Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens will co-write the film with Christian Rivers directing.
The movie is Rivers’ first major directing job, having spent the majority of his 25-year career working closely with Jackson. Rivers began as a story board artist, later moving into supervising visual effects and finally serving as splinter unit director on “The Hobbit” trilogy. Rivers won a visual efforts Academy Award for his work on the 2005 film “King Kong.” He also recently served as second unit director on the remake of “Pete’s Dragon.”
“Christian is one of my closest collaborators,” says Jackson. “The combination of emotion and jaw-dropping visuals in ‘Mortal Engines’ makes this the perfect movie for his move into feature directing. What Christian intends to do with Philip Reeve’s terrific story is going to result in an original and spectacular movie. I wish I could see it tomorrow!”
Based on the novel by Philip Reeve, Jackson and Walsh have been involved with the project for several years, having optioned the rights from Scholastic in 2001. Ken Kamins – Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens’ longtime manager – brought the project to MRC.
The book is set in a world many thousands of years in the future. Earth’s cities now roam the globe on huge wheels, devouring each other in a struggle for ever diminishing resources. On one of these massive Traction Cities, Tom Natsworthy has an unexpected encounter with a mysterious young woman from the Outlands who will change the course of his life forever.
The sci-fi/fantasy movie is the first in a planned series of films based on Reeve’s novels. The series is comprised of four books: “Mortal Engines,” “Predator’s Gold,” “Infernal Devices,” and “A Darkling Plain.”
“Mortal Engines” books have won several awards including the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Smarties Gold Award, and Blue Peter Book of the Year.
Zane Weiner, Amanda Walker, and Deborah Forte are serving as producers, along with Walsh and Jackson. Kamins will executive produce. Boyens will co-produce.
This film marks the first project the three creatives have worked on together in which Jackson will not direct. It also is a return to Universal for Jackson, after he directed the “King Kong” remake for the studio.
MRC and Universal are co-financing the film. Universal will also serve as worldwide distributor. Production is slated to begin in New Zealand in spring 2017.
“Peter, Fran, Philippa and Christian are all visionary storytellers with the gift of turning their passion projects into beloved blockbusters for a worldwide audience,” said Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Pictures. “The studio is proud of our longstanding relationship with MRC and these tremendous filmmakers, and we are looking forward to collaborating on this cinematic re-imagination of Philip’s bold and fantastical novel.”
The law firm of Nelson Davis negotiated on behalf of Jackson, Walsh, Boyens, and Rivers; and Stan Coleman on behalf of Scholastic and Forte. Reeve is represented by Philippa Milnes-Smith at Lucas Alexander Whitley Ltd in the U.K.