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.
Yes, everything that was too gloriously large for the previous post: new Hugo Weaving interviews from Movie Fanatic (solo), Movies Online (with Susan Sarandon), Screen Crave (with Sarandon) and the now-notorious Collider. All in their unedited glory, beneath the cut.
Cloud Atlas: Hugo Weaving Talks Wachowskis & The Hobbit
Hugo Weaving has played some of the most indelible parts in recent movie memory from The Lord of the Rings series to his iconic role in The Matrix trilogy. Weaving is on screen twice this fall, first in Cloud Atlas and then in the return of Peter Jackson to Middle Earth, The Hobbit.
Movie Fanatic met Weaving for an exclusive interview as he chats playing six roles in Cloud Atlas, as well as giving our readers a front row seat as he reflects on a career that has also seen him killing it in Captain America and V for Vendetta. “I’ve been very lucky to do all of that,” Weaving said.
Cloud Atlas reunites Weaving with his Matrix and V for Vendetta filmmakers, the Wachowskis, along with Run Lola Run helmer Tom Tykwer in the most ambitious film Movie Fanatic has ever seen.
Weaving welcomed the chance to portray six integral parts in the “weaving” storylines of Cloud Atlas, especially because the filmmakers asked the actors to play so many roles which arose out of a film synergy rather than stunt casting.
“They’re not just there to add color and flavor. The film celebrates the cyclical nature of existence and the way things keep repeating themselves and the way structures keep repeating itself, and therefore human souls in some way come back,” Weaving said.
“This sense for us as actors to get to play more than one character in a film, there’s a reason for that… it’s not just a device or whimsy or color. It springs from something that’s in the material. It’s not a bright package that when you open it up contains a pile of (expletive) [laughs]. I think that’s genius.”
He discovered the David Mitchell book six years ago and could never have imagined it would ever make its way to the big screen. “When I read the book, I didn’t see it as a film. It had incredible breadth, sweep and scope and such a puzzle. I loved that,” Weaving said.
It seems the Mitchell novel made its way through the V for Vendetta cast. “I read it around the time we were doing V for Vendetta and Natalie (Portman) had given it to Lana (Wachowski).”
Few actors have worked with the Wachowskis as much as Weaving and although there are some physical changes to the duo, the actor admits they’re still the same barrel of laughs. “Fundamentally they’re totally the same people I met when I first met them — lots of laughter among us. There are obvious changes in Lana. I met Larry. Larry’s now Lana,” Weaving said.
The actor compares the journey that Larry went on to become Lana to the one the characters of Cloud Atlas go through.
“The themes in the book speak to her — the bravery someone in that position has to embody in order to deal with what they’re going through and that is true of all these characters in this film. They’re making a choice because it’s based on a belief they have because they can’t believe otherwise. In order to make change and make a difference to yourself, you need to be the person you are… even if that process is an ongoing one.”
When he first met the sibling filmmakers, Weaving compared them to your average college geeks who dream big. “They were finishing each other’s sentences. They’re still the same spirits, although older, but as much as a pleasure to be with as they ever were. I feel exactly the same with them as I ever did,” Weaving said.
Next up for fans of Weaving is his return to Middle Earth and The Hobbit . When asked if he ever thought he’d return to his role as Elrond, the mystical elf leader, he didn’t flinch.
“Speaking of cyclical nature of human existence, Middle Earth keeps calling me back. I think there is no escape from Middle Earth,” Weaving said and laughed.
When the Lord of the Rings filming wrapped, Weaving said he looked at Jackson and said, “I’ll see ya on The Hobbit.” Although Jackson told him that he wasn’t going to do The Hobbit, Weaving knew otherwise.
“We all know that it only makes sense that The Hobbit be made and it has to be made by his studio. He said he wasn’t going to direct it, just produce it. Then, of course, finally he’s directing it. Then it was one film, then it was two, and now it’s three,” Weaving said.
He admitted that there may even be a life after The Hobbit trilogy, the way things have gone. “I’m sure I’ll be back there next year for filming and since there’s a third film… I suspect the year after that too… and possibly beyond.”
When it comes to a career that is filled with blockbusters, one would be surprised that Weaving would like to be most remembered for his work on smaller features. “It’s certainly a part of my working life, and it’s been a very important part,” Weaving said of hits like The Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Captain America.
“But, in many ways, I suppose the majority of film that I would love to do would be much more low budget, contemporary Australian psychological dramas where the characters are vast. If I was working on large budget films like those for forever and a day, that would be very much a major part of my life. It’s just been one facet of my life. A huge joy has been working with Lana and Andy on the Matrix films, V for Vendetta and now Cloud Atlas This has been a blessing. But, this, Cloud Atlas has been so different in so many ways”
Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon Interview: Cloud Atlas
In the powerful and inspiring “Cloud Atlas,” Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play multiple, gender-bending roles encompassing a range of genres that are set simultaneously in the past, present and future. Directed and written for the screen by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski based on David Mitchell’s best-selling novel, the film illustrates how events and decisions made by the people in one period can reverberate in unforeseeable ways across the timeline to touch the lives of others as characters meet and reunite from one life to the next.
At the film’s recent press day, Weaving and Sarandon talked about the opportunity to be in an epic film with an extraordinary cast. They discussed the challenges of playing a variety of fascinating roles, what it was like working with different directing teams, why they found the filmmaking process an unusually memorable experience, how reading the novel gave them valuable insight into their characters and the film’s complicated storyline, and why they were excited to make a movie that invites audiences to see film in a new and different way. Weaving also revealed his approach to portraying a villain, and Sarandon explained why she thinks this will be the first time that a film turns into the ride at Disneyland instead of the other way around.
Question: In a film this epic, you have to have the right people to go along for the ride. How did you feel when you knew you were chosen for these parts?
Susan Sarandon: I said yes before I even knew what the parts were because I just wanted the ride. I knew that it would be something special because of who they were. I’d read the book already. They’d given me the book when I was doing “Speed Racer.” I just thought that it’s an impossible task and you have these fabulous people. How great to be part of Camp Cloud Atlas and just go and jump and do it. So, I didn’t even know. We had a limited amount of time that I could give them. I just said “I’m yours, whatever you can find for me, I’m happy to be there.” Then, when I read the script, I was amazed that they had managed to do it. Of course, they didn’t have to use the same actors going through. I think the fluidity that gives for the themes is really special. I don’t know who came up with that at what junction, but that was so unusual. To join this film rep company, which you never get except in theater, we all knew that something very special was happening, and no matter where it went, just organizing it that way and inviting these people who had to have a certain spirit – and you’re talking about Halle Berry and Tom Hanks who normally aren’t playing little, tiny parts – the spirit that they entered in was very, very special.
Hugo Weaving: If they’d wanted an actor and met them and didn’t feel like they were there for the ride of it, it wouldn’t be in the film. Very much they needed people who were prepared, who wanted it and who were open souls, and people whose work they liked or maybe they’d worked with some of us before. [They wanted] people who were open to possibilities, open to others and open to the journey that we were going to be making, which was very much into territory that filmmakers haven’t really gone into before. I think that spirit of inquiry and adventure and the idea that it was a voyage, if the actors weren’t prepared to embrace that idea, not just embrace it but actually be eager to be part of that, then I don’t think Tom or Lana or Andy would have [chosen them]. None of the actors would be there and that’s why we’ve got an incredibly harmonious and joyous group of people. We’re being cast because…I mean, there are great names in the film, but it’s not just let’s get all these names, and let’s do all this, and let’s get all this money, and let’s package this up. None of those people know each other or think alike or get on at all. This is a group that’s come together over time who have a similar sense of wonder and delight in exploring the world and trying new forms and that’s why it’s been such a great experience for all of us. I think that that desire and that joy translates onto the screen in a very physical way. And that, I think, is so great. That’s the thing that surprised me when I saw the film was I knew we had them, the fact that it was somehow bubbling up there in a very playful way, and you don’t get that in film. You don’t get that sense of oh these are actors putting on things. You don’t really get that sense of play.
Sarandon: Especially in a big budget film.
Weaving: You do in the theater, but you don’t in film. Film has a tendency to be limiting in some way and it shouldn’t be. It’s a form that can be explored and changed, and there are languages within film which we haven’t found yet, and this is a new language. It has a new syntax to it.
Sarandon: That’s a good way to describe it. And then, it invites people to see a film in a different way. It invites you to be open and kind of loose and to surrender to it. It works because of the clever way that they have dovetailed the stories, so instead of having blocks and entering each one, it reinforces this notion of gender and race and age and periods and time being something that’s fluid. And so, you absorb the film in a way that reinforces the idea that, no matter what wrapping this all has, they’re all the same and we are connected as much as you’re told that’s not true. As much as people want to make us polarized, the film encourages you to understand what it feels like to forget about all those things – what you look like, who you sleep with, where you’re from, and all that. I really liked that.
