Jamie Campbell Bower Talks Fake Tattoos, Female Protagonists, Working with Lily Collins, and More on the Set of THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES

     February 14, 2013


When casting was underway on The Mortal Instruments, fans were very vocal about who should play Jace Wayland, and they weren’t happy about Jamie Campbell Bower.  Looking over the comments on our casting article, you’d have thought the world was ending.  But when I was on the set last year during production, everything I saw made me believe Campbell Bower was a great casting choice and the fans that were negative would eventually come around.  During a group interview on set, Bower talked about his casting and the negative reaction:

“I think at the beginning I was very much aware of what was being said, whether it be positive or negative; predominately negative. I have to appreciate the fact that this is a series of books that people have already encountered and people will already have preconceived notions about who the characters are. Did it affect me? Fuck yeah, of course it affected me. I’d be a cold, heartless and self-absorbed person to have it not, but it made me want to prove to these people that say I can’t do this that I really can. If I can win over 50% of the people who said that I couldn’t do this or didn’t want me to do this, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

He went on to talk about how he prepared to play the role, the tattoos, the audition process, how he made the character his own, and so much more.  Hit the jump to either read or listen to what he had to say.

Before getting to the interview, here’s the official synopsis and trailer:

The Mortal Instruments is a series of six young adult fantasy books written by Cassandra Clare. In the series’ first book, the #1 New York Times bestseller The Mortal Instruments: 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 young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother, Clary must join forces with a group of Shadowhunters, who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.

As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below.  The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opens August 23.

jamie-campbell-bowerJAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER: I tend to thrive on being misquoted. It’s the only way I sound good.

Question: I’m curious because you’ve been involved in some franchises before and this obviously could be a franchise. Were you a little bit nervous to sign on or were you more excited to sign on since you’ve been part of these other successful ones?

BOWER: I think I’m nervous to sign on to any job. I think when I was first approached about this, I wasn’t made aware of the fact that they were possibly thinking about making it into a franchise, so for me, it was — this was a one-film deal. If it goes for another two, if it goes for another three, however many, that’s great, but right now we’re focusing on this one and doing this one and getting that as good as I can make it rather than focus on it as a brand and making it into a brand.

Are you drawn to these fantasy roles specifically?

BOWER: [Laughs] Maybe it’s just the way I look. I think I’m always drawn to a good story. I’m always drawn to something, you know – nowadays, I think it’d be foolish; it would be ignorant to believe that something that a studio has to make; something that they know is going to be successful or make money and Mortal Instruments is a great series of books that taps into a genre that is very popular and I think that a lot of studios are making those kinds of movies now, so is it that there’s opportunities? Yeah, of course there’s opportunities. This is a great story and that’s why I’m interested in it ultimately.

How did you physically prepare for this role and what’s the deal with the tattoos?

BOWER: These are all real and terribly made.  No. Physically, I’ve trained really hard for it. It was sort of — I started training four months — three months before we started shooting, and I sort of toyed around with different physical forms and at the end of it, what I wanted was to get to a point whereby we’ve seen this sort of big jock kind of character before and I didn’t want that and I didn’t really think that that was something that I believe, particularly, you know, with my younger cousins or whatever being girls that they’re really into — you know, the 15-year-old markets — I don’t know if that’s as sexy as it once was anymore. I think it’s more about the rock star or the girls that I, you know, the 15-year-old girls they’re into, like, skinny motherfuckers from bands and the sort of lost souls and all that kind of shit and I love that and I think that’s really cool. Ultimately, at the end of that, what I wanted to do is I built up the muscle, and then I just trimmed everything down and just got super lean and it was really tough; really, really hardcore. I did a lot of stunt training; a lot of fight training and physically kind of ruined myself but in the best way possible. It wasn’t like I was doing stupid shit because I was doing stuff that was good for me, but, you know, you wake up at 5 o’clock every morning, and do three hours of training, then you have a half an hour to eat, and then you go back and do another two hours, then half an hour to go and sleep, and maybe have a shower if you’re lucky, and then go through lines or learn the piano and all this kind of stuff. Yes, it’s exhausting, but it’s part of what I enjoy about it.

the-mortal-instruments-city-of-bones-movie-castAnd the tattoos?

