re passionate and actually care about the movie and the character.
BOWER: Of course! It’s better to have people that care about it then to have people that go, “Meh, I don’t care.”
Did you get a say in the look of the character, the tattoos and the physicality to it?
BOWER: Absolutely, 100%. I worked very closely with Gersha Phillips, our costume designer. Gersha and I worked quite consistently on the look for Jace. Originally, there were a lot of long coats and stuff, and I went, “Well, I think he needs to be a bit more bikery. I think we need to put a hood in here.” And the hood was a big addition for me, as well, because obviously that adds an element of mystery, visually. With the physicality, yeah, absolutely. There were discussions about, “Do we make him huge? Do we make him really jocky?” To be honest with you, I don’t think that’s who he is. And also, we’ve seen that. I’m so bored of seeing the big jock. It’s not realistic, at all. What’s really funny is that not once in the movie do you ever see them sit down and eat a huge meal. They’re out there fighting all the time. That’s what they do. That, in itself, creates a certain physicality, and that’s how I lived my life when we were working.
How extensive was the training for this?
BOWER: My training for the movie was vast. I tried for like four months. I did martial arts. Everything that you see in the trailer, I did. Everything that you see in the movie, I did. There’s only one thing with wire work in the film. We tried to use as little as possible. So, I learned how to flip, I learned how to wield swords, I learned how to wield staffs, and that was really fun. It’s physically quite draining, but in a good way. It’s a challenge, but I like a challenge.
When you do that kind of extensive training, are you confident once you get on set, or does it still just feel impossible?
BOWER: For me, it’s interesting because I never thought of myself as an action man, but apparently I can do it, so that’s good to know. But once I leave set, it just goes away. I don’t really feel like it’s a skill set that I could use on a daily basis. I don’t really wield swords or carry them with me, all the time. I don’t know how beneficial it is, in the long run.
Was there an action sequence that you most enjoyed getting to do, or something that you had to work with physically that you most enjoyed?
BOWER: Yeah, there’s a scene in what’s called the Hotel Dumort, which is a scene where the Shadowhunters fight a whole load of vampires. I trained to learn how to flip onto a table and fight. I loved all that. I really enjoy all that kind of stuff.
What’s it been like to have Lily Collins to go through this whole thing with? Your characters are a very integral part of each other’s storylines. Was it nice to have someone like her, who is so enthusiastic about bringing this book series to life?
BOWER: Yeah, of course! She’s been a huge advocate of the movie and of the script. To have her around, on set, is a joy. She’s got great vision, as well, when it comes to the piece, and great ideas. That was one of the main things I loved about the process of making this movie. It was a real collaborative process between everyone, and we all put in ideas and we all put in our own thoughts, some of which didn’t get put into the movie, but some of which did. That’s part of what a creative process is about, I suppose.
BOWER: Yeah, to have Harald there to be able to listen to us and do that kind of thing was a real honor and a real blessing. Absolutely!
What was it like to go through the whole tattoo application process? Were there things that you did to just zone out?
BOWER: At four in the morning, you pretty much zone out, anyway. I have my own tattoos, so not only did I have to get my own tattoos covered up, but I had to get new ones put on. Maybe I should just get all the runes tattooed on me. That might make my life a bit easier.
Was it weird to see yourself with other tattoos, when you’re used to seeing your own?
BOWER: Yeah. If I wasn’t an actor, I think I’d be heavily, heavily tattooed, so it was nice to see myself with neck tattoos. Also, with the runes and the way that they work, they’re etched onto the skin and they slowly heal, and then they turn into tattoos. It’s a great development process to see a new rune go on, and then how that slowly heals throughout a day by day process. It’s quite fun.
Your character certainly has a very deadpan kind of humor. Was it easy to find that tone? Is there where your own humor tends to be?
BOWER: Well, I’m English, so it’s very easy to find that tone. Yeah, I love the deadpan humor. That’s something I was constantly thinking about throughout the process, coming up to filming and during filming, as well, in finding out who he was. Yeah, we have the book there, but it was also nice for me to be able to put my own stamp on it.
BOWER: I’d love to, yeah. I think he’s a great guy. I think he’s troubled and conflicted, and he has his own demons. I love that. I love that little boy lost vibe about him. There’s a great line about, “I don’t want to be a man. I want to be a petulant teenager.” That’s perfect. It sums him up, and I love that about him.
Do you typically like these types of stories with these big mythologies and ideas because it really does give you so much to explore?
BOWER: There’s a lot of scope, yeah. I do love mythology. It’s funny that that’s what I’ve thrown myself into, I suppose. I like the surreal element, but also with the fundamentally grounding reality behind it. That’s something that’s always fascinated me. And people love to be taken away. People love to be taken into that world, and I love being in that world.
It gives you the world to explore and the character to explore.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opens in theaters on August 23rd.
For more from our Mortal Instruments, here’s our set visit coverage.
- 35 Things to Know About THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES From Our Set Visit
- Lily Collins Talks Script Changes, the Project’s Two-Year Development, Chemistry with the Cast, & More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
- Jamie Campbell Bower Talks Fake Tattoos, Female Protagonists, Working with Lily Collins, and More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
- Jared Harris Talks Fight Sequences, SHERLOCK HOLMES, and More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
- Author Cassandra Clare Talks Casting, Changes from the Book, and More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
- Director Harald Zwart Talks Collaborating with the Author, Why He Wanted to Make the Film, & More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES
- Producers Don Carmody and Robert Kulzer Talk the Development Process, Casting, and More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES