Cloud Atlas TIFF Premiere Approaches, 3d Hobbit Film Titled, Last Ride on US DVD

Note: This is an archived entry that is two years old. While I have corrected all photo and video links, some article links may no longer work. If you really need a particular piece, let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy.

A lot of minor updates to report as we await a couple of major ones, namely the Toronto International Film Festival world premiere of Cloud Atlas and the announcement of Sydney Theatre Company’s 2013 Season, which promises to feature Hugo Weaving in a production.

Peter Jackson’s third Hobbit film has been given an official release date, 14 July 2014. As I predicted, they’ve shifted the second film’s subtitle, There and Back Again, to this third film. The second film will now be called The Desolation of Smaug– which I really should have predicted, as it’s taken directly from the source material and has just the right evocative air. 😉 The Desolation of Smaug will be released 13 December 2013, and the first film, still entitled An Unexpected Journey, will come out this December 14 after a gala world premiere in Wellington, NZ on November28.  For more details and quotes from Warner Bros’ latest press release on the trilogy, see Flickering Myth, The Hollywood Reporter, Flicks and Bits, and (as always)

Also of great interest to Elrond fans, in particular, should be this new publicity still/illustration of The White Council, shared by BexlinJ on Flickr and picked up by several Tolkien/Hobbit fansites since:

(L to R: Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Christopher Lee as Saruman The White.)

There’s also a first look at Elven King Thranduil (Lee Pace)… let’s just say there seem to be two camps of Elf fans out there: those who prefer the Legolas look and those who prefer Elrond. Pace is a magnificent actor and I’m eager to see what he does with this role… but I’m not crazy about the look. (Will try to refrain from RuPaul’s Drag Race jokes. But it’s hard.)

Cloud Atlas will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday (September 8) and it looks like Hugo will, indeed, be on hand. He’s been spotted in Sydney recently after a week of filming on Mystery Road in Ipswich, Queensland. Most publicity material for TIFF mentions Hugo– indeed, the full Cloud Atlas cast– on the guest list, and the films directors have confirmed this is their intention. Hugo hasn’t personally given any interviews about Cloud Atlas recently– he’s been busy– but anyone curious about the film should read Tom Hanks’ new interview with the Los Angeles Times and particularly the wonderful, in-depth profile of the Wachowskis by The New Yorker’s Aleksandar Hemon. The latter includes accounts of a Cloud Atlas set visit and multiple visits with the more-approachable-than-you-thought directors as they envisioned this film, cobbled together financing, shot it and edited it. This is obviously far more than just another movie to everyone involved… it aspires to visionary art, and if it succeeds, should erase years of cynicism and malicious gossip about these audacious filmmakers. Lana Wachowski is not only not a Greta-Garboesque recluse, she’s the chatty one. I know the Wachowskis created a certain mystique through years of detachment from the media and refusal to do interviews, but their insights are so fascinating and on-target that I hope they maintain some of this openness in the future.

I’ll share a little excerpt here, because it describes one of Hugo’s scenes as Old Georgie (mild plot spoilers):

“Around Thanksgiving, I visited the set in Babelsberg and sat behind the Wachowskis as they shot a scene from the post-Fall story line, in which Tom Hanks’s Zachry takes Meronym (Halle Berry), one of the last of a tribe known as the Prescients, people who still have some access to pre-Fall technology, to a defunct satellite-communication center, where she hopes to put out a call for salvation for her people. Old Georgie (Hugo Weaving), a hallucinated devil whom Zachry can’t shake, urges him to kill her. (In addition to Zachry and the malevolent Dr. Goose, Hanks also plays a thieving hotelier in the thirties, a nuclear scientist in the seventies, a memoir-writing thug in the present, and an actor who plays Timothy Cavendish in a movie in the twenty-second century.)

Berry was suffering from a cold that day, in addition to her sore foot, so the Wachowskis were working on closeups of Hanks and Weaving and hoping that she would be well enough to shoot in the afternoon. There was no apparent anxiety on the set. The Wachowskis were casual and relaxed…..

At Babelsberg’s Stage 9, on one of the two monitor screens, Weaving, as the devil Old Georgie, was now hissing, “Lies . . . nothin’ but lies,” while Hanks’s lower lip trembled. In the script, much depends on whether Zachry will decide to obey Old Georgie’s command to kill Meronym, so Hanks went through a series of takes exploring his moral entanglement. When Old Georgie advised Zachry to “slit her throat,” Weaving relished the succulence of the sibilants, and the directors giggled with joy. The set was rudimentary: the control room of the satellite-communication center would be completed with computer-generated imagery, imagined by the Wachowskis down to the minutest detail….

