Mortal Engines do anything like the same business?
Jackson found the book, the first of four written by British author Philip Reeve. In an apocalyptic future, cities are mobile, scavenging for materials. In a time of sequels, prequels and remakes (Robin Hood, Mary Poppins), this shows you new worlds.
“I loved the title. Cool title, Mortal Engines. Interesting.”
It comes from Othello, but you don’t need to know that. Jackson bought the rights 10 years ago but it went on hold while The Hobbit happened. Still, it seems very topical: the people driving the city London around remark glumly that “we should never have got out of Europe”. That was one of Walsh’s lines, Boyens says. There is another line, about separating refugee kids from adults, that seems crafted for the moment. That “was borne of not quite believing that the world was heading back down that path”.
But don’t be fooled: this is not a dark allegory about the world now (dial up Children of Men for that). It is an action-packed, exciting fantasy pitched at young adults. The lead character is teenage heroine Hester Shaw, played by impressive Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, who will be a star no matter what happens to the film (“What a find, right? She’s our little Viking.”)
By the time this story appears, the period of waiting will be long gone. It will be a hit or it won’t be. (It deserves to be.) The critics will love it or they won’t. But here is one last plug for the film from Boyens: “I remember the first time
I saw Star Wars. It was in the Civic, which was the most perfect place to see a film like that.
I can still remember falling into that world and falling in love with it. That was partly what we were hoping to do, because it’s original and it can be a piece of storytelling for this generation of kids. Because what have they got that they can call their own? This is for them. What I like is that she [Hester] is completely and utterly a female lead. She is not an archetypal male
business. He has a small role in Mortal Engines but “he’s a little bit sensitive about doing roles in his mother’s films. One of the first things he did on film was Lord of the Rings when we needed a kid and he ended up being better than the kids who auditioned. His first scene was with Viggo Mortensen, as the boy with the sword in The Two Towers.”
Isaac had a similar bit in Mortal Engines when Jackson, who is also his godfather, urgently needed a child’s hand for a close-up. The father of Calum and his sister Phoebe, 30, is actor Paul Gittins, famous from Shortland Street and the historical TV show Epitaph. And what does Phoebe do? She too is a screenwriter. “It’s a bit of cliche. I wish I had been as talented at her age.”
Phoebe lives in Auckland and works in a film-making team with her partner Arty Papageorgiou. Jackson was so impressed by their student film, The Sorrows, he offered to help turn it into a feature.
And Boyens’ partner, Seth: is he in the business? “He’s a special effects artist at Weta. He’s American. He came over for King Kong thinking he was here for a one-year contract and he never left.”
Romantic story. Anyway, go back a number of years, before all that happened. Boyens is living in Auckland when her friend, the writer Stephen Sinclair, tells her that Jackson and Walsh were planning to do Lord of the Rings, then as just two films. Her response: “Well,
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