But then one day, a few years ago, he got an e-mail from Peter Jackson, saying they were going into production. Philip wasn't even sure it was a real e-mail, he worried it might be a hoax from someone fishing for information. But it WAS a real e-mail, and then he wasn't allowed to tell anyone about it for a year and a half. And finally, this Tuesday, Philip got to see the film for the first time at the London global premiere. (And I got to go, too!)
Here's director Christian Rivers with members of the cast. This was Christian's debut as director, but he'd been working with Peter Jackson since he was a teenager, right there at the heart of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Peter's role was producer and second-unit director, and he, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens wrote the screenplay. But this was really Christian's big night. ...And Philip's, too! Here's a photo by Samantha Smith from Scholastic of Philip on the red carpet:
Another great photo being circulated by the Press Association. Philip looks incredibly happy, despite being slightly soaked by the rain:
A few red carpet interviews, with Philip:
And with Peter Jackson:
Why am I borrowing other people's photos and not taking my own of Philip on the red carpet? Because a bunch of Scholastic people and I were STUCK IN TRAFFIC and watching this all on Twitter.
Backing up a bit: ever since we'd started making Reeve & McIntyre books together, I had been saying to Philip that if his film ever happened, I absolutely wanted to go to the premiere. But as the real date drew closer, tickets were incredibly scarce; Philip had three tickets for him, his wife and son, Sarah Reeve and Sam Reeve. He prepared me for a let-down, and while my heart sank, I knew I had to resign myself to not going. But... a few days before the big day, Lorraine Keating from Scholastic got in touch to say there WAS a single ticket, if I wanted to go! And I was over the moon. I didn't get time to get a new dress or anything, but I did whip up a Mortal-Engines-themed hat:
Sam Reeve was my designated date for the evening, and here we are a few hours before with his family, coming up with premiere bingo:
We then went for Scholastic pre-drinks by Kings Cross station. Here's Philip's fabulous agent, Philippa Milnes-Smith, with his co-author to The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines co-author Jeremy Levett, Jeremy's fiancé Francesca Wilks, and the book's designer Jamie Gregory.
Then Scholastic got us taxis (with the Reeve family going off first) and our drivers fought their way through rainy rush-hour traffic. Here's where our cab let us off, where we could already see the Cineworld spotlights blazing through the rain.
Sarah Reeve took this photo of the red carpet approach:
And I spotted two familiar faces, Tom and Andrea Stewart from the Muswell Hill Bookshop!
Tom had seen this advert in that day's Metro and the two of them got in quick enough to win those free tickets. (I think they spent quite a long time behind that barrier!)
Photo tweeted by @RobertWiddas
Here's mind-blowingly amazing concept artist Ian McQue, with his wife Tracy McQue! (I first met Tracy this year at the Edinburgh Book Festival.)
Ian's been making Mortal Engines fan art since I've know Philip, and he did some key initial concept work for the film for a couple months in New Zealand. You can see the new covers he did for the Mortal Engines quartet, and he illustrated both the cover and interiors for the new book, Night Flights, dedicated to Jihae, the actor playing Anna Fang. (Ian's illustrations for Night Flights are up for a Greenaway Medal this year!) The covers for the Fever Crumb prequel trilogy are by David Wyatt, whose also been a long-time collaborator with Philip, including lavish illustrations for his Larklight trilogy.
Oo, a red carpet snapshot with Ian!
Jeremy Levett and Francesca Wilks, looking fabulous:
And Colin Salmon! I first met Colin this year at the Notting Hill Carnival, and I was so chuffed to see him again, here with his wife, artist Fiona Hawthorne. Colin plays London Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy in the film:
Here are the Sarahs! I was also hoping to get a red carpet photo of Sarah Reeve and Philip Reeve together, and another with Sam, but Philip got swept up in everything and I didn't manage to get a snap. Sarah and I both definitely picked up on the film's red theme.
Here's the inside of the cinema, where everyone got a bottle of water and SNACKS, and the Reeve and McQue families were sat right behind seats marked out for the actors.
I felt a bit for Philip, he had no idea what the final film was going to be like. The film crew flew Sarah, Sam and Philip out to New Zealand for a couple weeks during the filming, but this was the first time they'd see final footage. Slightly nerve-wracking!
In the cinema, we could see more people who were arriving, projected on the IMAX screen.
By this point, I was already able to cross off several bingo squares.
I sat with the Scholastic gang in the fourth row, where we were having our own little excited party.
