Twilight came and entranced a generation of swooning young fans – four times. The franchise has ended, KPatz is no longer and the teen romdram crowd is hungry for fresh blood. Enter the fantasy thriller Mortal Instruments: City of Bones based on Cassandra Clare’s popular books about half angel half human Shadowcatchers and their battles versus demons, vampires and werewolves.It stars some of the best looking young leads in the history of cinematic testosterone and estrogen and you stir it all up and you’ve got the next romdram sensation. Or so the filmmakers hope.
The second episode Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes is already in preproduction in Toronto, which is where I sat down with the abnormally attractive male leads – Kevin Zegers, Jaime Campbell Bower and Robert Sheehan - two Shadowcatchers and a human respectively - to talk Mortal men.
They were tired after a month on the road promoting the film and they were feeling their oats, talking over each other, teasing one another and pretending to duck flamethrowers from skyscrapers outside the windows.
M&C: You must be excited to be a part of what could be a new franchise. You’ll be all set.
Jamie Campbell Bower: Oh, I hope you don’t mean financially. (laughs) I’m getting paid in magic beans, buttons, and hugs. (laughs)
Robert Sheehan: (laughs) But you can’t forget all of the wonderful food! (laughs) But the reaction to the work is its own best reward.
RS: And that would be great.
KZ: We’ve been going at this for the last month and a half with the press in the US, and we did a mall tour, and that was crazy in itself, and we go right into the next movie which should be wrapped just before Christmas, and then we’ll get a bit more of a break to maybe go and do something else before we have to go right back into the press thing again.
So certainly for the next year and a half it will be a lot of this. I think it’s great that we all picked something that we really liked to work on, because you can get roped into something that you sort of didn’t realize was going to be this big or will take up that much time. I mean, it’s a really privileged problem to have.
RS: “Champagne problems.”
KZ: But travelling around and being away from your family is always hard. For me at least, it’s always been that you go out and shoot a movie, in a few weeks you’re done, then you go home and then maybe you do a day or two of press or a week. But this thing is significant. It’s like shooting another movie.
JCB: Yeah, we’ve been on the road non-stop now for about five weeks. It’s probably why we’re all starting to go a bit mental. (laughs)
M&C: What do you think is so appealing about the books to the young fans?
RS: I think what’s great about this world that Cassandra has created is that it offers a more thoughtful sort of escape from reality for the reader. It helps them to think about their own reality in a different light. That’s sort of the beauty of great fantasy or science fiction.
Someone realizes the world in a completely different way and it helps inform your own world. It’s all about what you’re putting back into the story, as well. It’s about perception and I think that’s why people love these books. The fantasy is sensational and so magical. It has something that appeals to us all and is so inspiring.
KZ: I think part of the reason I like this really not being a teenager myself anymore is that I sometimes watch these kinds of films and I can often see them as a bit patronizing, because I have nieces and nephews now who are brighter than I am sometimes, and they are so attuned to when they are being talked down to or something is being over explained.
Part of what we wanted to do is not to really overly simplify or dumb down the fantasy. People can get when something is complicated or complex. You don’t have to explain and spell our every nuance for people to enjoy themselves. That exposition doesn’t need to be there all the time. That’s what reading and being literary does. You can take which parts you’re interested in and focus on that.
And the point of a movie like this is that you would want to watch it again, and certainly some of the people who were waiting outside the premiere last night would go and see the film five or six times of the opening weekend. It is one of those films where you can watch and follow along with the characters as their dynamics shift, but there are a lot of different ways that you can look at those shifts.
M&C: It has to encouraging knowing that there are a lot of fans who will come to support the material.
KZ: We really didn’t know that, though, when we started out on the mall tour, though. We had done Comic-Con and Wonder-Con, and those are things in and of themselves, but people will be there anyway. I remember that the mall tour kicked off in Minneapolis, and we had done our press for the day talking to reporters and doing that before we went to the mall, and that felt normal. I remember turning to Jamie in the car on the way to the mall and I just said...
JCB: “What if nobody shows up?”
KZ: There’s no guarantee on how many people are going to show up.
JCB: It’s kind of like your birthday party, you know. There’s a lot of expectation, but never a guarantee.
KZ: It’s not like something that they sell tickets for, you know? Or like a premiere where you know they are going to pack the house because they paid a lot of money for it. It’s just something where we will be there to meet with fans and if they want an autograph or to say hi, they can come. Really, up until that point I didn’t know if anyone was going to come before that point.
And obviously since then it has gotten really crazy. Then you have last night with the premiere where everyone was really excited and lined up around the block and that’s even crazier.
JCB: We have this sort of built in, pre-existing fan base, but within itself that creates a level of expectation in all of us that’s almost like anxiety because we have to deliver on what everyone else thinks. It’s up to us to balance the way that we see the characters with how they see the characters and you want to do right by it and do right by yourself at the same time.
M&C: It must be strange facing a possible hit franchise. Does having the first film in the can lessen that anxiety at all?
JCB: (shakes head) It’s a Catch-22, really.
RS: You really can’t dwell on it too much. You would go kind of mad if you did. You just have to focus on what your interpretation is. You just have to jump back on the ship and know what the job is that you have to do. When you read a book, the words encourage the reader to use their own imagination and paint their own world inside their head. It’s a very organic and deeply personal thing.
Film, on the other hand, is like a form of dreaming. That’s the world right there and it’s done and there’s nothing you can really do about it besides just staying on top of your own work. We can only give the one adaptation. It’s very easy to say you don’t have to be anxious about it, but that would be a lie.
JCB: If we were to do something wrong, I mean we could always say that it was someone else’s fault (laughs) but inwardly we would always know and think that it was our own. The advantage to this movie is that for all of us this isn’t our first motion picture.
Yes, for us to be sitting here at this point in time we are the male faces for this movie, but we’re all super aware of how this industry works. Ultimately we’re doing a job. It’s a sick job, and a fun job, and one that we’re all fans of doing, but it’s still a job. You know?