Q: How was it working with the directors and having two units?
Weaving: It’s wonderful to work with Tom and Lana and Andy. As I said, they’re very like-minded people. There’s a great energy and joy when the three of them are together. I love being with the three of them. I really do. That transmits itself to the set, even though when we were actually filming after all the work that they’d done together preparing the film, during the actual process of filming the thing, they would separate from each other. Lana and Andy were on one set and Tom was on the other set. On any one day, my experience of working with Lana and Andy, I felt very safe in that world and able to explore and enjoy whatever character it might be we were doing on the day. And with Tom, for me, it was getting to know him, getting to know how he worked, and I adore that man. He’s just great and his team that he’s worked with for many, many years – his D.P. and the art department and his first assistant director – they’re a really well-oiled unit of delightful, very lovely people. It was a very calm set. That experience was really fantastic, too. I just wanted to work with them more and more. We got to the end of the shoot, and it had been three months, but honestly there were a lot of people that didn’t want to go home.
Q: Hugo, is it a coincidence that you’re playing a bad guy again?
Weaving: Only occasionally do I go “Okay. This is a villain. This character is a villain.” But I didn’t think about that for this film. I mean, you think these are all people in different times of life. Old Georgie is not a person, but these are all people and they have their reasons for doing things. What are those reasons? What are they trying to hold onto? What are these men or women trying to protect? Why are they repressing people? Why do you need to keep people enslaved? Why do you need to annihilate people in order to maintain your position in life or in order to maintain the status quo or in order to not be challenged? Or why do you not question something because you’re afraid of being persecuted yourself? Or why do you uphold a particular view of the world in which races exist on different rungs of a ladder and God is at the top? Why do you think that? Maybe it’s because it gives you a certain sort of credibility in the eyes of other people or that’s the view of the world which protects your interest as a businessman. So, there are reasons why people do things and yet they’re still fathers themselves. They still have relationships. They’re human beings who believe in a certain way because that’s the way they’ve been brought into being. That’s their journey and that’s their life and maybe their minds are more closed off than other people. But, I don’t see them as villains. There have been times I’ve seen in a cartoon– like “Captain America” where Red Skull is a villain. I mean, this is a man who thinks Adolf Hitler is a pussy. He’s just a cartoon villain and the requirement there as an actor is just to enjoy that. You don’t have to go deep into a psychology of someone really, not particularly.
Q: Were you familiar with the novel before the script and did that influence your work?
Weaving: Certainly it influenced the way I read the script. Absolutely. I think if I hadn’t read the novel, I would have read the script in a very different way and it would have been a much more difficult read. Just to follow each story as a read without seeing it would have been much more complex. I know some people in Hollywood who read it and they did find the script very difficult to read, but having read the book, every character comes up. You know who they are and which story they’re in and you know the arc of that particular story. That doesn’t mean that the film is difficult in that way, but without the images, the script could be potentially difficult.
Sarandon: I think the film is easier because you have faces to associate with it. I mean, if you can get past the first four minutes and not panic because you’ve never seen anything like that. If you’re like my sister who goes to a foreign country and asks for pizza and is really disappointed when it’s different in Paris than this place. But, if you can wait until the first few minutes, then I think it’s easier to see the faces. I also had read the book. They gave it to me after I did “Speed Racer” not telling me that it was going to be a movie. They just loved the book so they gave it to me as a present. I was part of it before I even knew what I was playing or had even seen the script. Then, when I saw the script, I thought wow this is going to be really interesting to see how they pull this one off. And they did.
Q: Hugo, you have some interesting costumes and make-up in this film. Which character was your favorite and which one took the longest time to get into?
Weaving: Nurse Noakes took longer, for about 4-1/2 hours, and Georgie took a while. Georgie was a most interesting character for me because he’s actually the only person who’s not a person. He’s a character, and he’s very character full, and he’s certainly character full on the page, and his language is fantastically rich. He’s very colorful and muscular and vicious and bilious. The fascinating thing for me about Old Georgie was that he was inside Zachary’s head. He was the voice of control and the voice saying “Don’t do this!” That was really interesting to me playing inside. I thought I’m going to have to really get into Tom’s head and what Zachary’s thinking. What are his thought patterns? Because I need to understand how Tom is thinking as Zachary, and what’s going on in his head, and why whenever he feels fear in any way, bang, Georgie’s there. And once Georgie’s there, telling him something, what are the non-scripted reactions inside Zachary’s head? The way in which we shot that I was often hovering around Tom’s ears or looking at him.