This was probably my smallest, least-obtrusive hat EVER. And then the lights dimmed, the speeches began, starting with Peter, Philippa, Fran and Christian:
Then the film began, starting with the gravelly voice of Stephen Lang, playing Shrike. I'd been looking forward to this for so many years, I was DYING. I can't even imagine how hard Philip's heart must have been beating.
It's true!!! It was FLIPPIN' AMAZING. I'm not supposed to talk bout it too much because the press haven't seen it yet, but the actors are brilliant and convincing, the world is detailed and textured and jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the music and sound effects practically made my heart stop (particularly at one key place in the film). Jihae and Hera were amazing and bad-ass as Anna Fang and Hester Shaw, Hugo Weaving was magnificent, and I loved spotting Frankie Adams from one of my favourite Netflix series, The Expanse. (She plays a terrific fighter pilot aviatrix.) With so many of the characters - Frankie and her gang of anti-Tractionists, Colin and the historians, the fabulous guy who drives the Scuttlebug caterpillar city, the residents of Shan Guo - I wanted there to be whole other spin-offs about them; the world had so many layers. (You can see the whole cast list here on IMDB.) Actually, not the whole list: I noticed two names in the acting credits: Philip Reeve, and Sam Reeve 'Shan Guo teenager' - they were extras for a day and they made it in! Some sneak peeks from this tweeted video:
Our Scholastic team stayed right through all the long credits - it's so exciting to see names I recognise from some of the 'makings of' featurettes that Universal Pictures have been releasing. (You can see a bunch of them in this earlier blog post I did.) At the end, Philip and Christian Rivers compared notes. Philip looked very happy, a bit shell-shocked, and VASTLY RELIEVED. Christian looked happy, too, as they picked through the various bits.
And then we went on to the after party! I didn't have an invitation, but Samantha Smith was amazing and gave me hers, despite my half-hearted protests. (THANK YOU, SAM!!!!) I still can't believe she did that, I am so grateful.
We got to meet Jihae!
I'd been so hoping to meet her, and even more so after the film - she really did a brilliant job.
I'd loved her roles (two roles, actually - she plays twins) in the Mars series on Netflix and new she'd make a great Anna Fang.
And here are Sarah and Sam Reeve with Hera Hilmar, from Iceland, who plays the lead, Hester Shaw. She wasn't quite unrecognisable, but she looked so much more polished than she did in the film, where she plays a character who's almost completely feral, scarred, and raised by an re-animated corpse.
Yay! Colin Salmon! He was so brilliant, and I loved the costume they designed for him.
Here's Jeremy Levett chatting with Stephen Lang, who plays Shrike (the re-animated corpse) and his wife about military history and related things.
Taken from Sarah Bradbury's blog (read her article and watch more cast videos here):
And I would have taken a zillion more pictures, except I was a bit shy and trying not to be overly snap-happy. But it was an amazing evening. Huge thanks to Scholastic for including me, Lorraine Keating for all her hard work organising, and Universal Pictures for giving Scholastic enough tickets so she could invite me.
Events didn't stop there! The following evening, Waterstones Piccadilly hosted an evening with Philip Reeve and Jeremy Levett, talking about the Mortal Engines books and The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines, hosted by Stephen Jewell (who kindly stood in for Nicolette Jones at the last minute). The cover's designed by Jamie Gregory and here's a lavish interior illustration by David Wyatt:
It was amazing having so many of the illustrators in the same room! From the left: Jamie Gregory, Philip Varbanov (who flew in specially from Bulgaria!), map designer Lowtuff, Rob Turpin, Jeremy Levett, Philip Reeve, Ian McQue (flown in from Edinburgh), David Wyatt (in from Devon):
And on a side note, Andrea Stewart (whom we'd seen with Tom the day before at the premiere) had crocheted us a lovely Roly-Poly Flying Pony, from our Reeve & McIntyre book, The Legend of Kevin! Thank you, Andrea!!!
Great to see Joe Decie and his son, who stars in a lot of his fabulous comics, up from Brighton:
And I had a great chat with writer-illustrators Jamie Littler and Laura Ellen Anderson (we're doing our own mock panel session here):
It's amazing to think people are going to be watching the film of Mortal Engines all over the world! But the books have been going around for awhile, and it's fascinating to see how different cultures interpret them in their cover art:
Keep an eye on the books' artists for related artwork:
And Rob Turpin has some original art on sale!
And at the end of all this, tea and cheesy toast.
Do go see this amazing film! It hits cinemas in the UK on Dec 7th, in the USA on Dec 14th, and more dates listed here.
Edit - Some first impressions just in from Philip on Twitter: