NOTE: This is an archive entry that is two years old, so all links may not work. I have re-added the correct photos, but if any links are now dead, please let me know and I’ll try to find a copy of the original article.
Sorry for the lack of updates recently… Had to put in some serious time on Real Life after my adventures in New York last month. There have been a series of news items on Cloud Atlas (mostly early promotion and TIFF updates) which I’ll get to momentarily, but Hugo Weaving took a few weeks off after Uncle Vanya completed its New York run, so there weren’t really any major breaking stories to cover.
Until now. After a series of Hugo Sightings in the Queensland area, it can now be definitively reported Hugo Weaving is now filming scenes for Iven Sen’s neo-Western thriller Mystery Road. Still no details on his character beyond the cursory description we go back in June (he’ll be playing “a lawman with questionable motives”) but a new photo surfaced on Twitter today via Paul Pisasale (Pisasale is the Mayor of Ipswich, Queensland.) :
“It was great to catch up with Hugo Weaving during a break in filming for “Mystery Road” in Ipswich this morning” Paul Pisasale
A couple of days ago, the Mystery Road Twitter feed announced “Mystery road crew reunited to finish the film! yay! welcome back everyone!”… so it was only a matter of time before there was action on that front. The fact that Hugo is only going to be on set for the final block of filming suggests he has a supporting role, and that he might not have a ton of screentime, but Hugo only filmed for about a week on Oranges and Sunshine and still managed to deliver one of his most heartfelt performances (and nab his fourth AACTA/AFI Award), so this should be very interesting. Hell, it sounded like a fascinating film before they got Hugo on board. And is that a gun holster he’s wearing there? 😉
Hugo won’t have more than a couple of weeks on the Ipswich set because he’s on the guest list for the Toronto International Film Festival world premiere of Cloud Atlas, along with costars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Bae Doona, Ben Whishaw, David Gyasi, Zhou Xun, and directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. The premiere screening will take place September 8 at 6pm, followed by additional screenings September 8 (11am) and September 15 (11.30am). Ticket access has been determine by various levels of membership and block purchasing: currently only “My Choice Pack Buyers” are eligible to buy tickets to multiple screenings. It’s somewhat complicated, so check out TIFF’s rules and regs if you’re really curious. Members can buy single tickets starting August 30, members of the general public on September 2– if any are still available. I’ve read reports that Cloud Atlas’s three screenings are nearly sold out already.
After a lot of numbers-crunching and soul-searching, I’ve reluctantly had to admit it’s just not in the cards for me to attend… tickets to the premiere screening are probably gone already, and I’ve already had my Hugo Moment this year… Cloud Atlas has such a packed cast of international celebrities that the premiere will be a crushing mob scene. Although Hugo has said he’s eager to do publicity for the film, he’s also on record many times saying he dislikes “red carpet events” and this would be a doozy of one. Someday before I die I WILL go to one of those things, probably to see Hugo, but this year it’s time to stand down and let others have their Moments. And it’ll be easier to cover things from here because I’m not a major news organization with expensive camera equipment and portable computers to cover multiple news feeds. Hugo did some great interviews for CTV and other sources during the last TIFF he attended in 2005 (promoting Little Fish), and I get a sense people will have a lot of questions for him about Cloud Atlas and there characters he plays once the film has premiered and he’s able to say a little more.
Since my last post, an official website for Cloud Atlas has gone live. I didn’t leap at the chance to promote it here because at first there wasn’t much content other than a series of character photos which one could watch as a morphing montage (to highlight the story’s themes of transformation and connection) or as a series of chronological tableaux based on the six stories. Not all of the characters in the film are represented (some in the trailer aren’t on the website, and vice versa), nor is a real sense of context given.
(Also, some of the “mug shots” look a little clumsy or digitally modified).
The website in particular has triggered controversy because it depicted several characters in cross-racial guises without explanation or context, leading to some very ugly comments (and ponderous quasi-academic blogs) accusing the filmmakers of racism. Hugo was also a target because he seems to be the only actor in such makeup that the accusers recognized.