Sarandon: It seemed to me that every time that he had an opportunity to trust or to love, then that voice comes in and says “Don’t trust her. Don’t take this chance.” I’ve heard that voice before.
Weaving: Absolutely. You’re right. It happens whenever something is awakening in him.
Sarandon: Seriously, when you’ve starting a relationship and you’ve been burned before, and you’re wondering “Oh my God, is this going to …?”
Weaving: It’s not just that one voice. There’s a number of different voices.
Q: Who would burn Susan Sarandon?
Sarandon: (laughs) Yeah, right. “Maybe you better check up and call and see if he really is where he says he is,” and then my little voice says “No! Shut up, shut up!” Especially with the scene with Halle where he says “Stab her!”
Weaving: “Pick up your spike and slit her throat!”
Sarandon: “Don’t trust this girl.”
Weaving: It’s incredibly intense and violent language. Zachary is so conflicted because everything he’s been brought up to believe is being challenged in a massive way. His whole life is being challenged, and he’s in there, and he doesn’t know what to do. “Do I destroy this woman because she might be destroying my whole civilization? Or do I allow her to teach me and do I learn from her?” I mean, that’s the conflict that we all face in life. Do you remain open to the possibility or do you shut yourself down. Georgie is that voice, and that’s the voice that affects all these characters. The first line of the whole film is “All voices, all voices, tied up into one. One voice speaking out there.” That’s Georgie’s voice. That is Georgie’s voice inside everyone’s head. That’s the opportunity to either shut yourself down and shut your life down and stop being interconnected, or let that voice go, let Georgie disappear, and make that brave choice that means Georgie is dead.
Q: This film is so huge and so different, after it was finished, was it hard to leave it behind and did you want to hold onto some aspect of these characters?
Sarandon: I wanted to hold onto the experience of being there, because as an actor you can sometimes forget how much fun it is. You can forget that your actors are your way into learning something new and surprising you and everything else. Occasionally, you work with people who are competitive and actually set out to make your job harder. I’ve run into that a little bit. But when you have this kind of very rare repertory company, I was sad to leave that. I hadn’t seen Lana and Andy in a long time or Tom. I had hung out a little bit with Tom during “Speed Racer” and we keep in touch a little bit, but I hadn’t seen them and so I was really happy to be there. And then, we had to leave and I left. But I felt that. Not so much the characters. I felt very at home with the characters, and I was proud to be the bearer of those lines like “Our lives are not our own,” and I felt really cool to hear that in the trailer. I was like “Oh wow, I’m in the trailer!” I liked being the one that got to say that, even if I don’t see me that much in the movie saying it. So, I could leave it. And then, they did the sweetest thing. When the film was finished, they invited just the cast and crew to Chicago. They flew us into Chicago so that we could experience it all together privately, which is another example of how thoughtful they are. I mean, almost everybody was there.
Weaving: It was wonderful. Unnecessary, unnecessary.
Sarandon: Totally unnecessary.
Weaving: But they respect and love that unit.
Sarandon: They took us to their house in Chicago. Mostly everybody was able to be there, and then, we all went to Toronto where it was then like birthing in public, and it was so warmly received. I felt like we had had our opportunity to be together. Of course, when we saw it, we were laughing at things, just seeing some of the people looking the way they were. When we went to Toronto and showed it in front of the audience, the response was people were booing, and hissing, and laughing, and applauding when they’d break out of the old nursing home – stuff that we hadn’t responded to.
Weaving: The audience was riding the film. The film is a ride and you could audibly hear that ride happening literally. The roller coaster metaphor is used too often, but it felt like that. What was coming out of the audience was actually informing us of the way in which that journey was being taken.
Sarandon: I think it will be the first time that the film turns into the ride at Disneyland instead of the other way around.
CJ: Thankfully, I don’t see much chance of there being a Disneyland Cloud Atlas ride. And it’s lovely to hear Hugo elucidate how some why some villain roles are more challenging– dare I say, “meaningful” 😉 — than others. I still say he was short-changed with his selection of roles in Cloud Atlas, but, like most of his fellow cast-members, he tried to find the humanity (or vitality, in the case of Old Georgie) in each one.
Screen Crave: Susan Sarandon and Hugo Weaving On Cloud Atlas [Major Spoilers!]
