Mortal Engines Has A Hidden Machine That Makes Food Out Of Poo

Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw with her face covered in Mortal Engines

Production design can sometimes be an underappreciated artform. It's an incredibly detailed part of the filmmaking process, and yet a lot of those bits of minutiae are either relegated to the distant background or never even appear on the big screen at all. As it turns out, the upcoming Mortal Engines is a prime example of this, as actress Hera Hilmar recently revealed that there is one sequence that subtly hides a machine that makes food out of excrement:

I found it very funny that in Scuttlebutt there was a machine in the kitchen in the background that you don't really see where food was being made out of poo. And it actually was visually moving and stuff, and I was just like, 'Who made this?' They went through with it, it's actually working, and it's not even really featured. And I was just like, 'Wow.'

Scuttlebutt is one of the mechanized, roaming cities featured in Mortal Engines -- one that heroes Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) and Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) find themselves inhabiting toward the middle of the movie. It's ultimately revealed as a site of some danger and drama for the protagonists, with certain individuals proving to not be super trustworthy, but apparently there is a bit of weirdness going on behind the action as well, as the denizens have evidently figured out a way to recycle their food in the post-apocalyptic world.

It was during the Los Angeles press day for Mortal Engines last week that I found out about this very odd machine, specifically while sitting down with stars Hera Hilmar and Jihae -- who plays the helpful fugitive Anna Fang in the feature. Having personally visited the set of the film last year when it was still in production, and seen a lot of the wonderful behind-the-scenes details, I asked the duo if they had a favorite element that audiences may not actually see in the finished movie. Hilmar was quick to point out the food-to-poo device, and made it clear that she is still puzzled by the mind that brought it into existence.

On a practical level, however, one can understand why a machine like this makes at least some sense in the world of Mortal Engines. It's a society where resources are scarce, and folks have to do what they can in order to survive -- even if that means trying to recover any kind of nutritional value they can from waste. It's absolutely disgusting, sure, but there is a long, long history of people doing anything they can to survive in horrible conditions.

That's all pretty gross, but Jihae's contribution to the conversation at the very least introduced some beauty into the mix. Her favorite hidden details can be found in the movie both on her weaponry and her ship, the Jenny Haniver, as they each contain personal elements that she found further tied her to the character:

For me, they had the gun, the intricate designs of the gun and the swords was amazing. They realized I was South Korean by birth and they put in the national Korean bird on the gun, and wrote Korean writing on there. And they also, within Jenny Haniver, they put a feline - knowing that was my spirit animal. It's really nice attention to detail.

You can watch Hera Hilmar and Jihae discuss the poop machines and intricate details of Mortal Engines by clicking play on the video below:

Mortal Engines, directed by Christian Rivers and produced by Peter Jackson, also stars Hugo Weaving, Stephen Lang, Colin Salmon, and Leila George, is set to arrive in theaters this Friday, December 14th. Be sure to stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.