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We Read It: Casting Cassandra Clare’s ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’

We Read It: Casting Cassandra Clare's 'The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones'

With “Twilight” wrapping up this year, and “The Hunger Games” proving a giant hit, the hunt is on for the next big young adult movie franchise. And we suspect that of all the projects brewing, “The Mortal Instruments” has one of the best chances. The book series by Cassandra Clare has sold millions of copies across its four novels (plus two more in a spin-off series, “The Infernal Devices“) to date, as many as any of its competitors. And since the movie version started development, the books’ fervent fan-base has come out in force for any tidbit on the project.

And now, the film is finally set to happen, courtesy of Constantin Films (“Resident Evil“): it has a new director in “Karate Kid” helmer Harald Zwart, a locked-in star in Lily Collins, and even a release date, of August 23, 2013. With the film finally moving forward, we decided we’d take a look at the source material, to take a guess at what kind of actors we may see joining Collins in the finished film.

The plot begins with 16-year-old Clary (Collins) and her best friend Simon getting into a New York club. While there, Clary interrupts what looks like an odd-looking gang taking on an innocent boy, only to discover that the boy is actually a demon and the gang are a group of demon-hunting Shadowhunters, invisible to all but her. From then, she’s drawn into an ancient war between the Shadowhunters, sworn to protect humanity, and the Downworlders — vampires, werewolves, demons et al. — discovers that she has powers she’s never dreamed of, and soon realizes that the Shadowhunters’ greatest enemy might come from within. And along the way, she’ll have to choose between Simon, who’s long been in love with her, and Jace, who’s she’s feeling increasingly drawn to.

Objectively speaking, “The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones,” which is the first book in the series (the one we’ve read) is not Shakespeare. The prose and dialogue are clunky, and it’s highly derivative — equal parts ‘Buffy‘ and ‘Harry Potter‘ with a sprinkling of Neil Gaiman. But it is kind of fun, and certainly has the potential to be a more enjoyable movie than any of the “Twilight” pictures, in that things actually happen in them. So who do we think might be in the cast? It’s worth noting that as a Constantin Films production, this isn’t going to be a bank-breaker: don’t expect A-list names from top-to-bottom. We’re talking TV veterans, possibly with a few better-known character actors involved. Below, you’ll find our suggestions for who we think could end up involved, and feel free to weigh in with your own favorites in the comments section.

Our young protagonist, Clary is a red-haired, diminuitive outsider (described as ‘delicate’ by Jace), who gets drawn into the mysterious world of the Shadowhunters after accidentally stumbling upon them taking down a vampire, only to discover that she’s long been destined for involvement. This is the one part that’s already been cast, with “Priest” and “Mirror Mirror” star Lily Collins long attached, even since the previous incarnation of the project. And… yeah, we suppose she’s fine, even if she’s not overly impressed us in her work so far. Our preferred choice would be someone like Jane Levy, star of ABC‘s hit sitcom “Suburgatory.” Levy’s a little spunkier and funnier than Collins, and is a better physical match for the original character. But even if Collins wasn’t involved, Levy couldn’t do it: she’s using her hiatus to star in the remake of “The Evil Dead.” Other possible choices that we would’ve liked to see include “Martha Marcy May Marlene” star (and one of our 2012 On The Rise picks) Julia Garner, “Peter Pan” and “Tomorrow When The War Began” star Rachel Hurd-Wood, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa on “Game of Thrones” (although she might be a touch young), Juno Temple or “Shameless” star Laura Slade Wiggins.

Brought up, as most are, to be a shadowhunter from birth, Jace is arrogant, sarcastic and cold, thanks principally to the death of the man he thought was his father. Despite all that, he finds himself drawn to Clary, and him to her, only for the two to discover a fairly serious roadblock: *Spoiler* Like Luke and Leia before them, they appear to be brother and sister (although, eventually, it turns out they’re not after all). *End Spoiler* After courting Alex Pettyfer, the production originally castTwilight” star Jamie Campbell-Bower, but as best as we can tell, the actor’s no longer involved in the new incarnation, opening the door to other possible choices. Our favored pick would be Callan McAuliffe. The 17-year-old Australian actor first turned heads last year in “I Am Number Four” and Rob Reiner’s “Flipped” before landing the part of the younger version of Leonardo DiCaprio‘s character in the upcoming “The Great Gatsby.” A young DiCaprio seems like a pretty perfect fit for the part, if you ask us. Other possibilities might include “Scream 4” actor Nico Tortorella, Chris Zylka from “The Secret Circle” and “The Amazing Spider-Man,” the ridiculously-named Chord Overstreet from “Glee,” Ed Speleers, the star of “Eragon,” and Sam Jackson from the most recent series of the U.K. version of “Skins.”   