Posted by Damon Houx on
October 24th, 2012
Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon were the veterans of Wachowski productions, which meant they had a leg up on their costars in Cloud Atlas. They at least had first hand experience of trusting their directors. We got a chance to speak to the two about their multiple roles in the film, and it was great. Check it out…
So you’re the veterans of working with the Wachowskis, how was this experience comparatively?
Hugo Weaving: The main difference was the addition of Tom (Tykwer). The main difference for them was the addition of Tom. And the main difference for us working with them was the addition of Tom. I would say it was very similar as it was working with Lana and Andy on set, like on the first Matrix, the sense of playfulness and enjoyment of each other. Lot of life, a lot of conversations on and off set about life and philosophies and the project you’re working on. I’m immensely fond of both of them. Of course they’ve change, they got older, and changed in many different ways and they’re a little more open to the outside world than they were before. Not that they weren’t open to it, but just protective of themselves within it. They described Tom as their third sibling, and the first time I met Tom was on Skype. I was doing a play in Washington and Lana and Andy were in Berlin, and I was just trying to talk about the characters and their two heads were there, and then a third head bounded into frame, and it was Tom, and they were all like “Hi Hugo.” And it’s not like they’re all one, but they’re certainly in sync with each other., and I think he brings a kind of, wonderful infectious excitement and energy, and a great mind and a great musical spirit as well to the project. And I think they’ve found a real soul mate in him. That said they don’t work together on the day, not in person anyway, they run their own sets, you know that. I think on The Matrix everything was storyboarded, and there’s storyboards for this too. They do all the preparatory work, but they’re more open to freedom within that. Yeah, that was the greatest change.
Susan Sarandon: I think there was a fluidity because of the repertory aspect of the way they had divided up the actors. There was a feeling of playfulness in the make-up trailer, it was an unorthodox situation. And anybody who signed on to play big parts, little parts, throwing noses on, playing different genders, had to be of a certain kind of “yeah let’s go and do this.” It was like the Cirque du Soleil or something. I think that was really different. In terms of Speed Racer, I feel like they were the same, but it was much more by the rules, and this had more air in it. I think because everyone was leaving their egos at the door and it was arranged in such a different way, even power-wise, in a horizontal way. You have Tom Hanks in smaller parts, and Halle (Berry) in make-up for six hours to film for fifteen minutes, everyone jumping in and out in this playful way. You had a feeling you were something very unusual, you let go of each character after you finished it for the day, and took on a new one. It was airier, somehow, fluid, lighter, despite the fact that it was more organized on practically a military strategy in terms of pulling it off, and getting costume fittings. The two guys – one in each camp – who were putting the contacts lenses in and out, it was just crazy. And the make-up never got cranky.
HW: They were just extraordinary.
SS: I worked with them in Speed Racer. You’d be sitting there and Hugh Grant would come in, completely painted and naked and bitching about how much make up he has on in a funny, funny way, and Tom (Hanks) would be sleeping through his third hour, and people were just coming in and out, so I think that was very different in terms of the whole experience. And I think that makes the experience of watching it very different.
You mentioned that there was a day for the first time in your career where you didn’t recognize yourself? Was that just because of the make up or was it something else?
SS: No, the plains of my face were different, and I had contacts in, and even though in Enchanted it was, I hope, unrecognizable, but I had my eyes. So when I looked at myself and my dog looked at me, she didn’t get upset. But when I did this one, everything was changed, my hairline was changed, and I really didn’t recognize myself, and that’s never happened to me before. And it was great to freak everybody out.
We’ve talked to a number of actors at this point, it seems like there was something of a fugue state while you were filming, is that about right?
HW: Yeah. You prepare and you prepare, and then you have to jump and do it. And there was a very strong sense of that. We were moving into territory we hadn’t been into before, even the directors, so you can prepare all you like but you don’t know until you do it. You can read as much as you like but the true knowledge comes from the doing. And the doing of this film was the thrill for everybody.
SS: I think you had a sense that everything was under control, even though it was chaotic, so it felt more fun than scary, ultimately. Once you decided to be part of it. I’ve been a part of movies that are much simpler where no one’s at the wheel, and that’s really bad, but you always knew they were calm. They didn’t seem tense or cranky, they were laughing all the time, so it didn’t feel like you were thrown into it, you had to jump. You didn’t have time to hold on to your ego, but it never felt like it was out of control.
HW: No, no.
