Harald Zwart Interview: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) had the difficult task of delivering to the screen the first film adaptation of Cassandra Clare's bestselling Mortal Instruments book series, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Zwart also had the difficult task of matching the right actors to Clare's characters as well as satisfying those who've read the books while introducing this supernatural world to those who've never heard of the novels. And at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con, we talked about how he handled all of those aspects of bringing The Mortal Instruments to life on the screen.
Not every young adult series successfully makes the leap to the big screen. Why do you think this one is going to?
Harald Zwart: "I think it is a really intriguing story and Cassandra [Clare] writes very visually, so for us to turn it into a movie is a natural step. It was not like a hindrance. It was just a really cool thing to do. I just think she has a real insight into what young people are thinking about, so I think it's an important story. And the actors are doing a terrific job."
She does create a very vivid world, but it's a world that has a lot of violence in it. How does that translate into the screen version?
Harald Zwart: "We kept the scares and the thrill effect of it, and a little more of what The Exorcist did - you know, scare with demons - and is not necessarily that violent. So I think family audiences will enjoy it."
Is it a PG-13 rating?
Harald Zwart: "Yes, and I have kids myself so it's important to me."
Were your kids familiar with the source material before you took the film on?
Harald Zwart: "No, no. They weren't, but they're now huge fans."
Harald Zwart: "Yes."
Do they follow a particular character?
Harald Zwart: "I think they all want to be Jace, but they feel like Simon."
Interesting. So when the casting was coming about, of course there was a lot on the Internet about who's going to play who and people had all their opinions about who would tackle the role of Jace the best. Why was Jamie Campbell Bower the perfect choice?
Harald Zwart: "I think you'll see when you see the movie. It's one of those things that are really hard to satisfy everyone. Everybody has their own opinion, and we try to respect what people's intentions were. But at one point, you just have to get the right person for the movie. I think Jamie has that otherworldly, angelic thing about him. And he's also a really great actor, which was really important as well that all the parts, be small or big, they were really good actors."
When you look at his face though and you don't think, "That guy's dangerous." Why are we going to think he's dangerous in the movie?
Harald Zwart: "He's the kind of danger that you discover, I think."
It's a slow burn.
Harald Zwart: "Yes, he's a bit of a naughty boy. And like I said, he is half-angel and he looks it. I think that's the way he should be."
Translating this to the screen, you've got the fan base but then you've got a lot of people who have no idea what Mortal Instruments is about. How is it to walk that line and satisfy everyone?
Harald Zwart: "That's a good question. That's a tough line to walk, obviously, because you don't want anybody to feel like, 'Oh, I haven't read the book, therefore the movie's not for me.' We worked really close with Cassandra, who's been fantastic, and we made sure that it has everything you need as a movie to understand everything without having read the books, and then the fans who have read the books will know just a little more than everyone else. Hopefully we've captured the spirit of the characters and the story, so they'll be very happy, too."
How tough was it to get the right tone? Because those books are very specific.
Harald Zwart: "Another good question. You read the book and it starts growing inside of you, and then I can only use that as a guideline. I think Cassandra has a great sense of humor, and when you keep it very real but you drop in humor that comes from the character, you lighten up the movie a little bit, because it can get a little bit dark sometimes. I think the movie benefits from that."
The Official Synopsis:
In City of Bones, set in contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager Clary Fray, discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world. When Clary's mother disappears, she must join a daring group of young Shadowhunters on an adventure, which leads her through a city filled with mischievous fairies, eccentric warlocks, werewolf gangs and other strange creatures.
(Photo © 2013 Constantin Film International GmbH and Unique Features (TMI) Inc)