Mortal Instruments Director Harald Zwart On Lily Collins, Locations And Demons In New York

By Kelly West 2012-11-15 11:49:19discussion comments


One of the things I know from the book is that Cassandra Clare is very detailed as far as all of the elements of the story. You have this fantastical world of weapons and demons and runes and just the general rules. How was that as far as trying to remain faithful to the book but also having to bring that into a movie?

Zwart: Well, as I said, it was important to me to ground everything and try to find physical reasons and sort of - as much as you can - explain why and how things happen. Because I think one of the things that is fascinating about this story is that you could walk around New York City and you are surrounded by demons and vampires, it's just that we don't necessarily see them. You could see them, if you look twice maybe. Or you just don't have the ability to. It's this idea of a world within a world, but still, it's all reality around you. So I tried to make everything make sense, except for the portions that you want to be magical, of course. But we've tried to explain things with physicality and frequency and that's been a lot of fun, to take all of the juicy stuff from Cassandra Clare and put it into a visual interpretation of what she wrote. Because at one point, you just have to have physical things in the actors' hands. What do they look like and how do they work? That's been a lot of fun to do.

Can you talk a little bit about how Lily Collins handled the role and maybe working on a film that has this kind of female lead that's just discovering her strength?

Zwart: She's a great actress. We met early in the process and agreed what kind of character she was. You know, she's like you said, very well described in the book. It was important for me to also show that she was her own boss. That she was the initiator of the actions she takes. She's a very strong girl and I think Lily's a fantastic actress who has a radiant smile and great energy. This isn't one of those movies where the lead just goes around and has the same expression all the way through. Lily is such a vivid and lively person herself. So I believe we captured most of that spectrum of her, so I think people will be very entertained by that.

Were there any other influences when you were adapting the character or did you just stick to how she's portrayed in the book as far as female leads go?

Zwart: Well, you always look to other great strong female leads in movie history. Anything from The Terminator to Aliens, there are always great female leads in movies. What's fun about this one is that Clary Fray, as she's portrayed in the movie, she thinks she's a completely normal girl until she just discovers these powers and this vision she has. Of course you go through the days of thinking, "Am I going mad? What is all of this?" and then you discover everybody around you has been hiding stuff from you. So it's almost an investigation story where she just starts investigating her own past and her own memory. And that psychological drama, I think, is very intense and well done.

It's interesting, you bring up Terminator and strong female leads. You have Lena Headey in the cast and she played Sarah Connor in the Terminator TV show. How much of Lena are we going to see in the movie?

Zwart: Lena was there - she's as much in the movie as she is in the book. She shows that she's very capable of defending herself. It's always fun when you have a character that, on the surface, is very - you twist her a little bit more the other way, a little clumsy and very innocent and suddenly she goes dark and you see that she has abilities that you never knew existed. That kind of twist we have in the movie also with Lena. She was great with all the fighting and all of that.

(book spoiler alert in the next answer!)

So, we get to see different sides of her character Jocelyn?

Zwart: Yeah, absolutely. Of course, I'm sure you know the story, but she drinks from the vial pretty early but before she goes into coma we have both sides of her in the movie. Yes, the before and the after.

Can you talk a little bit about what's planned for the soundtrack and the score. What kind of music are you going for with the movie?

Zwart: It's a little early for that right now. We're still observing what the tone of the movie is. Because it's an evolving process and once you start shooting and all the actors do what they're doing. And then finally you end up feeling it more and more as you progress. So, it's a little early for us to say anything about that. I've hired Gabriel Yared to be the composer and I'm very, very happy with that because he's great at doing emotional and romantic scores. I think it's very important to preserve that. Other than that, it's a little early to say.

This is the first book of a series. Is the film set up for a sequel? Is there anything you can talk about as far as what might follow up after this one?

Zwart: As with anything, we focus on one movie at a time, always respecting the story of the future books. Just so, at least we preserve the possibility for that. I feel the movie has an emotionally satisfactory ending as it is. So, if you choose just to see this one, you'll still be happy with it. But obviously we had to be very careful to make sure that we preserved the story line for anything that had to be continued in the following books. So, we'll see. We'll concentrate on this one. It's very exciting though, to know that she has so much more material.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones arrives in theaters August 23, 2013. More information can be found in our Blend Film Database.
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