Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
August 19, 2013
In the highly anticipated big-screen adaptation of “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” Shadowhunters/part-angels/demon slayers Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Alec (Kevin Zegers) are meant to be symbols of toughness and resolve. If the actors had to battle each other in real life? Not as intense.
“It would be like that scene in ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary” where they just slap each other a little bit,” says Bower, previously seen in both the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” franchises. “’It’s a fight, a real fight!’”
“We’d probably be wearing hockey helmets to not mess each other’s faces up,” adds Zegers, now a decade-and-a-half removed from his starring role in the “Air Bud” franchise. “I grew up in Canada playing hockey and because I was a young actor I got picked on an awful lot, so I was forced to fight a lot when I was a kid. I don’t know about you, Jamie?”
“I grew up in the English countryside,” Bower says. “I know how to shear a sheep. That’s about it, man. [Laughs]”
Starring Lily Collins as Clary Fray, the film opens Wednesday. At the Peninsula Hotel, Bower, 24, and Zegers, 28, talked about a Chicago demon infestation, their favorite Victoria’s Secret angel and the franchise’s, uh, complicated sibling relationships.
Click here for our video/q&A with star Lily Collins
How would a demon infestation be different in Chicago vs. the film’s setting of New York?
Kevin Zegers: There would be a lot more please and thank yous.
Jamie Campbell Bower: [Laughs] That’s amazing.
KZ: And everyone would be wearing a coat most of the time.
JCB: There’d be suave demons, sharp demons …
KZ: And the wind would cause a lot of messy hair.
JCB: That’s true. There’d probably be bald demons then.
That’s what people care about with demons all over the place: how their hair looks.
KZ: Absolutely, yeah. That’s what I’d be worried about.
JCB: That’s what I was worried about most of the movie. [Laughs]
KZ: That’s why you wear a hat.
JCB: Exactly. That’s why I’m wearing a hat today.
You guys have talked about bonding as a cast and feeling protective of each other. When’s a time you felt like you had to be protective of each other?
JCB: I think on the set when there’s a lot of fight scenes and choreography and stunts going on you naturally have to be aware of your environment anyway. There’s a sort of spatial awareness, but then also if somebody gets a ding or if it looks like it’s’ going a little bit out of shape then one of us would call it off, even if it wasn’t us. Like we go, “Let’s just stop this right now.”
JCB: For example there’s the scene in the Hotel Dumort, and it was late at night when we were shooting it and we needed to get it done. But I think I remember they were like “Let’s just go for it.” And we all bonded together and we were like, “We’re just going to need 15 minutes just to go do this” because otherwise one of us could get hurt.” Because I’ve worked some jobs before--I broke my ankle on a job because it was rushed and a choreography scene was rushed and we didn’t have time. So we were all very aware of that. So we do get quite protective of each other, and also in another sense about the protection of each other when we’re doing scenes together we’re very aware of whose scene it is. If there’s a specific scene that’s poignant for Kevin’s character, none of us are going to jump in there and be like (goofy voice), “Oh, I think I should get a close-up at this point because my reaction is really important.” And that doesn’t happen all the time. Sometimes you unfortunately work with people that want to get in on every shot. I’ve worked with people that have appeared—
KZ: Their heads are always in the--
JCB: Yeah. They’re like 360 degrees. You go, “How did you get from behind me to behind the character I’m talking to? I don’t understand.”
That goofy acting style in general usually doesn’t work out very well.
KZ: There’s a lot more than you think, though, who do that. It’s rare to find a group of people who are all--I think we just all wanted to make a good film. I think a lot of times you go in thinking like, “This will be a great thing for me.” I’m guilty of it myself sometimes. You go in and you say, “This is a great character piece for me. I like the character.” And you go in and that’s your sole focus. But I think for all of us we were aware that in order for this to work in general the film needs to be good. And so, like he was saying, it’s servicing whichever actor the scene is focused on. I remember the scene I shot with Lily, I remember Jamie and Jemima [West] and Robby [Sheehan], they were on my close-up … they were all standing behind the monitor watching. And it’s this community feeling of people rooting for each other’s success rather than going, “Oh, I could have done that better.”
Who would win a battle between Jace and Alec?
JCB: I think it would be an even battle. They’ve both got very specific styles. Jace is very wily, very fast. It seems unpredictable, but I think he’s very conscious of what he’s doing, whereas Alec is very, very strong.
KZ: Yeah. Alec is like, “Why take 10 swings when you can take one and kill the guy?” Whereas I think Jace’s character, when you see him fight it’s such a beautiful [thing] because he’s such a long guy anyway. You see him moving around and it’s this beautifully choreographed [movement], but he’s still sort of wild. But Alec, you see him come in and he’ll stab someone and it’s over quite quickly. And we based a lot of that on who we are physically. The stunt coordinator was very specific about my size and the things that I do well vs. the things that Jamie does well. It’s obviously based on the book also, but a lot of what we did was tailored to what our strengths are anyways. And so physically the way that I am was very suited to the way that I would fight. And I think Jamie did the same thing.
KZ: It ends up working out. You can also see that it’s us. Which we wanted to be able to do. I hate when they cut away and you can see some guy, he’s clearly not the guy, with some stupid wig on or some face replacement or something like that. And so it’s a little messier when you watch the fighting, but it’s much more organic and it’s much more violent and it’s much more impactful for the audience because they can see that it’s us.
JCB: It’s much more realistic as well. That was one of the things that I really wanted to focus on with our stunt coordinator was I wanted to do 100 percent of the stunts and there was only one that I couldn’t do. And the stunt guy ended up getting hurt on it, but it makes it much more organic if the actor particularly can do what you’re watching because it seems more real.