Weaving now lowered his voice to reach the outer ranges of whisper, his tongue menacingly close to Hanks’s ear: “How long you goin’ jus’ stand there an’ let a stranger keep fuggin’ your b’liefs up ’n’ down ’n’ in ’n’ out!” The Wachowskis exchanged glances and nods. Hanks’s face tightened into resolution as he walked out of the shot.”

Hugo Weaving as Old Georgie

But really, you should read the whole piece. It’s a revelation, particularly to anyone who loved The Matrix or V for Vendetta. It should also greatly reassure anyone who loved the novel and is nervous about changes the filmmakers have made, as well as the daring multiple-casting gambit that has already been controversial in some quarters. Author David Mitchell has been in the loop through the entire filmmaking process, and okayed the alterations… the Wachowskis didn’t want to repeat the experience they had making V for Vedetta, which original graphic novel author (and resolute crank) Alan Moore publicly dissed at every opportunity. They decided that if Mitchell didn’t like their script, they wouldn’t go any further in making the film. But Mitchell described his experience thusly: “I was like Augustus Gloop in the Wonka factory… I’ve witnessed a long sequence of decisions, which I never had to make while writing a book. Intellectually, I know [there were changes], but I don’t feel a loss at all.” Also reassuring is the lavish praise the author heaps on the early edit of the film he saw. I’m not used to anyone writing for The New Yorker being kind to any book, play,, musician or film I’ve loved over the years. Usually they’re a pit of snide little vipers– about V for Vendetta, the STC adaptation of Hedda Gabler– pretty much anything not involving pretentious New York insiders going about pretentious New York insider activities, really. This article was so much more open-minded and generous in spirit that I had to check the page source a few times. But I’m thrilled that people are responding well to the film, and I love the audacity of the project, and the fact that the Wachowskis would stake their reputations and future on this rather than, say, The Matrix 4.

The Hanks interview provided his full character list: he plays Dr Goose in The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing, a larcenous desk clerk in Letters from Zedelghem, Isaac Sachs (the nuclear scientist/corporate pawn) in Half Lives: The First Luisa Mystery Rey, Dermott “Duster” Hoggins (the gangster-turned-author thug) in The Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish, an actor playing Timothy Cavendish in a movie in An Orison of Sonmi-451 and (deep breath) Zachry in Sloosha’s Crossin; and Everythin’ After. (The print edition included photos of each except the Cavendish actor, including this first look at the desk clerk).

The Wachowskis have drawn thematic and semi-“evolutionary” connections between these characters, though Hanks doesn’t interpret his spectrum of characters as being literal reincarnations of one soul. (Hugo Weaving has said similar things about his characters: they embody different characteristics of one recurring theme in human nature.) I prefer the symbolic interpretation to the literal one, too, and am glad the filmmakers allow viewers to decide for themselves rather than spell everything out.

There’s also an interview with Ben Whishaw (who plays Frobisher) in the current issue of Empire; you can read excerpts here. The New York Times denotes Cloud Atlas as one of two films at TIFF (the other being Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master) which “could make moviegoing interesting again” after a particularly vapid summer at the cinema. Producer Grant Hill described the “accidental” gathering of the enormous cast for the TIFF premiere: ” After finishing the film in Berlin just days ago, the Wachowskis had arranged to take cast members to their Kinowerks postproduction facility in Chicago on Friday for a first viewing…’We’ve got the entire cast, we’re an hour’s flying time from Toronto, we’re just going to show up,’ Mr. Hill said of the thinking.”  He also describes enthusiastic responses to preview screenings in Pasadena and London, though a lot is still riding on how the film is received in Toronto. We’ll know in a couple of days…

Also, an update on Last Ride’s US release which I forgot to mention before: after a brief theatrical run in a handful of cities and much wider availability on On Demand and various streaming services, Music Box Films will release Glendyn Ivin’s feature debut (starring Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell) on DVD this October 16. It will be available to rent from Netflix at the same time. You can preorder or Saved-queue it now.

Any anyone who loved Richard Roxburgh in Uncle Vanya or Rake (or any of his dozens of other memorable incarnations) will enjoy this interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, which also previews Season 2 of Rake. (No, Hugo doesn’t do a guest spot this time around, but several other Aussie icons do, starting with Toni Collette. And the consensus is that the show’s writing is more consistently great this time around). No spoilers on STC’s next season, alas, but Roxburgh offered an interesting quip when the interviewer compared Uncle Vanya to Cleaver Greene, his Rake character; ”I sort of do Uncle Vanya and Rake these days.” Interesting use of the present tense. My European (and Asian) friends might want to keep their calendars open. 😉


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