BOWER: The tattoos — these are runes, so each tattoo has a specific power so I’m covered in them and I have real tattoos as well, so my real tattoos have to get covered and then runes get put on top of my real tattoos. I think I should just get runes tattooed all over me, then at least I wouldn’t have to spend three hours in the makeup chair because I’d spend fifteen hours in the tattoo parlor and be done with it for the rest of my life.

A lot of people we talked to today, including Lily, talked about the connection that you guys had right from the first audition, so I’m just curious if you felt that when you walked away.

BOWER: Absolutely. I think I walked into that audition; I walked into that camera test knowing that I wasn’t necessarily the person that they wanted to go for and that’s a hard room to walk into. That’s fucking tough. So I had to go in there and I had to be able to a) prove myself and b) there had to be something more; there had to be this, like — it was funny because it happened without sort of looking for it. Like, Lily and I just automatically clicked and these two characters just came out of us and it was like we had known each other for years, it was so weird. We watched back the camera tests… gosh, when we first started shooting, so maybe three months ago. And we both looked — I was bloated, I was fat, I’m surprised anybody wanted me to walk into that room and we’re both in completely different places, but this connection was there and that’s an amazing, amazing thing to have. I think that’s great for the movie and I think above anything what I was really drawn to in this story is… this is ultimately this love story and I think that’s a lot of things we see in popular culture nowadays, and things that have succeeded throughout time, I think that’s what’s happened here, like Romeo and Juliet and, you know, well you’ve heard of movies, not to mention one but Twilight. That was so successful because people invested in the love between these two characters and that’s what I want them to have with this. Yes there’s a lot of other shit that’s going on, but that’s what I want them to.

the-mortal-instruments-city-of-bones-lily-collinsThis series is part of this new trend where you have the female front and center as opposed to the male hero lead. Do you appreciate that dynamic?

BOWER: Do I appreciate it? [Laughs] What am I going to be like, “Mmm, girl, yeah. Now we’re talking?” I think it’s great. The heroine is a central figure and I think — I for one am bored. I think James Bond should be played by a woman. There you go. That’s a difficult question to answer because for me to say, “I think it’s great,” it makes me sound like a twat because why wouldn’t it be great? It’s interesting that that can happen now because 25 years ago that would not have happened and I think it’s a real step forward for cinema and I think that’s a step forward for storytelling.

People may have preconceptions about your character from reading the books. How do you make him your own?

BOWER: How did I make him my own?… I suppose with any character that you play you always bring your personal experience to it. You always bring people that you know or that you’ve met and sort of — this is what I do, I mean, I don’t know what anyone else does – but people that you know or that you’ve met that have affected you in certain ways, you bring into it. For me Jace, the story of Jace is all about, you know, he holes himself up all the time. He’s an asshole. He’s an ass. He’s a class A wanker and there’s nothing more to be said about it. And then he opens himself to Clary and gives himself to her and then he ultimately ends up being betrayed by that, so he holes himself up again and then at the end we just see him break and I love that. I want to play him super strong and I’ve been playing him, like, super stoic and when we see him break, I really want it to be for the audience; to be like, oh wow, he’s actually a real person; he’s not just a robot.”Maybe that won’t work in my favor. Maybe people will be like, “Mer, a very good performance up until the end.”

mortal-instruments-city-of-bones-lily-collins-jamie-campbell-bowerIn the book, your character has so many of the best one-liners and they said that as the script went through all these changes they made sure to put those in. Are you glad you got to do that?

