Note: This is an archived entry that’s over two years old. While I have ensured that all photos are restored, some links may no longer work. If you encounter any dead links, let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the material.
When Hugo Weaving sat for an extensive interview with journalist Elissa Blake a couple of months ago, he hinted that, along with a reprisal of Uncle Vanya (at New York’s Lincoln Center in a month) and another theatrical production for STC’s 2013 season (which we’ve since learned is probably Waiting For Godot, costarring Richard Roxburgh) he hoped to film an Australian indie film, but couldn’t divulge more.
Now we’re finally getting some details. The film is called Mystery Road, and it’s a Western-flavored police procedural rife with moral ambiguity and sociological questions. Inside Film first reported the casting, and describes the film as a thriller with “[a] screenplay which strikes a distinctive balance between its unabashedly genre roots as a murder mystery and its perceptive cultural insights.” Hugo’s character is described as “a cop with questionable motives” on Deadline Hollywood; as usual, most of the Hollywood-centric entertainment websites are spinning this as another villain role for Hugo, while Australian film sites familiar with the actor’s full career, and Mystery Road‘s gifted director, Ivan Sen (Toomelah, Dreamland and 2002’s Beneath Clouds, a film Hugo praised as one of his recent favorites at the time) are displaying a bit more nuance. I doubt this is another stereotypical baddie role; Weaving’s best roles (Last Ride, Proof, Little Fish, Priscillla, etc) are multifaceted, complicated and deeply human. Most Australian directors cast him knowing there’s something of a gap between how commercial audiences perceive him, and what he’s truly capable of, and use this in conceiving surprising, fascinating characters. Yes, a lot of them have an element of darkness to them, but few are the sort of cackling evildoers he’s unfairly stereotyped for.
The film stars Aaron Pedersen as a “detective investigating the murder of an indigenous girl”, and costars stalwart character actors Jack Thompson and Ryan Kwanten as other locals who may or may not prove suspicious as things unfold. You can read more details at Mumbrella, The Film Stage, and Dark Horizons. Ivan Sen will not only direct but edit and shoot the film; he also wrote the screenplay. The production has already begun filming in Queensland, Australia; according to Inside Film, “Mystery Road will be released in Australia by Management of Doubt, a new local distributor, while international sales will be handled by Arclight.” It’s too soon to speculate about a release date or exactly how the international distribution will unfold; ideally it won’t take this film as long as it’s taken Last Ride to be properly seen abroad. (Remember, Last Ride finally opens in the US on June 29 (NYC July 6) with a Video On Demand and DVD release soon to follow.) Ryan Kwanten has a substantial international fanbase thanks to his role on the HBO series True Blood, so maybe that will add interest to the film worldwide. Also, though this film sounds superficially similar to Kim Farrant’s oft-delayed Strangerland, another Australian murder mystery Hugo Weaving was attached to, it’s a completely different project. All of the somewhat sketchy, stereotypical character notes about the film (apart from the description of Pederson’s protagonist) originated in the Deadline Hollywood blurb, so I wouldn’t put too much stock in those just yet; it sounds like another example of an initial, pat press release being used to sell a film that defies easy categorization. Even so, this sounds very exciting and rife with possibility. It’s unknown whether Hugo is already on set, or how he will juggle this film and his Uncle Vanya role… and upcoming promotional duties for Cloud Atlas and The Hobbit. As usual, he’s very busy, and has something in the works for every taste. 😉
And don’t forget, Oranges and Sunshine is now out on US DVD (and is available at rental outlets and on VOD.)
UPDATE: Director/writer Ivan Sen provided some intriguing hints about Mystery Road in a December 2011 interview with Reel Bits, before the film was cast: “.. [It’s] a murder-mystery. It’s about an Aboriginal detective who has to solve the murders of these young Aboriginal girls found under the highway and out of town, and he has to thread his way through the race relations of the town and the local drug scenes just to solve the cases. It will have a very strong Western influence to the film as well. It’s a bit of a cowboy, I call him a cowboy detective. [Laughs]… And there’s a big shoot-out in the film at the end, which I’m looking forward to doing… Yeah, that film has a big influence from No Country for Old Men, the Coen Brothers film. I think something I really appreciate about that film is that it’s really quite a layered film, quite artistic, but also it’s a commercial film as well and it’s made quite a lot of money and had an impact on the international audience. That’s kind of the area where I want to start heading towards… I was just talking to someone the other day about commercial movies, and I really don’t think they need to be so bad. There’s a lot that can be done with commercial genre films in a way that hasn’t been done before, and also done with sensitivity. As well as having all of the elements that make them a genre film at the same time. There’s room in Australia to play with that as well….[T]hat’s going to be an amazing experience. It’s very kind of old style, and very restrained. [We’ll be filming] around north-west New South Wales and also into Queensland, and certainly the outback of Queensland as well.”