Thursday, July 11, 2013

TMI EXCLUSIVE: Set report and interview with 'The Mortal Instruments' author Cassandra Clare

Welcome to the City of Bones, population, 1.

 It feels that way at least as I stand in the center of the actual City of Bones. Just for a moment, time seems to stop.  The people around me fade away, and I imagine what it must have been like for our protagonist, Clary Fray, to stand before the Silent Brothers.  Intimidating, amazing, magical....once in a lifetime. I feel all those emotions inside me. To get to this moment, though, we must step back to the beginning.

It's September 20th, 2012. Happy birthday to me! I just got off a flight from Little Rock to Toronto for an all-inclusive trip (thanks to Sony Pictures for the hook up) to see the set and interview the cast of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.   After a stop at the hotel, I headed down to meet up with a group of bloggers and friends for a dinner with TMI author Cassandra Clare.  While waiting outside for the group to arrive, several of us got a close encounter with Harry Potter star Gary Oldman and actress Abby Cornish.  I thought right then that if this was an indication of my experience ahead, I would be in for a huge treat. We got a lot of inside info from the dinner with Cassie. She was so gracious and happy to explain as much as she could about the set, her books and pretty much anything that wasn't too spoilery.

Dinner with Cassie! (photo courtesy of @Shadowhunting)

 September 21st, 2012
We had breakfast in this very spot!
After a late breakfast with some friends in the spot we first saw Lily and Jamie photographed together and almost running into actor Donald Faison in the hallway, I find myself sitting in a van traveling with a group of giddy bloggers, who are all chatting anxiously about what we are about to see. It was about 3:15 on a gorgeous afternoon when we left for the set.   It could have been about the longest 15 minute drive ever just because we were all so excited! There were so many expectations and so many things I wanted to ask Cassie and the cast. The group of bloggers with me were Alyssa from TMI Source, Katie  from Mundie Moms, Kristen from TMI Movie News, Amanda from MTV Next Movie, Kimmy from Page to Premiere, Kallie from Bookshelf Banter, Erin from Fangirlish, and Jen from Hypable. All are awesome ladies with enough knowledge about the fandom to make an encyclopedia.

When we arrived at the sprawling studio complex that housed the large sets for the TMI movie, they took our phones (no pics, tweets or texts on set). For a blogger, that lack of instant social media connection is almost your worst nightmare, but we were assured that we wouldn't want to miss a second of the action. We met up with Cassie, who seemed just as eager to show us the set as we were to be there.

On the way to the wardrobe department, our first stop on the tour,we spot Lily Collins, our very own Clary Fray, chatting with a crew member. She gave us a quick wave and we were on our way. The wardrobe for the cast was truly incredible.  The costume director took us on a tour of her area.She took us up to her office, and we saw where all the cast photos were hanging. 

***Here's some random trivia for you: Stella Zwart, daughter of director Harald Zwart, was supposed to be in the movie as the 10 year old demon girl, but was unable to at the last moment.***

There was even a photo of Jamie Campbell Bower with foil in his hair from a coloring session. It was adorable! We headed down to check out all the concept sheets for the actors’ wardrobes. There were photos of actors and models with clothing styled much like what the TMI characters would wear. We saw Jemima’s dress for Pandemonium and  Lily’s  micro mini party dress that Izzy lends her. To be there and be able to go up and see those pieces first was incredible.

The room was enormous with racks upon racks of clothing (a girl's dream come true) with signs indicating which character the garments belonged to. We were able to get a peek of Brother Jeremiah’s robe. The burlap robe was a heavy, massive piece. We went to an area of the room where two of the costume artists were working to distress leather pants by painting them. It was so neat! We also checked out paintings that were created on set for the movie, including a stunning one of Raziel.

To add to this experience, we went up to interview Kevin Zegers, Jemima West and Jamie Campbell Bower. I'll be sharing those interviews in the coming days, but I thought I'd give you the lowdown on what Cassie thought about Lily playing Clary.

TMI Institute: When Lily was first cast as Clary, what advice did you give her for portraying the role?

Cassie: When Lily was first cast as Clary, I was actually surprised. I didn’t realize they were going to cast her and so I think that I gave her the advice not to feel pressured by the idea that there were a lot of people who had investment in the character and who wanted to see the character portrayed this way or another way, not to get too hung up on people on wanting to make sure she had the right red color of hair or the right green color of eyes, but to try to capture what she felt was the intrinsic spirit of the character and I really believed in her ability to do that and from what I have seen, she has.

But that's not all... She had a lot more to say in this round table discussion with the bloggers.

Hypable: Is there a character, costume, or set piece that you saw and thought ‘wow that is exactly how I pictured it?’

Cassie: I think the first time that I saw the City of Bones, I thought wow this is exactly how I pictured it. It’s…I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s really amazing and incredibly detailed. Every little tiny piece of the set is different and it really felt like a real place to me.

Page to Premiere: The story of City of Bones/Mortal Instruments was inspired by a trip you took to a tattoo shop. Do you have any tattoos, and are any inspired by your novels?

Cassie: I do not have any tattoos, I have never been able to commit to a particular tattoo, unfortunately, but I would love to get a tattoo and I’ve been thinking that maybe when the movie comes out I’ll get one of the Runes.

Page to Premiere: What inspired your awesome pen name?

Cassie: It’s the name of Jane Austen’s sister and she used to write stories for her sister so that was the inspiration.