The Jacob to Jace’s Edward, Simon is Clary’s long-time best friend, who’s long been secretly in love with her, although she’s yet to think of him in that way. *Spoiler* Caught up along with her adventures, he’s initially comic relief, but is turned into a vampire in the second book, at which point he and Clary finally get together, albeit briefly. *End Spoiler* In terms of casting, the fans favor “The Three Musketeers” star Logan Lerman, but we’re up for a more offbeat pick: Dan Byrd from “Easy A” and “Cougar Town.” He’s got that right friend-in-deep-unrequited-love vibe, and yet could pull off the more attractive side once Clary starts to consider him a viable romantic option, plus he has some serious comic chops. We also like the idea of Johnny Simmons (“Scott Pilgrim,” “21 Jump Street“) in the part, or “Scream 4” actor Eric Knudsen, while “American Horror Story” actor Evan Peters might make sense too. At risk of enraging fans who don’t get the idea of color-blind casting, someone like Maestro Harrell (“The Wire“) or Daniel Kaluuya (“Skins“) could also be interesting.  

Jace’s badass, thigh-high boot-wearing, whip-wielding Shadowhunter colleague, Isabelle, like her brother, comes from a prestigious Shadowhunter family. She becomes involved in a flirtatious relationship with Simon. The name of “Wuthering Heights” and “Skins” star Kaya Scodelario is a favorite of fans, but we’d lean towards Louisiana-born Shelley Hennig, the star of the hit CW series “The Secret Circle.” Like Isabelle, her character on the Kevin Williamson show is responsible but with a rebellious streak, and she certainly looks the part. Otherwise, her co-star Phoebe Tonkin might be a possibility, or, while they’d need wigging-up (Isabelle is black-haired), Aimee Teegarden from “Friday Night Lights” or “Glee” star Dianna Agron could do a decent job.

Isabelle’s brother, an equally tall, equally dark demon-slayer, Alec has one big secret: he’s gay, and in love with Jace. *Spoiler* He’ll find happiness in future books with warlock Magnus Bane. *End Spoiler*Romeo & Juliet” star Douglas Booth and “On the Road” lead Tom Sturridge have both found favor with fans and Cassandra Clare, but we’ve got a lesser-known actor in mind: Luke Pasqualino, who with Scodelario and Jack O’Connell starred in the second generation of the British “Skins” and he’s got his Hollywood debut coming up in “The Apparition“. Tall and sensitive, but capable of being a badass, he’d be a fine match for Hennig, or whoever ends up being cast. Otherwise, both “Vampire Diaries” star Steve R. McQueen and “The Secret Circle” thesp Thomas Dekker could be good bets, or British actor Aneurin Barnard (“Ironclad“). Or for a version less close to the book, what about Michael B. Jordan from “Chronicle” and “Friday Night Lights“?

What we’d describe as “the Stanley Tucci role,” Hodge Starkweather is the mentor and tutor of the young Shadowhunters, but he has a darker past. *Spoiler* He assisted Valentine with his uprising back in the day, and betrays his young charges in exchange for the freedom from the curse placed on as punishment for his earlier disloyalty. *End Spoiler* It’s a part made for a veteran character actor and our ideal pick would be Irish actor Liam Cunningham ( “Hunger,” “Safe House,” “Game of Thrones“) — he’s got the right wounded, morally ambivalent vibe for the part and at least would be a different face to obvious names like Richard Jenkins and Mark Strong. Hugh Laurie has been a popular choice for fans, and he’d made sense too, while Toby Jones and Bill Nighy would undoubtedly be considered for this kind of role. If everyone turns it down, British actor Adam Godley (“Battleship“) would be another good, lesser-known alternative, while Bryan Cranston would be perfect, but is likely to be too busy, given that he’s in every movie ever at this point.