Anyone who’s read the novel knows how ill-informed and mean-spirited such accusations are. I’ve tried very hard to avoid writing lengthy, quasi-academic posts of my own in the film’s– and Hugo’s– defense. I am sorely tempted. This is political correctness run amuck. A more carefully-crafted website might have given greater context– and, in fact, ALL of the actors in the film (which has a vast, multiracial cast) play across race and gender lines. The novel is a plea for tolerance and acceptance of cultural difference, and depicts in very graphic terms the consequences of racism and societal fracturing. The heroic characters in the Sonmi storyline– which is set in a futuristic Korea– are all played by Asian actors. Hugo will probably have a minor role in that segment– in fact, I still can’t guess his character, and most of the important ones are taken. Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant and Keith David also play Korean characters (or, I should say, characters in the Korean segment. In the context of the novel, Ne So Copros (a future, corporate-totalitarian Korea) is the only remaining advanced civilization and is swamped with refugees from all of the other countries which have been reduced to “wastelands”– so some of these characters might be multiracial. None of the people who have reviewed the film at test screenings have called it racially insensitive, even those who hated it. The detractors haven’t seen the film, and most probably haven’t read the novel. They’ve just seen photos out of context on a website and jumped to certain ill-founded conclusions. Yes, Hollywood has a history of racism, and yes, white actors often depicted Asians (or African Americans) in a demeaning or condescending way in films of the 1920s-60s. This isn’t a “Hollywood” film. Hollywood refused to fund it. The cross-racial casting was probably one thing that scared them off. Hollywood would simply take the most commercial storylines from the novel, simplify them and cast them with mostly-white actors the way they do most Asian film remakes and anime adaptations. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer deliberately chose to have actors play across traditional boundaries to underscore the film’s theme of identity being unfixed and fluid. On the one hand there’s a literal reincarnation plot involving the six lead characters (played by Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Bae Doona, and Halle Berry (again)) and supporting players like Hugo seem to be cast to explore how certain types of human behavior are perpetuated over centuries– and how this changes and doesn’t change. All of the actors knew this would be a thorny thicket on many fronts when they accepted the job. Hugo has called it a “dangerous adventure”. And it’s a very brave artistic endeavor. A lot of snide naysayers hate the film’s outsize ambition and aspirations. Others think white actors should only be allowed to play white characters, otherwise it’s “racist”. (The detractors either haven’t noticed or have disregarded that Asian and African American actors are playing white characters too– so there’s no “net loss” of roles for Asian actors here.) The casting choices have been made not for crass commercial reasons, but for artistic ones. It’s been at least forty years since white audiences “needed” to have white actors play characters of other races to feel comfortable. These days, obvious cross-racial casting makes people uncomfortable. In this case, it’s meant to. And not for negative, commercially- motivated resons.
Honestly I never meant to get involved in this debate, and I hope I don’t have to get involved further. I would ask that people who still have issues with the film on this basis actually read the novel or see the film before they continue leveling specious accusations. This is not to say that I know the film is a brilliant artistic success or that “everything works”. I haven’t seen it yet. But if you haven’t either, you can’t indulge in ugly speculation about its intentions. And if you accuse Hugo Weaving of being a racist in my presence, I might have to punch you in the face. (Most of the people carrying on about this– on Twitter at least– seem to be white females. Or people using white female userpics. Which underscores my feeling that this is political correctness run amuck.) Most people reading this probably sense that people like Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon (who’s so notoriously liberal the president won’t be photographed with her) and Lana Wachowski (who’s… do I even need to bring this up, people?!) are not going to be making a film that trafficks in intolerance or race-baiting. Context and intentions do matter. It’s irresponsible to wag one’s finger at an artist and say such-and-such-a-thing is “always wrong.” Obviously the filmmakers (and David Mitchell, who’s endorsed their efforts) want us to think about these issues, and they aren’t going to hand us easy answers. That’s the point. To think. Not to judge or make the sort of narrow-minded assumptions you wouldn’t want others making about you.
Sorry about all that. I hope most of you are eager to see the film and just skipped that bit. 😉 I remember dealing with different sorts of controversy (but equal levels of venom) when V for Vendetta came out. In reading the old reviews, I noticed the left-wing PC Police tended to be as offended as the Fox News faithful (though one Fox critic actually loved the film– talk about your cognitive dissonance). So inflexibility and narrow-minded definitions of what’s “appropriate” trouble both ends of the political spectrum. I try to be on the side of art. I hope the film qualifies as art after all the trouble it’s gotten me in. I’m fine with it being “entertainment” too. I’m glad everyone involved in making it was so brazen. Back to the main theme here… links for Hugo stuff! 😉 The website does include the full trailer (which still amazes me), and HD versions of the Photo Slideshow and Directors’ preview commentary video, which were first shared online last month. The Facebook page is updated more frequently and is so far an entertaining place to share thoughts and speculate with fans of the novel (so… careful if you haven’t read it and don’t want any spoilers). On the whole, the early buzz about the film is very positive.