Next Movie: For your readers, what do you think the film is going to add to this/your story they already know and love so well?

Cassie: Well I think that a film always adds another layer of meaning to a story the same way than a play adaptation or a piece of music inspired by a story adds another layer of meaning. A film is an interpretation of a book and so I think that it will provide people with an opportunity to see another interpretation to the book.

Mundie Moms: What scenes are you most excited to see?

Cassie: I think that for me it would really be a tossup in terms of the scene that I’m most excited to see between Magnus’ Party and the Greenhouse scene with Clary and Jace that we all know and love.

Bookshelf Banter: Is there a piece of advice you've given to a specific actor, in regard to their character, that surprised them?

Cassie: I’m not sure that I’ve really given a piece of advice that really surprised them but I’ve certainly talked to them about giving themselves the freedom to interpret their characters the way that they see them and not to worry about trying to hue to any of the particular other interpretations that you can find. You know, every different fan has their own interpretation of what those characters are like and I really wanted the actors to feel like they should interpret the characters the way they saw them.

TMI Source: What makes Harald Zwart the right director for this film?

Cassie: I think Harald is the right director for this film because he is actually not a fantasy guy in the sense that he hasn’t done fantasy movies before. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like fantasy, he is a fan, but he comes at the project from the point of view of someone who has always concentrated on the emotional relationships between characters in his work and so, in these stories he does the same, he concentrates on the emotional work between the characters, their different relationships, he’s very committed to underlining that every character has a relationship with every other character and I think it’s that kind of basis that’s required to make a fantasy feel real.

Fangirlish: Is it difficult releasing control of your story to a screenplay writer and letting someone else translate your words to the big screen?

Cassie: Well I am a bit of a control freak so it is difficult to let go of a story and let someone else takeover their, you know with their interpretation of it, but, working with Constantin has been really great. They’ve certainly talked to me a lot, taken my opinion into account, and thought about the things that I have said. And at the end of the day, I am also excited, just as my readers are, to see the final product and ready to be surprised.


The Portal (photo from the Shadowhunters Guide)
Next, we took a tour of the set. As we were making our way around, I spotted a dome shaped building to the right of us. I asked Cassie what it was. She told me it was the City of Bones and that we would see it later. I could tell she was excited to show us.  We walked through Clary and Madame Dorothea's apartments. They were unfinished at the time, but it was neat to see it first hand. The library was also unfinished, but they had the main structure with the portal. It was an extremely surreal moment to walk down those library steps to the portal, knowing what lurks on the other side in this literary adventure. 

***Random trivia: We were told on set that the portal was built on some type of naturally occurring stone and the Institute was built after that. There was an amazing spiral staircase in this two-story set with a stain glass window of the Angel Raziel. My impression overall of this particular set was that they had done an incredible job getting the tiny details.

The Mortal Cup (photo from BEA party)
We also got the honor of getting our hands on some of the props from the film. The seraph blades, crafted in resin to make them light and more durable, were beautiful. There were 45 of these specially designed blades made for filming. We each took turns wielding the blade. The Mortal Cup was extremely heavy! It has a drop of the Angel Raziel's blood in a compartment just below the goblet. There was a lighter version of the cup we were able to see, too.

We held both Jace and Izzy's stele and tried on Jace's Morgenstern ring. We all fangirled a bit about the fact that Jamie would be wearing it, and we've seen him in lots if photos with the ring on.

Morgenstern Ring (photo from BEA party)
Izzy's Stele (photo from BEA party)

Group photo time! (that's me, back row all the way to the left!)

We took a break to take our group photo with Cassie and hit up the ice cream truck that comes on Fridays as a treat to the cast and crew. Heading back inside, we finally went inside the City of Bones. The outer hallway was just how you'd imagine it: lined with intermingling skulls, full skeletons and runes. It was truly intricate and incredible! It really felt like being in the Bone City. When went in the main chamber, we were welcomed with director chairs with our names on them (of which we got to keep the chair backs).

My director's chair!

 There were TV screens set up, and we got the first sneak peek of CCH Pounder as Madame Dorothea as she becomes demon possessed. She walks to the door and gets tackled by Clary's best friends, Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan) and Jace comes timing in to pull Simon off her and stab her with the seraph blade. Lily enters, grabs the Mortal Cup and puts it back in the card. She runs up and hugs Simon, and Jace looks at them both with a mixture of hurt and sadness. He hears his name called from another room. Isabelle (Jemima)
is kneeling over Alec (Kevin Zegers) saying that the rune (to heal Alec) isn't working. They take a break from filming, we talk with Harald Zwart, Lily Collins and Robert Sheehan. You'll see interviews with Lily and Robert in the coming days.

One of the coolest aspects of the City of Bones is the audio effect directly in the center of the room. It has a sort of reverb or echo effect when you stand in that spot and talk. I thought then that I couldn't wait to see how that effect would come to life on the big screen. In that moment, as I stood in the center of the City of Bones, I thought about Clary Fray, the girl who put her fear aside and entered a brave new world of strange and beautiful beings. How intimidating it would be to be interrogated by the Silent Brothers, yet Clary was strong. I thought about the journey I'd taken and all the incredible new people I'd meet along the way. The journey of a Shadowhunter to get to the City of Bones is a pretty fantastic one, and I'll be sharing my next part of my journey, an interview with Jamie Campbell Bower, on this blog tomorrow!
Check out all the interviews:
Jamie Campbell Bower
Robert Sheehan
Kevin Zegers and Jemima West

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