I'm on the set of "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is making me nervous.
"Can I get some powder or something so I don't look like I just jumped out of a fucking sauna?" he yells to no one in particular, his shirtless torso covered in (faux-)tattoos. Moments later, a makeup artist scurries to his side.
The Irish actor is in terrific shape, his lean physique standing out above a pair of black leather pants. Thin braids hang on either side of his head, swaying to and fro as he prowls the set like an uncaged leopard. There is the sense he might just blow his top at any moment.
The scene being filmed is a confrontation between Meyers' character Valentine Morgenstern, Lily Collins' Clary Fray and Jamie Campbell Bower's Jace Wayland - all three featured players in Cassandra Clare's bestselling fantasy book series "The Mortal Instruments," of which "City of Bones" is the first installment. The set itself is a room in the so-called New York Institute - the meeting place of the "Conclave," i.e. the New York branch of the Shadowhunter government. Described in the book as a cathedral invisible to human (i.e. "mundane") eyes, the interior is a dimly-lit Gothic lair punctuated by a single spinning blue light.
"Take out the cup, Clary...I want my cup!" screams Meyers as he holds a grip of Collins' long dark hair in one coiled fist.
"That's enough," says Bower, stepping forward protectively.
"Can we say that louder!" Meyers yells, out of character.
There is a pause.
"Keep rolling, keep rolling, keep rolling guys!" the shirtless actor directs.
"That's enough!" Bower obliges, his voice rising.
There is more dialogue here, but seeing as it contains spoilers for those not familiar with the books, I'll skip it.
"You said you wouldn't hurt her!" pleads Bower.
Wham! Lightning quick, Meyers slams Collins' head down onto a table before flinging her backwards to the ground. He then swings out with one of his fists in Bowers' direction. Bowers returns the favor with a spear, which he lashes out with once, twice, three times. Meyers ducks and weaves, then swings again. They give off the impression of dueling male supermodels, which can't be helped: both actors are blessed with runway-ready cheekbones.
This bit unsurprisingly takes awhile to get right. For Collins' part, there is some sort of a pad attached to her forehead to keep her insulated from harm during the table slam. The stunt actress that takes her place when it comes time for real-deal flesh-to-table contact isn't afforded the same luxury.
Wham! Ow. The stuntwoman flies backward to the floor. The fight begins. This is all mapped out with a stunt director, who takes the performers through each step of the sequence. Meyers and Bower practice their ducking, weaving, swinging and punching in slow motion. Meyers is impassioned. His crystalline blue eyes are focused, piercing.