Another Hugo Weaving Interview on Nurse Noakes, More Cloud Atlas Coverage

Note: This is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

The Toronto Film Festival is nearing its end, but responses to Cloud Atlas and coverage of the actors’ brief but busy time at the festival continue to appear. I suspect a lot of media sources are holding back their inteviews and videos until Cloud Atlas is in wide release at the end of October– at least I hope that’s what they’re doing. All I know is that I saw footage or photos of Hugo being interviewed by at least a dozen reporters, and at least a few of them haven’t yet posted their pieces. So we’ll have to wait and see… But the most interesting new addition to the pile today is a new Hugo Weaving interview with Vulture (New York Magazine)… as with the Sydney Morning Herald piece, his Nurse Noakes character gets the bulk (no pun intended) of the attention. Obligatory questions about Lana Wachowski and The Hobbit were also included and graciously answered. Here’s the full text, with what looks like a cropped version of one of the Getty premiere photos:

      “Today at 4:20 PM


      Hugo Weaving on Cloud Atlas, Lana Wachowski, and Playing a Hefty Woman Nurse


    By Mina Hochberg

In the Wachowski siblings’ film Cloud Atlas, Hugo Weaving plays multiple characters — a devil, an assassin, a nineteenth-century businessman. But the role that really won over audiences at the Toronto Film Festival was Nurse Noakes, a brutish orderly who menaces the residents of an elderly home. The cross-dressing role gives Weaving a rare opportunity to flaunt his comedy chops, and it’s also his first time donning a fat suit for film. We spoke with Weaving about performing an S&M version of Nurse Ratched, working with Lana Wachowski, and why Cloud Atlas may “be too much” for some people.

Nurse Noakes was a big hit with the audience. Were you padded underneath?

Oh yeah! I had a massive fat suit. And then the whole deal — stockings and high heels, skirt. Then of course all the prosthetics — neck and cheeks and face and chin, and originally nose, but we got rid of that. Lips, I had lips. So it was actually quite extreme. That was the most difficult character to deal with physically. I felt I never quite got to the place I wanted to get to, embodying her physically. I’d like to have had more time with that. Four hours to get into the prosthetics, so you don’t have a lot of time to play around in it. That was something that was difficult for all of us. But the character — I’d always loved her. I loved reading about her in the book, and the script, too.

Were you channeling anyone while playing her?

No, not really. But I had seen Cuckoo’s Nest before, because I thought she was like a sort of S&M version of Nurse Ratched. But she’s also physically quite like a monster.

Have you ever had to wear a fat suit for a role before?

On the stage before, but not on film.

It seems like a fun movie for actors, sort of like being in a theater ensemble.

Very much so. I love that sense of play because as a viewer of the film you’re constantly reminded that these are actors playing roles, because you’re constantly seeing them as someone else. It’s unusual to see that on film. It’s not part of our film language. We try [instead] to create this sort of natural reality, so people can go into this dream world. I think often in film we limit our imaginations a little — well, quite a lot, actually … things get quite formulaic.

The multiple genres in Cloud Atlas make it a hard movie to describe.

It does, and it also makes it a hard movie to accept and to watch, because it’s out of their experience and therefore it’s wrong. So I suspect that will be the main problem for some people: Because it’s unusual, it’s like, “Ehhh that didn’t work for me because I’ve never seen it before and I wanted it to be like this. Why couldn’t they do that?” But what I think is great about it is that it’s actually quite revolutionary in its structure. It’s quite playful yet it’s a very serious film. It manages to incorporate all these elements amazingly well, but I think for some people it will be too much

.When the Wachowskis came to you with the role, did you say yes right away?

We’d all read it, actually, when we did V for Vendetta. So I sort of knew the book very well. And I’ve read all of David Mitchell’s stuff and really love his work. Then I heard they were working on the script, so when Andy rang and said, “There’s a script coming for you and these are the roles we want you to play,” I knew what those roles were. I knew the story and the book. So it was an easy script to read, and a wonderful adaptation of a complex, wonderful novel. I said yes quite quickly.

I just finished The New Yorker article about the Wachowskis and it mentioned how much happier Lana is since she became a woman. Have you noticed that while working with her?

Yeah, I think so. I wouldn’t have said when I first met Larry that he wasn’t content and that he wasn’t talking about the same things that she’s talking about now. But I do know from having talked to her towards the last years of the Matrix, the whole issue started to come up. And then we had a whole conversation about it. I do know it’s been a massive transition for her. Undoubtedly she’s happier now than she was, but you wouldn’t necessarily have known that from the outside.

The Hobbit opens in a few months. Did you have to think twice about playing Elrond again?

No, it seemed to me that’s just what you should do, really. It’s the same people in that world, it’s the same world, the same director. It wouldn’t have seemed right not to do it. Actually I remember in New Zealand, saying to Peter, “Oh well, I guess we’ll see you on The Hobbit.” And he said, “No, no, I’m not doing The Hobbit. We’re not doing The Hobbit.” I said, “Of course you will.” And you know he didn’t want to do it initially — Guillermo Del Toro was directing it. He ended up doing it. It seemed like the right thing to go back and revisit.”


