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, actor Kevin Zegers (“Alec Lightwood”) spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about what originally drew him to the project, why he wanted to play Alec and how he wanted to bring him to life, what it was like to see the final cut of the film with everything put together, how hard they all worked to do their own fighting, how cool it was shoot the climax at the Hotel Dumort where they fight vampires, and how nice it is to know that they’ll be start work on the second film soon. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
KEVIN ZEGERS: Yeah, it’s definitely a little nerve-wracking, but because I’ve seen the movie and I really like the movie, I’m less nervous about people liking it. I’m more just nervous about life and what this next month looks like, with traveling around and going to different places, and showing the movie to people. It’s more excitement than anything else. I’m just excited. My life is pretty good, right now.
It must be reassuring that the studio gave the green light to a second movie, before this one has even come out, because that never happens.
ZEGERS: Right, that never happens. For all of us – the cast, (director) Harald [Zwart], and everybody – it was a big exhale of, “Okay, we did what we were supposed to do, the movie we made was what they were looking for, and I think the fans are gonna love it. I think people who have never read the books are gonna love it, too.” I think that was the main focus. Certainly, my main focus was to say that we don’t just need to aim for the people who know and love these books. This should just be a movie that can stand on its own, and people should become interested in the story, in its own right. But, yeah, green-lighting the second movie, a couple of months ago, was crazy. It’s nice to know what you’re gonna do next.
On a personal level, actors are often their own worst critic. Have seen this film now, are you already thinking about what you might do differently in the next movie?
ZEGERS: I don’t think I’m going to watch the movie again. I watched it once. I was not critical, but I know what I liked and I know what I would want to adjust, a little bit. I think that’s probably all I’m gonna do. I don’t think I’m gonna go and beat it into my head because I’m too critical of myself, anyway. In general, it was the first thing, in a long time, where I was really happy with how it came out. I’m just excited that I get to do it again, and hang out with my friends again.
What was it like to see everything put together, with all of the different storylines and effects?
ZEGERS: We did shoot it pretty practically. There wasn’t a huge amount of green screens, and stuff like that, but there was a lot of stuff. The stories are a little segmented. I didn’t work with Robert [Sheehan] a lot, so I got to see a lot of his stuff, and he got to see a lot of my stuff. And I got to see a lot of the stuff with Lily [Collins] and Jaime [Campbell Bower], that I obviously wasn’t there for. So, it was more about being able to appreciate the movie, as a whole. Normally, you watch a movie and just rip yourself to shreds while you’re watching it. And then, you realize, “Oh, I didn’t pay attention to the movie, at all. I was just sort of crucifying myself for missed opportunities.” But, I was able to just watch the movie and appreciate it, and be like, “Wow, that’s cool that I’m a part of this movie,” which was crazy.
What is it about this character that drew you to this project?
ZEGERS: I think the things that people know about Alec are that he’s a Shadowhunter and he’s gay. They know about the whole backstory of him and Jace. The thing I liked about him was that he wasn’t overwritten in a way where I couldn’t have my own take on who he was. He wasn’t so set in stone with his behavior or the way that he is. He’s definitely clear strong and he’s very noble, and all that stuff. It wasn’t vague, but it was very open to interpretation. So, when I met with Harald and we talked about it, I had this idea of creating this enigmatic guy who you can’t really put your finger on. He’s not always the nicest guy. I feel like sometimes people feel the need to differentiate between, “These are the good guys, and these are the bad guys,” when in reality, I think we’re all capable of both. But mainly, I wanted to create a character with none of the preconceived notion of what a gay character would be. I don’t think it’s a big fucking deal for the younger generation, anyway. I don’t think it’s something that even registers as something that’s a problem. If I ask my nieces, who are 10 or 11, they’re like, “So?!” It’s just not that big of a deal anymore. But in some places it is, so I’m aware of the responsibility.
To create a strong, powerful, main character of a bit movie as a gay character was something that I thought was a cool opportunity to have some kid in China watch it and think, “Wow, that’s not how I thought gay people are,” or if they are gay and they’re uncomfortable about coming out. Seeing this guy who is maybe the opposite of what they’ve maybe perceived a character like that to be, I thought was a great opportunity. It’s something that I was super gung-ho about being able to do. Not to get too heavy about it, but there’s too many kids fucking hanging themselves for something that’s so immaterial and so not an issue. For a movie, especially of this scale, where everyone, from all different parts of the country and all different parts of the world are gonna go see this movie, that there’s this certain moment where people realize, “Wow, that’s a gay character in a movie like this, and he’s not the effeminate one, or the passive one. He’s the leader. He’s the strong one and the dignified one, who stands in front of other people.” To me, the idea that, even if it just switches peoples’ perception a little bit, seemed like a cool thing.
With a lot of these types of movies, guys talk about being dragged by their girlfriends to see them. What would you say to guys who are wondering if this movie would appeal to them, at all?
ZEGERS: When I saw it, the fighting stuff is what I was most excited about. We got to do all of our own fighting stuff. We had the same stunt coordinator who did 300, so we’re talking about real fights and not fake swords. These are real fight sequences with real stunt guys who pushed us really hard. We all had to work really hard. It was like shooting two movies – one to tell the story, but the other one was the training, and getting into physical shape, and looking like we were killers.
ZEGERS: I never thought I had it. I knew I could physically get there, and I knew I could train to get my body there, but the fighting stuff is a whole different thing. Learning a 300-style fight sequence is like learning a 10-page monologue. Every move is coordinated, and it can all go bad, very quickly. I was terrified, and I still am. But, when you finally get it and are able to do it yourself, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Is there a fight sequence that was the most difficult, but also rewarding?
ZEGERS: Yeah, there’s the ass-kicking climax scene at the Hotel Dumort, where we fight the vampires. We shot that for like a week and half, and every day, we had four different cameras going. But, it’s me and Jamie, fighting next to each other, back-to-back, and simultaneously doing things. It’s not just in on our faces, so that you can’t see what’s going on. It was good to feel like we were doing it together. When it all came together, at the same time, it was super cool, and it looks great on film. And it’s boy stuff. As a guy, I was like, “This is the stuff I thought about doing when I was a kid.” I was running around, doing back flips, and killing demons.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opens in theaters on August 21st.