BOWER: Yeah but, like, there are moments, but they’re said so flat and so deadpan and that’s what makes them so funny. You could be arrogant, but no one likes that guy really. People like the guy that says something off the cuff and I suppose that is fun and the more that we sort of dive into it, the more things we can put in and you can say a lot with a look. I sounded like Ryan Gosling… It’s fun to explore those moments of comedy within a dark world. Yeah, for sure, I’m enjoying that.

How much are you looking on online message boards, looking at what fans are saying? Because obviously it’s based on a lot of fans.

BOWER: I think at the beginning I was very much aware of what was being said, whether it be positive or negative; predominately negative. That’s something that you’ve gotta deal with. I have to appreciate the fact that this is a series of books that people have already encountered and people, like you said, will already have preconceived notions about who the characters are and I have to respect that and be able to bring some of those qualities that they believe the character to have to the movie, while still sticking true to how I feel. Did it affect me? Fuck yeah, of course it affected me. I’d be a cold, heartless and self-absorbed person to have it not, but it made me want to prove to these people that say I can’t do this that I really can. If I can win over 50% of the people who said that I couldn’t do this or didn’t want me to do this, then I feel like I’ve done my job.

the-mortal-instruments-city-of-bones-posterMost important question of the day: Why two iPhones?

BOWER: Production iPhone and personal iPhone. Plus, one has all my naked pictures on it and the other one doesn’t. It’s anyone’s guess which one’s the production iPhone.

As a demon hunter, what’s your favorite confrontation with a creature in this movie?

BOWER: Not just in general? [Laughs] My favorite confrontation with a creature… there’s a creature we encounter called Abaddon, who is Madame Dorethea’s sort of alter ego, and in the movie, spoiler, she’s just very strong, so nothing works and it’s a beatdown. It’s very funny; it’s very cool and something that you don’t really see often like that sort of reality, and that’s what I think Harald and Lily and Kevin and Jemima, Robbie brought to it, hopefully myself as well, it’s like the reality and I love those moments. I love those moments where we’re like, “Oh, we’re in this Shadowhunter world everything’s weird and we have runes and there’s demons” and then you go “Oh, this could actually be real” because here we are, in the middle of Brooklyn and we’re fighting a 7-foot gorilla-esque… this sort of demon doesn’t actually exist, I’m just trying to sell you down the river. [Laughs] But I love that.

We saw you doing a flip — talk a little bit about filming the action sequences, set pieces, and what kind of a challenge it is to do that in addition to, you know…

Jamie Campbell Bower Mortal InstrumentsBOWER: Right, in addition to having to perform as well I suppose. Harald, when I first got here, when Lily and I first got here, before we started shooting, we did a lot of pre-production stuff and fight training and sort of just warming up to being here while everything is going on, it’s nice to have those moments. So we were doing a lot of stunt stuff and Harald was like, “I don’t want any wires; I don’t want any wire work. I don’t want that. I want it to be very much — If you’re going to do something, if you’re going to do a flip, then you need to be able to do a flip. If you’re going to do a jump, you need to be able to do a jump” and all this kind of stuff. So for me, learning how to do flips onto tables off the mini-tram was really exciting because that’s me doing that in the movie. That’s nobody else. That’s not a facial placement. There’s no wires there. That’s me jumping from the floor onto a table doing a flip in midair, which I know sounds really stupid, but the 14-year-old boy inside me goes, “That’s fucking awesome. That’s so cool.” I really appreciate those moments and I appreciate the fact that Harald’s been able to do that. And yeah some stuff isn’t going to look as, you know, necessarily as slick as something like, I don’t know, Crouching Tiger where there was a lot of wire work and all that kind of stuff. We know that it’s real and I know that it’s real and I love the fact that we’re able to do that and it is very physically demanding, yeah. But there’s a big payoff at the end, a big, big payoff. Hopefully. [Laughs] It’s nice to be able to go to bed at night and go, “Yeah, I tried my hardest… Oh well, we’ll see.” 

For more from our Mortal Instruments set visit:

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