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

By Kelly West 2012-11-15 11:49:19discussion comments
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The trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones trailer was unveiled this week, well ahead of its theatrical debut, which isn't until August of next year. On the bright side, fans of Cassandra Clare's young adult fantasy series got to see stars Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower in their roles as Clary and Jace, and we have months to speculate over how the movie will turn out when it arrives next year. The story follows a teenage girl living in Brooklyn who discovers she's the descendent of a line of demon hunters called Shadowhunters.

We spoke with City of Bones director Harald Zwart today on adapting the story for the big screen. He offered some interesting comments on the film, including some changes made to the ending, what we should expect from Lily Collins as lead character Clary, and the different sides of Lena Headey's character Jocelyn. But first, in case you haven't seen it, here's the trailer.



I heard that you wrapped the movie recently?

Zwart: Yeah, we wrapped on Thursday and I'm just in New York doing some helicopter shots and stuff like that.

That seems pretty close for the trailer to come out. Was there anything that you would've like to have seen make it into the trailer that wasn't ready?

Zwart: No, I think it's good to keep some mystery and keep spreading it out a little bit. I think the trailer as it is now is a good representation of a - I think you'd call it a teaser - I feel good about that.

Were there any major challenges with the special effects and stunts?

Zwart: Those things are generally more practical things. You always find a solution one way or another. I think it's always challenging to try to design something that feels fresh and that's something people haven't seen before, but still is not too far off from what the fans are expecting. That's all in the design process. That might be something worth mentioning, but those are only fun challenges, I think.

As far as fan expectations, is there anything that you could talk about as far as the plot of the story goes that maybe you changed? Or did you stick pretty close to the book?

Zwart: We try to stick as close to the book as we can. It's always hard with adaptations, especially with a big book like this one. We've been very fortunate to have Cassandra Clare, who's very cooperative and has been a great collaborator during the whole process to make sure we preserved what she knows and the integrity of the book but still was possible to do in the film, in the span of the film and just practically, how you could execute things.

So you worked a lot with the writer then?

Zwart: Yeah, she was there. She's a busy woman but she came by, but we emailed and we ran things by her. And she said, "Well, this should be maybe this…" and she had suggestions but never, "It has to be this, it has to be that…" She was always open. And when I suggested, "What if we do it like this in the movie, would that feel like it's still the same emotion or tone," and then she said "Yeah, that sound great." It's been just a really - you do it very step by step.

Is there anything in specifics that you could talk about that maybe was changed or had to be changed because you weren't able to adapt it exactly from the book?

Zwart: Well, we preserved the emotional arcs and the character arcs in the movie, so that's all preserved. We had to change some locations around. Simplify a little bit here or there. I think the ending had the ingredients but there are things that we had to adjust a little bit in the ending.

You filmed in Toronto, right?

Zwart: Yes.

So you're filming a New York City story in Toronto and there's also that kind of added layer of this hidden world that Clary's being introduced to. Can you talk a little bit about the challenging of having three locations, in a sense, to work with?

Zwart: It's always a patchwork anyway when you do movies and commercials. Its amazing what you can get away with. Toronto has a lot of similarities with New York City. As long as you add certain iconic elements and you make sure you have enough genuine New York footage, which we also have, the audience are generally getting the feeling that they're actually in New York City.

Part of the thing that was fun to do was, in Toronto, there's lots of grand old buildings. So we had the corridors of the institution in one house and the lobby in another. We shot a bit at the University. And then we built a lot of stuff. There are great big sound stages in Toronto and we had huge sets where we built the interior of the library and the City of Bones and those sets that you couldn't find anywhere.

Was there anything that was filmed in New York at all, or was it all Toronto?

Zwart: There are scenes that we shot here in New York too. There are exterior shots and helicopter shots and stuff like that, but mostly it was done in Toronto.
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