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Trio of stars take 'Mortal Instruments' to heart

Published On: Aug 20 2013 02:34:58 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 20 2013 03:06:41 PM CDT
Jamie Campbell Bower Lily Collins Kevin Zegers Photo Sony Pictures Publicity

Sony Pictures Publicity

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" stars Jamie Campbell Bower, Lily Collins and Kevin Zegers.

True, while there are vampires, werewolves and other netherworldly beings in the new fantasy adventure thriller "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," its stars want audience members who plan on seeing the teen book series-turned-film to know that they're not getting another "Twilight"-esque film series.

"I think people always want to compare something to something. It's not that's it frustrating, because they're both young adult series of novels. These books are very popular with a very specific demographic of people," Kevin Zegers, joined by fellow stars Lily Collins (Snow White in "Mirror Mirror") and Jamie Campbell Bower, told me in a recent interview. "But 'Mortal Instruments' is such of a different movie, from the cast to the story, to the amount of action it has to the amount of comedy in it. I find some of that these films tend to take themselves so seriously that you end up laughing at bits that aren't supposed to be funny."

Zegers, 28, also said the film is different from others in the genre because it's so much more of a "universally-themed adventure" and "a story that people can relate to."

"Things are happening around Lily's character, but audiences can experience it at the same time," said the "Gossip Girl" star.

Opening in theaters nationwide on Wednesday, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" -- the first film adapted from the blockbuster hit series of novels by Cassandra Clare -- tells the story of Clary (Collins), a seemingly ordinary teenage human whose repressed memory begins to give way and opens up her mind to see symbols and beings in a parallel universe.

After encountering two of the beings, Jace (Bower) and Alec (Zegers), Clary discovers she's not a "mundane," as humans are called, but a descendant of a line of young, half-angel warriors known as the Shadowhunters -- a group locked in an ancient battle to protect the world from demons.

Following the mysterious disappearance of her mother (Lena Heady), Clary has no choice to join the Shadowhunters, who introduce her to the dangerous alternate New York City (known as Downworld), which is filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.

Directed by Harald Zwart, the film also stars Robert Sheehan as Clary's best friend, Simon, Jemima West as Alec's warrior sister, Isabelle, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine -- an evil, manipulative former Shadowhunter who is seeking out Clary to help him fulfill his dark quest.

Collins said she loves the opportunity to play Clary in "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" because, in a rare cinematic turn, it's a coming-of-age story about a girl. In this instance, Clary remains grounded despite being thrown into extraordinary circumstances -- and risqué costumes.

"She becomes a kick-a-- character, but she still maintains her sense of self. It's not like she completely changes," Collins said. "There's a scene Clary is running around doing these stunts, but it's super-awkward for her. She even says, 'What am I doing in these damn boots?' She still has the same mentality as a normal mundane, but she's thrown into these situations that are out of this world."

Best of all, Collins, 21, observed, is that she's a very relateable character.

"She acts as an average audience member would to these situations, because she's constantly asking 'Who, what, when, where, why?' and trying figure out what's going on like the audience is," Collins said. "So she when she does find her voice in the story, she helps the audience understand the Shadowhunters, Jace and other things. So while there's romance, action and drama in the movie, it's also a story of self-discovery. There's something for everybody"

While the film strives to separate itself from any other film that derives from a work of popular literature, "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" one thing the talent can't ignore is a massive fan base that hangs on to every word, photo and video clip about it posted online. And you can just about imagine the wide range of opinions, given Clare's series of five books have so far sold 22 million copies in 36 different languages.

Campbell Bower is used to the frenzy in a sense, having played a smaller supporting role in "Twilight" as one of the Volturi's leaders, Caius. But as one of the major characters in "The Mortal Instruments," he found that fans could be every bit as harsh as they were complimentary with their opinions on the Internet.

"When I was cast there was a negative reaction -- I wouldn't call it an uproar -- but definitely an amount of negativity there," recalled Campbell Bower, 24. "It's frustrating and it's hurtful, and not something you'd ever want to go through no matter what it is you're doing for a living. Whether you're working in a bank or on a film set, you shouldn't have to go through s--- like that, ever."

The upside to the critical reactions, Campbell Bower said, is that it motivated him to succeed in the role more than ever.

"I particularly worked on my image for the film and changing that perception," the actor added. "But I took on board what the fans had to say about Jace, because, ultimately, without the fans of the book, we wouldn't be sitting here. So you have to listen to them."

That's not to say Campbell Bower, who has starred in such opposite the likes of Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and Eva Green in the miniseries "Camelot" lets one singular opinion or idea guide him.

"I have to put a little bit of me in the character so I can relate to it," Campbell Bower said. "I hate feeling like I'm acting. It's like a bad smell. I have to put little bits of me in there or otherwise I feel like I'm pretending too much. You have balance the expectations, and I don't expect to make 100 percent of the people happy -- but if I can make 20 percent of the people feel happy, that's OK because I've made myself happy doing it."

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