When Peter Jackson first picked up Philip Reeve’s novel Mortal Engines he had no intention of turning it into a movie.
Instead, as an avid reader, he was just looking for another book to dive into. But once he’d put it down Peter Jackson was so enthralled by the dystopian tale, which is set in a future where cities are now on wheels and fight for scraps, he just assumed that another mainstream director had purchased the movie rights.
Especially as it was so obviously ripe for adaptation.
Why didn’t Peter Jackson direct Mortal Engines?
“I didn’t even think the book rights would be available because when you come to something that late you just imagine someone else would have them,” Peter Jackson tells Metro.
“I just wanted to know who had the screen rights. I was intrigued to know who was going to turn it into a film. Was it going to be Spielberg? Or Paul Greengrass? Because I knew it would make such a cool film.”
When Jackson found out no-one had the rights, he immediately jumped at the chance to purchase them.
“I was like, ‘Oh God!’ Because I am imagining this amazing movie in my head as I read the book. So I thought, ‘I’m going to be the one to make this film then’.”
As his work on The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit proves, Peter Jackson is quite adept at turning a book into a film. But it turns out there is one key reason to this success.
“The key to adapting is remembering what it is about that book that you loved the first time you read it,” he explains.
“Because by the time you write the script you have read it 20 times and you have broken it down and the book is no longer the thing you read the first time. You want to make sure that it is the thing you fell in love with.”
Peter Jackson originally intended to direct Mortal Engines himself. However, ahead of writing the script, the Academy Award winning filmmaker had a change of heart.
As he decided that it was the perfect time for his protege Christian Rivers, who had worked alongside him over the past 25 years on the likes of Braindead, Heavenly Creatures, The Lovely Bones, King Kong, and every installment of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, to make his feature film debut.
“We wrote the script for Christian to direct. I assumed I would direct it, because that it what I always do. But during The Hobbit we had Christian doing second unit direction and he has been with us for 25 years, he is part of our filmmaking family.”
“He had become a really great second unit director, overseeing these complex action sequences with the dwarves and the barrels down the river. I knew that Mortal Engines would follow The Hobbit and that Christian wanted to go off and do a feature film. I didn’t want anyone else to do a feature film with him. It felt wrong. He was part of our team for so long.”
Peter Jackson knew that Rivers was not only eager to make his directorial debut, but because of the amount of visual effects work he’d done on his past films, he had the perfect skillset to work wonders with Mortal Engines, too.
“It was the right time. I knew he would do a fantastic job. And I would much rather he direct it instead of me if it meant him not going off and doing films for someone else.”
Mortal Engines is released into theaters on December. 14.