Screenwriter Philippa Boyens on Her Decade-Long Journey with ‘Mortal Engines’

     December 13, 2018

Philippa Boyens is no stranger to adapting books to film and creating big screen fantasy spectacles thanks to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, and now she’s putting that expertise to use again with the acclaimed novel Mortal Engines. Along with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, Boyens penned the script about the state of the world hundreds of years after civilization is destroyed. Now many opt to live on “traction cities,” giant moving cities, with one of the biggest of them all, London, threatening to gobble up every other smaller city and town in its path, consuming all of their resources.

There’s a lot to cover in the source material and a significant amount of world-building required to sell traction cities and this way of life on screen, so I was thrilled to get the chance to sit down with Boyens and dive into the adaptation process, why they chose to cut or alter certain parts of the original story, and to get her thoughts on releasing an epic adventure film that also has some especially timely themes and ideas.


Image via Universal Pictures

You can catch all of that in the video interview at the top of this article and if you’re looking for more Mortal Engines content, browse the links below:

Here’s the official synopsis for Mortal Engines:

Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.


Mortal Engines is the startling, new epic adventure directed by Oscar®-winning visual-effects artist Christian Rivers (King Kong). Joining Rivers are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies three-time Academy Award®-winning filmmakers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, who have penned the screenplay. Visual effects are created by a Weta Digital team led by Ken McGaugh, Kevin Smith, Luke Millar and Dennis Yoo. The Universal and MRC adaptation is from the award-winning book series by Philip Reeve, published in 2001 by Scholastic.

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