There’s also an insightful addition to the debate over the film’s controversial casting choices here, a new Tom Hanks/Halle Berry interview at Flicks and Bits, and more assessment of the makeup transformations on Yahoo Movies and  There’s a recap of the film’s TIFF press conference at MSNBC. If you’ve read the novel and don’t mind spoilers, there’s a rundown of the major plot changes the film makes to the novel’s storylines at Indie Wire (some of these are evident in the trailer too). They also list their three favorite casting choices; Hugo doesn’t make the list, but neither do Hanks and Berry. (Arguably, the directors’ typecasting of Hugo is one of the film’s few genuine weaknesses; everyone else but Hugh Grant gets a variety of roles, and Grant at least gets to play against his usual romcom persona.)

A few more reviews:

Jonathan Crow*, Yahoo Movies: “I have to confess that I’m a huge fan of the book. I made the mistake of bringing it along on a vacation last year. Once the book got its hooks into me, I couldn’t tear away from it to see whatever ancient wonder that awaited. I went into this screening feeling both anticipation and dread, but for the most part the movie met my high expectations… Wachowski and company’s love of the book and passion for the project is obvious in every frame.The movie is, in the end, a much more romantic work than the book. It tweaks a couple of the endings to be more palatable for the silver screen, and it foregrounds the book’s Eastern notions of reincarnation. As with most literary adaptations, you lose much of author’s stunning command of the language (read the book, seriously), but Wachowski and team add an additional layer to the flick, which sometime works and sometimes is just distracting. The same half-dozen A-list actors appear in nearly all its stories, underling the karmic connection to us all. Thus you have Tom Hanks playing a cockney thug, Hugo Weaving in full drag playing a Nurse Rachet-like retirement-home attendant, and Mr. Charming himself — Hugh Grant — as a cannibal barbarian covered in war paint. There’s something that feels fundamentally right about seeing Hugh Grant dressed as a bloodthirsty savage. Too bad that footage couldn’t be edited into Notting Hill. ”

Verena Lueken, : (translated from the original German; apologies for any errors!) “”Cloud Atlas” initially seemed an impossible film to adapt: how would it be possible, the six stories from different times, which, in the book, are divided into halves, then presented half chronologically, then the second part in reverse chronology are now combined and intercut on film. Now, on the screen, it looks completely natural….When the music helps us an overlapping voice-over, the image of a surge of water in the future in a sea in the nineteenth century passes, then we are clearly able to make connections between parts that seem otherwise unrelated. But this is not entirely true: connections in the film are produced by the fact that the main characters are played by the same actors: Halle Berry is an investigative journalist in 1973, and also one of the last survivors of the apocalypse, but between them makes an appearance in a Korean Art McDonald’s. Tom Hanks is also everywhere in leading roles… There is a delightful episode of Jim Broadbent, in the role of publisher of a murderous book author who,  on the run from his creditors, lands in a nursing home, where Hugo Weaving plays the dominatrix-like guard. In another segment, we see Halle Berry as Victorian housewife, Tom Hanks gets even a ethnic touch – the boundaries between race and gender are fluid, resulting in a film in which every story has a romantic touch and loving message of the freedom ,  [and] is welcome as an indication of the complicated state of affairs.”

J. Hoberman, ArtInfo: “The movie, which runs nearly three hours and spans a period of some hundreds of years (from the mid 19th to the 22nd century and beyond into some post-apocalyptic future), has many big ideas concerning freedom and slavery and love and greed and art and karma and eternity (“nay, the dead never stay dead”), but it’s mainly an exercise in action and editing… The chases and explosions are fine, but best thing is the montage — the often witty match- or ludicrous shock-cuts that transport the viewer back and forth in time from one epoch to another… The mix and mash trumps the balderdash. “I believe there’s another world and I’ll be waiting for you there,” some says towards the end. Moi aussi… with a big bag of popcorn.”

Kenji Lloyd, HeyUGuys: “The film does not reduce well – and this works very much in its favour. We see almost all of its cast in almost all of its temporal and geographical shifts – Tom Hanks in a post-apocalyptic future, and in the mid-1970s; Jim Sturgess falling ill traversing the Pacific Ocean in the nineteenth century, and in a not-too-distant dystopian (blockbuster of a) future; Hugo Weaving as a demonic figure in a post-apocalyptic future, and a female nurse in the present day…. And that is but a few of the actors in a few of their iterations. The stories and the scope are tremendous, and it takes an extremely talented cast, guided by extremely talented writer-directors, to pull off such a feat… [F]for me, the most intriguing and hard-hitting stories were the cycles revolving around Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae, who are utterly remarkable here… What ultimately comes across throughout the film is humanity.. Everything is connected, regardless of race, creed, gender, orientation, age, or when you were born… [The film] can’t be simplified, it thinks outside the box, and it strives for invention rather than trading on old formulae. It is already dividing critics, but to my mind, it is an instant classic, and one I cannot wait to see again.”