Clary’s mother, whose disappearance sets the main story into motion, isn’t a huge part, but it’s a good one, and there’s plenty of room for flashback sequences and what not. *Spoiler* As it turns out, Jocelyn is a former shadowhunter herself, and so has to be able to pull off the retired badass feel while also being someone who gave up the life for the love of her child. *End Spoiler* Given that she’s described, like her daughter, as red-haired, we’d suggest “Friday Night Lights” and “American Horror Story” star Connie Britton, who could do something like this in her sleep. Gillian Anderson and Kate Walsh would be alternatives, while departing from the literal visual version of the character from the books, it’s a part that we’d like to see Rosemarie DeWitt or Melanie Lynskey up for.

Luke helped raise Clary as a sort of de facto step-father, although he and Jocelyn were never in a relationship together. In fact, *Spoiler* he and Jocelyn were Shadowhunters together, and he’s always held a candle for her. Oh, and he’s a werewolf. *End Spoiler* As such, you ideally want someone who can be somewhat unassuming, but who can be paternal when needed and bring the pain when it’s called for. Our pick? Richard Armitage. The British actor is right now best known worldwide for a small role in “Captain America: The First Avenger” (he’s the Nazi spy who blows up the lab at the end of the first act), but he’s gathered a substantial following in the U.K. thanks to roles in “Robin Hood,” “Spooks” and “Strike Back,” and he’s about to be a big deal thanks to the key role of Thorin Oakenshield in “The Hobbit.” He can play buttoned down, but he’s also got something a little…feral about him. Otherwise, his ‘Hobbit’ co-star Luke Evans (“The Three Musketeers“) might be a good shout, or possibly David Tennant or “300“/”Lockout” actor Vincent Regan. Liev Schreiber has been a fan favorite for the part, while Toby Kebbell, Luke Kirby or Oscar Isaac might all work if they were a little older.   

The big baddie of the piece, Valentine led the rebellion of the Shadowhunters a decade-and-a-bit earlier; he’s believed dead, but is back to wreak an almighty vengeance and finish what he started. So, yes, basically Voldemort. *Spoiler* But he also turns out to be the ex-husband of Jocelyn, and the father of Clary and (seemingly) Jace. So, yes, basically Darth Vader. *End Spoiler* The silver-haired villain is charismatic, brilliant and pretty much 100% evil, and he only crops up towards the end of the first book, so you need someone who can make an impression quickly. Fans talk about people like Robert Downey Jr., but there’s no chance he’s going to do it. We’d put our money on someone like Aidan Gillen, the star of “The Wire” and “Game of Thrones.” He’s got the right look, and his profile’s raised in recent years (and will again thanks to a small cameo in “The Dark Knight Rises“). Otherwise, people like Dominic West, Jonny Lee Miller and Patrick Wilson would all be appropriate. And while some might hope for Jude Law, he’s likely out of the price range for the production.

An immortal, flamboyantly gay warlock, part Indonesian, part Dutch, part demon, with an ambivalent relationship to the Shadowhunters, Magnus seems to be one of the more popular characters amongst fans. Thanks to the relative lack of Asian-looking actors, there’s not a lot of very viable actors who could do this one without ignoring the character description entirely. “Glee” star Darren Criss has won over fans by being part-Filipino, part-Dutch, but we think that his co-star, Harry Shum Jr., who plays Mike Chang on the show (as well as having appeared in the “Step Up” series), has the right kind of look and feel for the part.

Brother Jeremiah
One of the most striking characters in the tale, Brother Jeremiah is one of the Silent Brothers, a group of particularly powerful monk-like Shadowhunters who’ve mutilated themselves to achieve greater powers. They’re bald headed, have no eyes in their sockets, and have sewn up their lips. And the person best placed to get a real character out of such restrictions? Why, Guillermo del Toro‘s favorite make-up wearer, Doug Jones.

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