The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Harald Zwart interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
HARALD Zwart talks about some of the challenges of directing The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and working with the book’s author, Cassandra Clare, in bringing the book to the screen.
He also talks about his casting choices and ignoring some disgruntled fans as well as working with effects and why he believes young audiences enjoy being scared. He was speaking at a UK press conference…
Q. You’ve directed coming-of-age stories before [The Karate Kid], usually featuring a male as the lead. Was the idea of telling a coming-of-age story with such a strong female character in the lead role one of the things that attracted you to this film?
Harald Zwart: Yeah, you could say that Karate Kid was good for my son, and this one was for Stella, my daughter, who needs some good role models. She’s way too young to see the movie, but she saw it before the monsters were added, so she loved it then. Now I think she’s going to be terrified.
Q. Because it really doesn’t pull any punches. The demon dog, that’s something out of a nightmare…
Harald Zwart: People ask me: “Didn’t you consider your audience?” And I just wanted to make a really great movie that I loved to watch too. To dumb things down just because people are young, I don’t think we need to do that. I think they can take quite a few things. Audiences today are much more sophisticated than when I was young – which isn’t that long ago, by the way. I think people like to be scared. I was constantly thinking: “What would I show my own kids?” I think as long as there’s not too much gore and blood, that speculative action, or actually girls in jeopardy, which I think is a little boring after a while, they need to stand up for themselves. I think they can absolutely take a few good jumps. I was inspired by The Exorcist and the original Thing. I love the idea of something cracking apart and trying to re-assemble itself. I try to make it as realistic as possible.
Q. How did you go about casting the film, from its yuoung leads to its older, more established actors like Lena Headey and Jared Harris?
Harald Zwart: Lily was already on board when I decided to do the movie and she was part of the reason why I wanted to do the movie. And then Jamie was a hot candidate. I was aware of some of the chit-chat out there. I completely ignored that. I thought it was totally irrelevant. I thought he was absolutely perfect. And in my mind, I always keep thinking something I learned from advertising, which is: “You shouldn’t give people what they want, they deserve so much better.”
So, I thought the two of them were already perfect. Robert didn’t look anything like Simon so we had to do a little bit of work. But I saw him with the glasses and I just envisaged him. I thought also he did a good job with his accent, which is also completely convincing. So, these guys were pretty much already the hottest candidates. And like I said, I had conversations with Cassandra and we looked at the chatter online and we decided we were going to go for the ones we thought were best. You can never avoid that stuff. With Jared [Harris] and Lena [Headey] I just wanted the movie to be filled with incredibly great actors, just like the Harry Potter series… no matter how tiny the pat is, but really, really great actors delivering the lines with the biggest conviction.
I think Alec [Kevin Zegers] also, his character is a complex character, which is quite a ballsy move for him and he does it very, very well. And funnily enough, Isabelle was the one that… doing this in Hollywood you get presented with ‘the hotties’. We did readings with the hotties but none of them were Isabelle because we didn’t want her to be just that – we wanted her to be a little more. So, we looked high and low and we found Jemima [West] in Paris. She lives in Paris, she’s more French than British, and I think she’s an incredible right idea. She’s maybe not as much as what the fans wanted, but she’s very smart and intelligent and incredibly tough girl.
So, I felt very confident in what I wanted and I had the support of Cassandra, and we just decided to basically more or less ignore some of the fans. It wasn’t all of the fans. Going back to what Jamie was saying, there were just a few. Overall, there was a great response to Jamie. It’s just that these few have a very loud voice all of a sudden through the media. But I guess you just have to trust your own instincts.