Exclusive Interview with Atli Orvarsson, Composer of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones!

I am VERY excited to share today’s interview with you. My good friend, nurse Pamela, side effects over at The Mortal Minute, conducted an interview with Atli Orvarsson, who you may know as the composer for the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie. Unfortunately, her website is going through some changes, and revisions right now, and so she has been unable to share the interview with all of us TMI fans.

Fortunately, Pamela came to me, and asked me to share it with all of you, which I was MORE than happy to do!


Atli Orvarrson has composed for many familiar titles like Hansel and Gretel, Law and Order, The Fourth Kind, and has contributed to scores for movies like the recent Superman movie, Man of Steel. His most recent work has been with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones and A Single Shot. Enjoy this interview between him and Pamela:

Pamela: What’s the trick? How does one go from Iceland to a Hollywood blockbuster film composer? 

Atli: Probably determination and stubbornness! Obviously a good education, great mentors and a bit of luck helps too…

Pamela: How did Mr. Harald Zwart first approach you with the “Mortal Instruments” project? 

Atli: I’ve known Harald for some time but then I ran into him at the premiere for another film I wrote the music for, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and he asked if I’d want to work with him on City of Bones

Pamela: Did you find it easier to work with Harald Zwart? 

Atli: Harald and I got along great and I think the collaboration was very enjoyable for us both.

Pamela: What drew you to this project? 

Atli: I love the fantasy genre and really wanted to work with Harald so it worked out perfectly!

Pamela: What was the first thing that crossed your mind when Harald Zwart approached you with the title ‘The  Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’?  

Atli: Well, I didn’t really know what to expect so I went on the internet and did some reserach. So by the time I saw the film, I was quite educated on what it was about.

Pamela: Are you familiar with Cassandra Clare’s first book, “City of Bones”; Have you read it? 

Atli: I am now! But I’ll be honest, I haven’t read the whole thing. I came on to the project so late that I didn’t really have time for anything else but writing music!

Pamela: You’ve worked on great movies like ‘Season of the Witch’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters’. Did your previous works prepare you for this score in any way? 

Atli: Well, they’re all in the fantasy realm and they all have witches! Beyond that, they all present their unique challenges and requirements.

Pamela: What was your inspiration for this score? Was there a particular scene or character that gave you the inspiration? 

Atli: I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen the film but there’s an expected character in the film that provided me with a great deal of inspiration! Then, of course, there are the characters, the plot and the general tone of the film that provide the greatest inspiration.

Pamela: How long did it take you to compose the complete score? 

Atli: I basically had about 8 weeks to write and record the whole score which ended up being about two hours of music.

Pamela: Would you describe the process of writing a song? 

Atli: I didn’t write any of the songs in the movie but the way I go about writing music for the scenes is that I first start by writing themes for various characters and then you start applying them to the film.

Pamela: How much ‘darkness’ did you want your score to convey, knowing that The Mortal Instruments is not just a teenage tale? 

Atli: I wanted it to be quite dark, maybe even darker than some of the producers wanted it to be. Its a bit of a fine line to find the right tone as it covers so many aspects of life, not just the dark side.

Pamela: Could you tell us about the score elements? 

Atli: I used a large symphony orchestra, a choir and all kinds of weird solo instruments like bass duduk and viol, in addition to a lot of electronic elements.

Pamela: How did you want your score to help the audience take the film seriously, as more than “another sparkly vampire movie”? 

Atli: One of the first things I mentioned to Harald when we started working on the film was that I felt that the music had to have “weight and importance” to underscore the importance of the events in Clary’s life that the film conveys. I also think its important when you’re scoring fantasy movies to have that serious important feel to help the audience suspend belief and become immersed in the film.

Pamela: Without giving away too much, do you have a favorite song in your score, and why? 

Atli: I have a few favorites; Clary’s Theme, The New Rune, and the “snow scene” to name some.

Pamela: Who have been your favorite composers in the fantasy-horror genre? And did they inspire you for this score? 

Atli: I have learned a lot from the likes of Bernard Herrmann, Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer to name a few and I’m sure their influences are in there somewhere.

Pamela: To be honest, The Mortal Instruments fandom is really strong and supportive. What have your experiences with the fandom been like so far? 

Atli: Having been to the premiere in Hollywood, its clear that these stories have a very dedicated and fervent fan base, which is great. I love the enthusiasm and I think all of us who worked on the film feel a great deal of responsibility not to let the fans down!

Pamela: The movie is aimed at a young adult audience. Do you think the music you composed drew more attention to the movie? 

Atli: I hope so.

Pamela: Do you think fans will be happy with the score? 

Atli: Same answer, I really hope so! The feedback I have gotten so far is very encouraging!

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I hope you all enjoyed this interview and I hope that you guys loved the score of the movie just like I did! I hope that Atli will be returning to score City of Ashes, once it makes it back into production.

Thank you Pamela for doing this interview, and letting me be a part of it, and letting me share it with my followers!

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