There have been a handful of test screenings, mostly in California… most early reviews are highly enthusiastic, though some who haven’t read the novel say the film is initially confusing. To read a large sampling of test screening comments (and view a few more stills from the film) check out /Film, and JoBlo. Hugo has already been given special mention, as have Sturgess and Broadbent… I suspect this will be the sort of project, like LOTR, where different viewers are drawn to different characters/plots. Of course there are a few negative reviews too– nothing this grandiose in ambition is going to appeal to everyone. Susan Sarandon has been the most recent cast member to give (brief) interviews about the film– to Huffington Post and Indie Wire. She says, “”They’re so full of love, the three of them, for each other and for making film,” Sarandon said of Twyker and the Wachowski’s. “They wanted to make an epic adult film that’s about epic adult ideas. So I pray for them that there are enough ideas and adults to go around, because it’s a fabulous experiment in American filmmaking.” Which is so much more pithy than all that stuff I wrote under the cut. She also demurs that she doesn’t have a large role–or roles (she plays at least three characters)– in Cloud Atlas. The trailer and website suggest she’s The Abbess in the Slossha’s Crossin’ story and a love interest (possibly Ursula) in Timothy Cavendish… I have no idea who the “male Indian” character she mentions might be. She also hinted there’s a test screening in Chicago on September 7… so if you’re in that area, you might want to start looking for tickets, if they can be had. There are some nice compilations of screencaps from the trailer (and some wonderfully sane commentary on the makeup effects) at Movies.com and Daventry Blue.
On to other Hugo Weaving projects: my Australian friends who are Sydney Theatre Company subscribers confirm that Hugo will indeed have a role in a production during the 2012-13 season, but they play has not yet been confirmed. Early reports hinted Hugo might be reteaming with Uncle Vanya castmate Richard Roxburgh for a new version of Beckett’s Waiting For Godot… Andrew Upton and Cate Blanchett teased this specifically in a Gotham magazine interview before Vanya’s New York engagement. But Roxburgh has also been mentioned as a possible lead in a different play, so nothing is official yet. Andrew Upton recently announced he’ll continue as Artistic Director of the STC (details in The Australian and Sydney Morning Herald). The forthcoming season will be the last codirected by Upton’s missus…uh… what’s her name. The blonde. (heh heh). Seriously, though, Cate Blachett will probably take some time in coming years to return to her cinematic career, which has been less prominent as she focused on the STC, but she and Upton will continue to be based in Sydney, and I suspect she’ll still make the odd appearance in STC productions. (She is confirmed for one next season– also not officially named yet.) If all this teasing is driving you mad, all your STC questions will be answered September 6, when the new season is officially unveiled. More teasing first, though: this recent Richard Roxburgh interview in the Australian Financial Review alluded to “talk of Vanya touring Europe and beyond and…some upcoming Sydney theatre commitments.” Commitments, plural. And a possible fourth act for Vanya. (My European friends have been waiting so long for this… AND every reprisal fuels the hope that they’ll film the thing. Or resign themselves to bringing it to a different city every year for the rest of their natural lives.) 😉
No shocking developments concerning The Hobbit since the announcement that it will, indeed, become a trilogy. Hugo hasn’t commented on whether he’ll be in the third film, or whether what he’s already filmed will be subdivided into different sections to accommodate new footage. Again, I’ll refer you to TheOneRing.net for any and all things Hobbit if you must know every wisp of a rumor. Of most interest: Peter Jackson gave an interview to the Dominio Post discussing his creative process approaching the films, casting choices and 48 FPS. Several film sites reported that most screenings of the first Hobbit film (An Unexpected Journey, out will be in conventional 24 FPS because the technology for the new process isn’t yet widely available– BUT if you’re lucky enough to see the film in FPS, you won’t be charged extra for that. (Just for IMAX and 3D, if you opt for those.) 😉 Benedict Cumberbatch has mini-spoiled how Smaug might be introduced (see The Coventry Telegraph for more– you probably won’t be shocked.) 😉 In a separate interview for The Telegraph, he quipped about the motion-capture process: “You feel like a tit in all that gear but Peter is so lovely you soon forget.” Finally… a few preview images of the 2013 Hobbit Calendar have shown up online, including at Collider. The calendar won’t be available for purchase until October, but Elrond finally gets his own month (looks like October) and is sportin’ some new armour.
More soon! Oh, and here’s our first look at Hugo as Nurse Noakes, from the Cloud Atlas website: