Cloud Atlas speculation, Mystery Road heats up as Uncle Vanya winds down

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. Also contains Cloud Atlas plot/character speculation, some of which turned out to be wrong. 😉

No major breaking news this time, but feedback and more details about several of Hugo Weaving’s current projects continue to roll in.

The trailer for Cloud Atlas seems to have silenced most of the skeptics and made the film one of the fall’s most tantalizing, anticipated releases. Fans of David Mitchell’s novel continue to parse every frame for casting clues, though several obvious changes are already evident. Everything I say after the photo could be considered a spoiler to varying degrees, though it remains speculation based on the novel and a few hints in newly-published reports; Hugo’s characters in four of the six stories can now be guessed or confirmed. One of the newly-revealed ones was well-hidden in the trailer and film stills :


Yes, this is apparently really Hugo.

Drew McWeeny, who usually has good intel, provided a few more casting hints on HitFlix: “… you’ll get to see Hugo Weaving play a deranged figment of someone’s imagination, a sadistic nurse at a nursing home, and even a Korean man. You’ll get to see Halle Berry romance Tom Hanks after the end of the world, and you’ll get to see her as a white woman in our distant past, and you’ll see Hanks play a Vinnie Jones-style British tough guy as well as an explorer and, yes, one of the last humans on Earth.”

Movies.com has conveniently capped and ID’d most of the main cast (actors, not roles) though they missed a few of James D’Arcy’s charcters, and of course not all characters appear in the trailer. Only two of Hugo’s do, the second only fleetingly from a distance… though technically another is driving the car that hits Halle Berry’s. 😉 From the HitFlix blurb we can speculate that Hugo will play:

D’Arnoq or Horrox in The Pacific Diary of Adam Ewing (both are officious ministers who live among indigenous tribes; D’Arnoq slightly more sympathetic)

Bill Smoke in Half Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery

Nurse Noakes in The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish
[PHOTO NOT AVAILABLE]

And… Old Georgie in Sloosha’s Crossin’ and Everythin’ After

This last one is really tickling me because I didn’t see it coming. Again, stuff gets really spoilery here for awhile, so be warned! We’ve been told (by Hugo himself, among others) that all of Hugo’s characters are villains or symbols of the power structure to some degree. But in Sloosha’s Crossin’, there is no power structure left; the human population of earth is on the precipice of extinction following various environmental disasters and a mysterious plague that only a remnant population of dark-skinned advanced-civilization survivors (of whom Halle Berry’s Meronym is a representative) seem to be immune to. Other pockets of disease-prone humans cling to a barren, primitive existence in Hawaii. Some of these neo-Hawaiians are peaceful tribesmen, called Valleysmen, like Tom Hanks’ Zachry, but most are cannibalistic Kona savages (led by Hugh Grant) who are gradually raping, pillaging and devouring the others out of existence. Early in filming, Keith David (who has a larger role in the Luisa Rey story) confirmed he’s playing the small role of Meronym’s contact among the advanced remnant humans… Ordinarily I’d say Hugo is too pale to fit the “dark skinned” profile the advanced humans fit in the novel, but several roles are cross-racial. But, anyhow, David has that role.

The only other adult male roles are Zachry’s father (who’s killed early, and might be eliminated from the film since they’ve aged Zachry into his 40s– or is that Jim Sturgess playing him in a flashback in the trailer?) and the cannibals. Hugh Grant had a lot of fun describing his cannibal role to the press this spring, but they have a tribeful of Konas to cast. I was dreading the news Hugo would be cast as Lyons, a Valleysman who seems friendly but is secretly in league with the cannibals, and… I’ll spoil no further. 😉 But The HitFlix report claims he plays “a deranged figment of someone’s imagination”… and that can only be Old Georgie in Sloosha’s Crossin’. In the novel, Old Georgie can be interpreted as a devil-figure feared by the Valleysmen, or as the manifestation of Zachry’s fears and superstitions (he’s mostly a voice that either emanates from inside Zachey’s head or in desolate landscapes where Zachry feels vulnerable.) He’s not physically described, so I didn’t think the filmmakers would elect to have him portrayed by an actor… certainly not in the way they’ve depicted him. Some bloggers have described the character as a “Leprechaun”… and I myself said he looked like something out of a from a particularly deranged Alice in Wonderland adaptation. I actually thought this might be another guise for David Gyasi, who plays Autua. So the makeup artists have done an incredible job in this case. And of course I love the whole idea of Hugo playing Tom Hanks’ Inner Funk Monster. 😉 It looks like they’re making him a Trickster archetype rather than a Western devil.

Anyhow, this casting makes perfect sense in the context of Hugo’s other roles in the film, though the transition from Noakes to Georgie remains unknown. Yes, he plays “a Korean man”, in An Orison of Sonmi 451 but every character in thati story is Korean. Hugh Grant made comments that suggested he plays Seer Rhee, Keith David plays Apis, James D’Arcy the Archivist and Jim Sturgess (in an unconvincing Asian makeover) plays Hae-Joo. That leaves Papa Song (who’s more an advertising icon than a real character),  Dr Mephi and an assortment of minor ne’er-do-wells… if they follow the novel. I have nothing to speculate based on except the dark-trending nature of Hugo’s other characters and the snippet of dialogue about Sonmi (“the problem you create is a political one”), which sounds a lot like Hugo in voiceover (though it sounds like something The Archivist might say too.)


I thought this might be Hugo, but it’s probably Hugh Grant as Seer Rhee


… And I’m still not 100% convinced that’s NOT Hugo on Hugh Grant’s left, though it makes no sense, as Hugo plays a different character in the same story. Also, no clue at all who Hugo might play in Letters From Zedelghem, the second story.

END OF POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I found an interesting Behind The Scenes report from the set of Hugo’s next film, Mystery Road; it’s a video segment that aired on ABC Queensland on July 20. Hugo isn’t mentioned and wasn’t on set when this was filmed in Winton, Queensland, but there are interviews with director Ivan Sen and star Aaron Pedersen, and the piece gives you a better idea of the flavor and scenic quality the finished film will have (though only minimal plot hints are given.) Fortunately it doesn’t look like a grim, humorless parable, but an intriguing, dark-humored neo-western.

Finally (for now), raves for STC’s New York production of Uncle Vanya, which ends tonight (already! Alas!) continue to appear:

Rob Cohen, Backstage: ” Cate Blanchett and her colleagues from Australia’s Sydney Theatre Company—where she and her husband, playwright Andrew Upton, are co-artistic directors—fill the place to the brim with a gallery of kinetic, larger-than-life performances… The actors make each of these characters so deliciously entertaining that when they exit you can’t wait for them to come back onstage. As Vanya, Richard Roxburgh is a grand mix of downtrodden clown and rejected lover and a dynamic spewer of bottomless grievances against his former brother-in-law. Hugo Weaving gives Astrov a magnetic sexiness while filling the doctor’s prophetic rants against the steady destruction of nature with macho passion. Hayley McElhinney imbues Sonya with a youthful sweetness and intelligence, leavening her lovelorn misery, while the ferocity of John Bell’s Serebryakov as he rails against debilitating age and ailments gives added dimension to the bombastic character… Upton’s adaptation is crisp and economical and provides dialogue that lends itself to comic inflections. Overall, the show tends to emphasize the comedy of the human condition over the agony. Other productions of “Uncle Vanya” may tug more at the heartstrings, but the choice gives the work a refreshing vibrancy without losing its truthfulness. Sometimes it even sharpens it.”

Shoshana Greenberg, Crazytown: “If you have not seen Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya, go. Now (if you can). Even if you don’t like Chekhov. Maybe even if you don’t like theater. Just to see those actors, including the sublime Cate Blanchett, is a master class not just in acting but what art can be… Not only had I never seen a production of this particular play but I had missed Chekhov. It had been so long since I listened to characters philosophize about life and felt their motionlessness and ennui. As I walked into the theater and saw the dilapidated Russian country estate set, I felt as though I was returning to a part of myself I had put aside…. Thank you to the Sydney Theatre Company’s Uncle Vanya for making me realize I need more Chekhov in my life.”

Jason Zinoman, Slate: “Chekhov’s plays are not static and wearily tasteful and above the neck. They are not stuffy, delicate ensemble pieces full of gentle wistfulness. In other words, they are not what so many contemporary productions would lead you to believe. Chekhov is the second greatest playwright ever but he’s slowly being drowned by misplaced reverence. Thankfully, Cate Blanchett has thrown him a life preserver…. In fact, the entire Sydney Theater production, staged with guts and gusto by Tamas Ascher, deserves credit for finding the urgency and action in this play. Full of slaps and kisses and dancing, it has the wild spirit of a drunken Russian party that spills into the morning. For some, this staging was too busy and overwrought. But that critique is rooted in a common misunderstanding about the essence of Chekhov.”

Finally the STC’s Magazine site highlights this staging of Vanya in their new “Tomcast” audio podcast (featuring STC’s associate director Tom Wright’s impressions of the play) and their own Review Roundup.

VanyaCurtainCall26July2012IdaSantana
The Vanya cast take a curtain call; Photo: Ida Santana via Twitter/Instagram

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