Ada Wong, (Copy/Paste is disabled on this page, but a lengthy, thoughtful review. Go read it for yourself.)

Marco Cerritos, Hypable: “Early reviews have been comparing the bold vision of Cloud Atlas to other massive celluloid undertakings like The Fountain and The Tree of Life and while there are some similarities, they are not many. Co-directors Larry and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Speed Racer) along with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) have attempted the impossible, turning David Mitchell’s dense 2004 novel into a cinematic sensory experience. There is time swapping, race swapping and even gender swapping to boot. Nothing is off limits when it comes to taking chances in Cloud Atlas and that is what makes it stand out from the assembly line… I haven’t read the novelized version of Cloud Atlas so I can’t speak to how closely it follows the original material but in reference to the film I have heard the words “impossible” and “unfilmable” tossed around. I would also like to add the words “brave” and “innovative” to the conversation… Regardless of where you stand on the film, the fact that real filmmaking is being attempted instead of playing it safe with sequels and reboots is always a good thing. Or in the case of Cloud Atlas, a great thing. Grade: A”

Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood/IndieWire: “One Toronto movie met mixed response but was a delirious joyride for me: “Cloud Atlas.” …  Each story catches you up; you know exactly where you are as they unfold; and you root for the characters. While some critics have described this as a meandering 164-minute mess that does disservice to the novel, I was crystal clear on what was happening throughout, without having read the whole book (I gave up early on–I’m going to try again). And the way the actors don outrageous multiple roles–and ethnicities and sexes– keeps things fun. Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant relish their villains… The way the filmmakers cut between episodes, using visual and emotional cues, is exhilarating. I can’t wait to see this again. This is a movie worth arguing about. ”

*No, I don’t think this is Hugo’s For Love Alone character of the same name. 😉

Also wanted to add my full transcript of Hugo’s two comments at the Cloud Atlas Press Conference; I’d posted the first one a few days ago, but have had nothing but technical difficulties with my computer since September 8. including issues downloading the complete press conference video. 😉 But i’m nothing if not persistent and finally got the job done. Took way too many screencaps too. I’ll add a few below the cut.

First segment: Hugo: “[You want my thoughts] on putting makeup on? Well I… one of the funniest memories I have was when we were… before we started the shoot, and wandering around doing all the makeup tests, and not recognizing your fellow actors, and bumping into people and just not knowing who they were, and kind of having a lot of laughs about that. And… yeah, look, it was a fantastic source material, and a great adaptation of that, and when we got together for that first read-through, most of us were there, and it was a really extraordinary day, andI think it was the day that we all realized we were going to have to take a kind of jump off a cliff, you know, into whatever this film was going to be, and despite all the.. um… extraordinary preparation that had gone into the film at that point, there was a time when we were all gonna have to kind of go, ‘Okay, we’re doing this, and there are things.. we’re not going to be sure of what all these connections necessarily are, and we’re not gonne be sure sure how this is gonna work. But that very leap of faith was something that kind of galvanized everyone, and it was… that actually made it fun. It felt like doing something that was risky, and different, and maybe.. you know, maybe you jump off a cliff and that would be, you know, a long drop [smiles].. so.. yeah, it was always that sense of.. kind of nervous excitement about going into the next day, the next character. ”

Second Segment: Question: Which of the characters you played was your favorite?

Hugo: “I’d say… probably Old Georgie, because… this is a character that’s actually– although you see him in the film– he’s not real. Well, he is real, but he’s not embodied. He’s a… fear inside someone else’s head, so I s’pose it’s the closest I could get to being inside Tom Hanks’s head [laughs]… that’s probably why.”

They look like they both hit the complimentary cocktail bar a bit too hard here– sorry, Hugo and Susan! 😉

A familiar forehead 😉

Sorry…I did warn you there’d be too many of those. I get so fascinated by Hugo’s little micro-expressions when I’m doing these sorts of things. 😉

I hope some of you Hugo fans in the estern US were able to score tickets to the New Yorker Festival of Cloud Atlas on October 6– they sold out quickly. But you aren’t completely out of luck if you missed out on the online sale: the venue will make a select batch of tickets available on October 5 at the theater itself; they’ll be on sale noon to 4pm, first come first served. More details here.  Note that while the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer are scheduled to attend, there’s no mention of any of the actors being there. But after I missed out on the Toronto premiere, I couldn’t stay away from this one… was online at noon today and bagged a couple of those puppies. Hope I’m not the only Hugo fan who did– I’d love to meet up with you. 😉

Also a tiny bit of Hobbit news: Cate Blanchett gave the Spanish language website Milenio an interview in which she said a few things (nothi8ng spoilery) about playing Galadriel again… Female First has a translation (divided into two parts.)


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