The Queensland Times - - WEEKEND - WORDS: DAR­REN HALLESY Mor­tal En­gines is in cin­e­mas now.

It didn’t take much con­vinc­ing when Hugo Weav­ing got the call to see if he was keen to be in­volved in the new sci-fi epic Mor­tal En­gines.

Weav­ing has worked with pro­ducer Peter Jack­son on the Lord of the Rings and The Hob­bit se­ries, plus has brought to life iconic Agent Smith in The Ma­trix and the voice of Me­ga­tron in Trans­form­ers.

Re­u­nit­ing with Jack­son’s team that he knows so well in Welling­ton meant he knew it would be fun. Film­ing took three months, with the en­tire movie, in­clud­ing spe­cial ef­fects, all done in the Kiwi city.

“I read it very eas­ily. It was a great ad­ven­ture and a film for young adults – a genre I haven’t re­ally done much of in the past,” Weav­ing says from Lon­don.

“I got quite ex­cited about work­ing on Mor­tal En­gines, plus it was based on some very sim­ple things, yet my char­ac­ter was com­plex. It’s a love story, a com­ing-of-age story and ex­pos­ing char­ac­ters to the truth. I found all those things ap­peal­ing.”

Mor­tal En­gines is based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve. The screen­play was writ­ten by Jack­son, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, the same team who penned the scripts for the Lord of the Rings and Hob­bit movies. It is di­rected by Chris­tian Rivers, a man who has worked be­side Jack­son for many years.

“I got the script quite late. I knew it was in de­vel­op­ment, but it wasn’t men­tioned to me un­til pre-pro­duc­tion had started,” Weav­ing says. “The first mes­sage I got was from Philippa, who said ‘Are you in­ter­ested and would you like to have a look at the script?’. I read it, and they wanted me to make my mind up straight away.

“I see Thad­deus Valen­tine as quite a ro­man­tic char­ac­ter in a way. He’s a man who seems to be loved by his peo­ple and held in high es­teem. In terms of be­ing a vil­lain ... I didn’t see him that way, more of a ro­man­tic hero, a kind of Dr Strangelove. He lives in a world that is dy­ing; it’s a world at con­stant war with cities mov­ing around the land­scape.

“He brings or­der and learn­ing to a city that is con­stantly un­der threat.”

Weav­ing knows that when a movie is made from a book that has mil­lions of fans it is hard to please ev­ery­one.

“I didn’t read all the four Mor­tal En­gines books, I just read the first one. I had ac­tu­ally read the screen­play first. I read that and that was my first in­tro­duc­tion to Valen­tine. Then I felt I should go back and read the book, and then quite quickly switched back to the screen­play for the rea­son that there are many sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences,” he says.

“I made a de­ci­sion early on in my ca­reer to not base char­ac­ters in a film as they ap­pear in the orig­i­nal books for that rea­son. It can be use­ful to read the book, and that’s of­ten fan­tas­tic, giv­ing you lots of in­for­ma­tion, but you still have to bring that to the screen and, at best, a book is a wealth of source ma­te­rial that you can keep go­ing back to. Dur­ing pro­duc­tion, changes keep on hap­pen­ing with a script and you must be pre­pared to work on a char­ac­ter and know that it may shift.

“It’s al­ways a dou­ble-edged sword. Books and movies are never the same. You can for­ever be com­par­ing the two.”

Weav­ing nails his char­ac­ter’s ac­cent, and still trav­els the world on a British pass­port.

“I was schooled in a cou­ple of places, but mostly in Bris­tol,” he says. “I wanted to give Valen­tine an ac­cent that showed he was ed­u­cated. He wasn’t a Lon­doner, he was an out­sider, a man who has trav­elled all over the world. He reads a lot, ed­u­cates him­self, and has some­thing from my own past, with my par­ents both from Eng­land.”

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