Strong female characters lead screenwriter Philippa Boyens in Mortal Engines

Philippa Boyens at the Mortal Engines world premiere in London.
Philippa Boyens at the Mortal Engines world premiere in London.

THE three strong female leads in Mortal Engines were a major attraction for screenwriter-producer Philippa Boyens when adapting the novel by Philip Reeve for the big screen.

“Having those three female characters in one book is amazing, I wish we could have told more of their story but in the end you have to know that you’ve only got two hours,” she said.

Mortal Engines is the latest high adventure film from Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Boyens, the masterminds behind The Lord of the Rings franchise.

It tells the story of Hester Shaw and her journey of revenge, set against a backdrop of an earth destroyed by war and cities transformed into giant moving machines.

The characters of Londoner Katherine Valentine and aviator Anna Fang each play a part in this visually spectacular film.

“I think we made the right choice to follow Hester’s story predominately, but what was amazing once we came to filming was that these great actresses stepped up to the roles of Katherine and Anna with Leila George, one of your own, a beautiful Aussie, and (musician) Jihae,” Boyens said.

“The way [Phillip Reeve] wrote these women (their characters) is they’re not archetypal heroic characters that were happened to be played by women, these are female characters in the choices that they make, the problems that they’re facing and the way they overcome them – it’s entirely a heroines journey.”

On the set of Mortal Engines.

Boyens said she, Jackson and Walsh tended not to be issues based as writers.

“I’ve had this conversation throughout the years and what I’ve found is, if you set out to write a ‘quote, unquote’ strong female lead, and that’s the only thing that you’re doing, girls and women will smell it coming a mile off,” she said.

“It’s also assuming that men can’t follow great female leads and we know that’s not true, look at Ripley in Alien.

“What we had was a story that’s full of diverse characters that we could legitimately draw upon, like the members of the Anti Traction League.

“That was great, getting to imagine a world where the rebellion is fuelled by peoples of all nations, of all different types and backgrounds coming together.

“This is a film about women being amazing, failing, making bad choices, making the right choices, but fighting and never giving up, and it is a film for everyone.”

Mortal Engines (M) is in Perth cinemas from December 6.