Hugo Weaving in a scene from the movie Mortal Engines. Supplied by Universal Pictures.
Hugo Weaving in a scene from the movie Mortal Engines. Supplied by Universal Pictures.

Weaving steams ahead in Mortal Engines

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.”

Mortal Engines is in cinemas now.

STARS: Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Stephen Lang, Jihae.

DIRECTOR: Christian Rivers


REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: In a world where cinemas are full of remakes, sequels and movies we've all seen before, it's refreshing when something truly original comes to the big screen. This is a project full of imagination and ambition, and it's unlike anything you've seen.

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