Considering the movie includes so many half-angels, who’s your favorite Victoria’s Secret angel?
JCB: I went to school with Cara Delevingne. She’s a Victoria’s Secret angel, so she’s personally my favorite because she was like my little sister growing up.
KZ: And I follow her on Instagram, so I would say her as well.
Did you know that Jamie knew her?
KZ: I didn’t, no.
JCB: Well, I’ll set you guys up.
KZ: By the way, just like Lily she has great eyebrows.
JCB: She does, yeah. She does have good brows.
Alec has some feelings for Jace and they’re adopted siblings. And I believe—spoiler alert—Clary and Jace are also siblings but have feelings for each other. What is this movie saying about sibling relationships?
JCB: Incest is best but can your grandma take the test? [Laughs] That was the tagline we originally went for but we changed it—
KZ: To “You have been chosen.”
“By your sister.”
JCB: [Laughs] Well, we find out in the book series later on that Jace and Clary aren’t brother and sister. So it’s OK.
But they think they are?
JCB: They think they are, yeah, and I think that for Jace that’s his biggest demon, no matter what he has to fight, is the love that he has for—I haven’t said this before and it’s quite a delicious line, actually: His biggest demon is the love that he has for this girl and the fact that he can’t. It’s not unrequited, it’s just taboo.
KZ: Alec does clearly have feelings for [Jace], but we switched it from just being this hollow sexual attraction thing. Because for me at least there’s a lot of that in the book, and I felt like in order to create a dynamic character, especially if you have a gay character, the notion that they’re just walking around and attracted to every guy … I think the dynamic that Jamie and I have helped steer the way that Alec’s feelings toward him are. It has nothing to do with me wanting to jump Jamie. It’s more this brotherly—certainly there’s other feelings involved, but it’s not this pulsating sexual dynamic that I have. Like we do personally.
JCB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s good. Thanks Kev. [Laughs]
I was going to say …
Kz: We were able to tailor based on our own relationships, and I think Lily and Jamie have such a great thing, but we were able to find in a way that wasn’t so forced and it’s not me sitting behind Jamie checking out his arse every time he walks by me.
JCB: Exactly. The attraction is not aesthetic. It’s not skin-deep. It was more spiritual than that. Which is why the characters go through the torment. Because if Alec for instance just wanted to sleep with Jace, when it’s addressed it would be hollow like Kevin says. And if it was the same for Jace and Clary it wouldn’t really mean as much, and that’s why there is confliction between all these characters.
So it won’t be awkward for people to see this movie with a sibling?
JCB: No, I don’t think so. Not unless you’re planning on snogging ’em.
Which would just be awkward.
JCB: Yeah, which would be weird anyway.
KZ: And is completely their own business.
JCB: Yeah, exactly. Whatever you’re into …
KZ: As long as you go buy tickets.
Jamie you didn’t know how much of Jace you had in you, and it opened up a dark side you didn’t know was there. How did your recognize that, and what does this mean for the future?
JCB: I think acting for me is an incredibly cathartic process anyway because I do get to explore sides of me that I don’t explore on a daily basis anyway. So with Jace … I made him very dark. I made him brooding and dangerous, and he got under my skin quite a bit. He definitely got into me. It was great that I was aware of that and was able to, once we finished shooting, took myself away and went to Bali. And didn’t go find myself again, but I just needed a little bit of R and R.
To make sure you were not a dark person.
JCB: Well, yeah, just to sort of release it and just let it go, but it’s great that I know that that’s there so coming back for movie two that I’m able to tap into it and able to not let it take over my life in such a big way.
Kevin, do you like talking about the first time people saw you, the kids’ sports movies, or do you prefer not to think about them?
KZ: To me, whatever part of your story as it is, there’s many things I’m grateful of for having started when I was six, which is that I’m comfortable on set. There’s a lot of things that have been a huge benefit to me. I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger and I’m now able to—this is all a bit overwhelming. You go to these malls and there’s people screaming, and we went to Comic Con and it’s all a bit wild—
JCB: [gesturing to the movie poster] There’s a big poster of your face …
KZ: Right, there’s that. But I think because I had found some success when I was like 12 and then again when I was 20, I think you sort of learn how—and you know not many people get a couple of cracks at this thing … It’s very easy to lose yourself in this, and then you never get another go at it. So for me it’s different every time it comes back around, and I think it’s helpful for me that this is not totally new for me. And I think also just being on set: There’s 150 guys standing around, and if you’re not used to being on set … I’m much more comfortable on set than I am in my own personal life. [Laughs] it’s just where I grew up, so it makes it easier for me to do my job.
Which is more likely: a dog playing basketball a monkey playing hockey?
KZ: The monkey playing hockey was actually much easier to do, I have to say. Because they’re a lot more like us. [To Jamie] Did you know I did a movie with a monkey that played hockey?
JCB: No, now I do.
JCB: What’s it called?
KZ: “Most Valuable Primate.”
JCB: OK. I’m going to watch it.
KZ: You should.
JCB: What team did the monkey play for?
JCB: Your team. Obviously.
KZ: He was my monkey. Chimpanzee. We’re not supposed to call them monkeys.
JCB: Oh, really? They get offended?
KZ: The animal people do. ‘Cause they’re not monkeys.
JCB: The animal people?
KZ: You know, like PETA or whatever.
On Chicago: “It’s my favorite city in the world. I’m dead serious. I’d like to move here actually at some point. My wife and I have friends here. I think It’s a good place to raise kids. We have friends who live in Highland Park, which is like my favorite place. I play a lot of golf. There’s a lot of good golf places there … I don’t say that in every city. Most of the cities we go to are [bleep].” (KZ)
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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