"I couldn’t have made a better film..."

Interview with Peter Jackson
New Zealand's director had spent the most of his oeuvre by adapting Tolkien's novels to films, and after so many movies he still wants to tell stories. As a director he was busy with a documentary film of World War I, but as a producer and writer, he supervised the work of the gigantic visual film of the Mortal Engines.
What was it about Philip Reeve’s work that inspired you to adapt it to the big screen?
Back in 2006, when I was first tipped off about these books, there were four of them (now there are 8). So, I sort of just read them as a fan because somebody told me they were really great. And even though the idea of traction cities was interesting, what really inspired me were the characters. Mortal Engines is the story of Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy and all the other characters they come across along the way. The backdrop to the story is fantastic, but it’s the characters that jump out at you when you read these unbelievably good books. And this movie is just the first one.
What kind of world are you depicting in Mortal Engines?
It’s a world set in about three and a half thousand years from now, after what was known as The Sixty Minute War. I mean, something with a name like that isn’t going to be very good, is it? So, there has been a cataclysmic event that happened probably not too far away from our time and that wiped out most of the world. But our story isn’t post-apocalyptic, because the world has been rebuilt and it is a very different place.
And how would you explain what these traction cities are?
They are cities that have risen from the rubble and ended up on wheels, chasing each other across these wastelands that were formally Europe and that are known now as The Great Hunting Ground. So, there are no countries or borders anymore, but city states on wheels. London, for instance, is one of the largest.
In this case you have decided to not direct the movie, offering the opportunity to Christian Rivers.
Christian has been doing storyboards for me since he left school, when he was only 17 years old and collaborated on Braindead. And along the way he worked on all my films and moved on to quick previz when storyboards became computerized. Later he won an Academy Award for his effects on King Kong. And then, more importantly, on The Hobbit he directed a lot of second unit work, like for instance the barrel sequence on the river during the second movie of the trilogy. So, it wasn’t a hard decision for me to invite him to direct Mortal Engines, nor was I trying to find a young filmmaker to support. It was just time for him to shoot a feature film. It was all very organic and easy.
What can you say of the job he has performed?
I genuinely think that I couldn’t have made a better film! I co-wrote and produced Mortal Engines, so I have some pride of ownership over it, but I think Christian has done a fantastic job as a director. And the result is a film that I love seeing.
Is it easier in a way to watch a film when you haven’t directed it?
Yes, because when you have directed it you never quite relate to the movie as such; but precisely because I wasn’t there every day that Christian was shooting it, even though I helped with all the things producers do I can actually sit back and enjoy Mortal Engines as a film – which is kind of an interesting experience for me. And I am extremely proud of it and of what Christian has achieved.
How do you work with your producing partners and co-writers Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh?
Well, for a start I think three is a good number when most of what we are do is solve problems. So, if one of us has an idea, that person has to present it to the other two and defend it as if the rest were the members of a jury. And the other great thing is that if you are writing and come across a problem, someone is going to know the answer. Three is a great number for a team.
What drives you about making a movie?
All that really drives me is the desire to see that movie on the screen, and the easiest way to do that is to go ahead and make it. And at that point all I want is to try to make the best film I can.

Tulu/UIP-Duna Film
2019.01.07
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(13 pictures)


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