Tattoos, Leather, and Hidden Symbols: What We Found On The ‘Mortal Instruments’ Set

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The movie magic of bringing Cassandra Clare‘s YA fantasy series The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones to the big screen isn’t just in the CGI (though there is some of that, transporting both the characters and the moviegoers to other realms and bringing terrifying demons to life) but in the minor details. The sketches on the bedroom wall of the New York City apartment where the story’s heroine Clary (Lily Collins) resides, the tattoos that adorn the bodies of the marked Shadowhunters (including the likes of Jamie Campbell Bower and Jonathan Rhys Meyers), and the Gothic accents in the library of the hub that is The Institute. had the chance to visit the Toronto set of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones last October and saw firsthand, the intricate detailing that went into not only bringing the novel to life, but making sure all bases were covered when it came to capturing the essence of the story and the characters. 

Sets and the City: 

Trying to replicate the massive scale of New York City is no small task, so to speak. Even more challenging can be making a realistic NYC apartment. The team behind building the sets for TMI engineered a beautiful — and reasonably sized — living space for Clary and her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey), right up the stairs from Madame Dorethea’s (CCH Pounder) place in their Brooklyn walk-up. Clary’s walls were lined with sketches that looked not unlike something you’d see in TMI fan art and the kitchen was spacious, even by fake NYC apartment standards, but a major fight unfolds in that room. Which is why, as production designer François Séguin explained, the kitchen’s counters were padded. 

RELATED: Lily Collins Talks About How ‘Mortal Instruments’ Has a Different Kind of YA Heroine

When TMI hits theaters this summer, moviegoers should keep an even closer eye on the library of The Insitution. Even Collins was blown away by how it turned out, as she told, “[It is] literally is exactly how I pictured it in my head….as a fan, I think the world is encapsulated really, really well.” 

The set of the library was a veritable what’s what in the TMI world: the Mortal cup, the Mortal sword, and Mortal symbols are scattered throughout the gothic architecture, complete with stainglass windows and a fully stocked library. A grand piano, a map of Germany, a birdcage, a magnifying glass, and a statue constructed with the images of skulls and bones were also among the various trinkets and set pieces found in the study in The Institute belonging to Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris). 

Perhaps most importantly, the sets impressed Clare, who was on the set as a consultant. “It’s amazing to see it come to life like this, the sets are really beautiful, they are very intricate,” the author said. “They really recreated these sort of imaginary places with incredible attention to detail. There’s a place in the books called “The City of Bones” that is named after the underground city built out of human bones and corpses, and I think they made 1,000 to 2,000 different models of skulls and each one is different aged to look differently, each one has different sort of features and has been changed in a different way so even though you probably only see it in a glancing shot in the movie like I know every single one of those is different and I think it adds incredible texture to the film.” (Fun facts: there were 87 swords on the TMI set and up to 16 runes scattered throughout). 

RELATED: Kevin Zegers as Alec in ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ — EXCLUSIVE PHOTO 

Dress To Impress: 

Never mind that Collins had to do her fight sequences in high heels, Meyers had to do his with long braided hair! The actor, who had a meticulous eye for getting the details just right (during one particular fight sequence Meyers would ask director Harald Zwart for more takes to get the motions down pat) was in head-to-toe leather garb, giving his character Valentine something of a Matrix-meets-YA aesthetic.

Meyers, just like Bower, was covered in fake tattoos by the TMI makeup department. As Bower explained about 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.” The actor, who plays Shadowhunter Jace joked, “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.”

You’ll be able to keep an out for all the major makeup and minor details when The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones hits theaters on August 23. 

RELATED: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ Trailer 

[Photo credit: Screen Gems]