Mortal Engines Menik Gooneratne : An Interview

The latest fantasy film with an epic  steampunk style is here! I interviewed actress  Menik Gooneratne who acts in the film. She also talks about working with the collaboration between Christian Rivers and Peter Jackson on set.

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a Sri Lankan-Australian actress with a weakness for sausage dogs and romantic comedies. If they ever made a romantic comedy about sausage dogs, I think my head would explode.

Photo Credit: John Tsiavis

Photo Credit: John Tsiavis

When did you get into acting? What was your first job as an actress?

Photo Credit: John Tsiavis

Photo Credit: John Tsiavis

Acting has always been in my blood. As a teen I loved acting because I was incredibly shy, so acting was a means of expressing myself without fear of judgment. My friends and I were always making up short plays at lunchtime, which we were sometimes allowed to perform for the younger year levels.

My first acting gig was playing the "wild boar" in my Kindergarten Easter Play (we were living in Papua New Guinea at the time). I still remember being carried around on a stick once the hunters "caught me." I'd like to think it was that starring role that got me thinking about a career in acting.

What interested you in Mortal Engines?

So many things! First and foremost the challenge of playing a badass action hero was the most appealing as well as the chance to work with such iconic Oscar-winning filmmakers as Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens.  When I read the books, I couldn't put them down, and I felt an instant connection to my character. I am also a massive sci-fi fan. So really it felt like the stars aligned for me with this role.

What is one takeaway you learned from Peter Jackson?

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

What was it like working on a heavy vfx film?

Challenging, but super fun. I really enjoyed the freedom of letting my imagination run wild!

Did you have a stunt double?

Nope, I did all my own stunts baby! I immersed myself in fight training for months prior to filming, and that hard work really paid off!

Where was one location that was too good to be true?

Literally the whole of Wellington is breathtakingly beautiful, but honestly just being able to work at such an iconic studio as Stone Street studios, where so many renowned films have been made, was a dream come true.

Were there any set pieces or characters you talked to in a scene that was actually not there in real life? As in were you talking to someone or standing next to something that would be in CG.

Yes. There was a lot of green screen acting. I also had a few scenes with Shrike, who is essentially a CG robot, played by Stephen Lang. The hardest thing was remembering not to look at Stephen's face when our characters interacted with him because Shrike's head was actually about 2 feet higher.

Who was someone on set that could always make you smile?

Regé-Jean Page, who plays Captain Khora. He’s like the annoying brother I already have.

How does Peter Jackson inspire detail/hard work/effort/creativity between the cast and crew to make brilliance on screen? How does he get people to work so hard, yet have so much fun? 

Peter is enigmatic with a wicked sense of humor. He is very specific with his vision and what he wants from actors, which at times could be daunting but oh so very rewarding when you nail it! Peter is a big kid himself, so his pure joy and enthusiasm was infectious. He inspires people to work so hard by leading by example. He worked hard and had fun, so naturally, the rest of the cast and crew were motivated to do the same.

Hugo Weaving usually plays powerful bad guys. Was there ever scenes you acted in with him that you found to be a challenge? 

Nope, Hugo is one of the loveliest (and cheekiest) people I’ve met.

What was the collaboration on set like between the director Christian Rivers and Peter Jackson?

Seamless. Peter and Christian have worked together for many many years, so they had a lot of similarities. Christian is a very generous director. I loved working with him. He allowed us the chance to experiment with our own ideas for our characters, which is not a luxury you get on most sets. He is also an amazing artist! If we had a little downtime or a break, you’d often find him doodling some amazing picture on a scrap of paper.