Halle told us she was very excited to get the opportunity play a white woman, so I was curious how you felt about playing a white woman?
HW: Well, great. Andy, when he first rang, said the script’s arriving tomorrow. And these are the roles we want you to play, and he listed them, and when he said Noakes, and I said “You want me to play Nurse Noakes? Fantastic. Really fantastic. And I hadn’t read the script at the stage, but she’s a monstrous hoot of a woman, she’s great, she’s this Nurse Ratchet character, if you like, who imagines all old people are these naughty children to be spanked and incarcerated, and she’s a demon. So the idea of playing her was great, the actual thing of doing her was much more complex and challenging. Once you think “Man I want to do that” that’s a good sign, but how am I and how are we going to accomplish this, and the first question’s “are we doing any CG or are we in prosthetic make up territory?” And then you work out “well what sort of look does this woman have, what sort of shape and size?” And then you get down to the pointy end where you’re actually on set tomorrow (laughs) and with that particular character there wasn’t a lot of time to test that particular prosthetic, and we have would have loved to test it earlier, but we didn’t, so it was very much that territory of “whack it on, make adjustment and adaptations really quickly because we’re shooting it,” yeah.
Do you think the Wachowskis will ever cast as a good guy?
HW: Well, look, V for Vendetta, V would have existed very easily in this world with a comet on his shoulder. I think he’s a revolutionary spirit. And you could argue that he’s destructive terrorist, but within that world he was definitely the heroic love interest, even though you couldn’t see him. And Lana did say the other day “oh perhaps we should cast you in a more sympathetic role,” so…
I get the feeling that in another lifetime your character may start to see the light and start to turn.
HW: Well, I don’t know. He’s moved from being a human being, if you look at the link between all those characters.
Once you kill your daughter, basically what’s left?
HW: Yeah, but the thing is actually in terms of lineage, like that’s the primary character. So he’s moved from one space into…the last character, Georgie is a demon. Georgie is an idea of pure fear inside of someone else’s head. Georgie is the voice in your head that sang no. He’s just a pure idea of control in your head. So he’s not even an embodied character in a way. He’s not even a person. The arc of my character has dehumanized himself because he has such a rigid idea of the world that he’s not even a human being in anymore. He’s not even embodied. So I don’t know where you even go to after that. He keeps going and he’d be like this black hole, this object in space maybe that everything gets sucked into. I don’t know what you become after Georgie.
What does it say about this movie that it almost never got made?
SS: I think it says more that it got made. I think that it’s incredibly encouraging, and if it does well, which I always talk about Dead Man Walking making over a hundred million dollars which is really a difficult film that you don’t want to see twice, and so that was a total shock. What it told me was that the audience is really underestimated, and this is a great experience. This is more like 2001 than something that’s like a mental, really difficult thing to understand. I think that hopefully it’ll break ground and tell the people that green light projects that audiences are ready for epic films with epic ideas and something that they can talk about for two days and they don’t have to have the familiar remake over and over and over again. I hope that…I’m hopeful. I applaud everybody that let this happen.
HW: Yeah, and also we’re all from all over the world, and all the people involved in this are from all over the world and the money is from all over the world. It’s come from everywhere. So it’s not just from a studio in L.A., although that’s very much a part of it.
SS: It’s a big independent.
HW: It’s a Cloud Atlas film in every way. We are the atlas of clouds, the people who have been involved with it. We are the people who make it, and that’s been very much a global concern. So it’s been kind of thrilling and difficult because it’s very hard to do that. It’s very hard to connect with people around the world. It’s very hard to speak in a unified way. I mean, look at the United Nations, or…it’s very hard to get together and form some sort of cohesive idea of humanity. But this project has been a really wonderful experience in that regard, I think.
How do you both feel about reincarnation?
HW: I personally can’t see exactly me inside being in the body of someone else somewhere in the future. So if that’s reincarnation I don’t buy it, but I do totally understand the sense of energy moving through time and space and energy not being…being dissipated and changed, but somehow moving on into another…becoming another energy. It doesn’t get lost. It gets lost from it’s connection with itself. It goes somewhere else. So I kind of totally understand that, that idea that everything you do, every action you make has an affect on someone else or something else and that reverberates through time.
SS: I agree with that. Energy can’t be destroyed, and when you see someone you’ve lost, they’re no longer in that body, you can see that whatever that spark was that was them is no longer there and where does that go. I don’t know, but I also know that I agree with Kurt Vonnegut and this idea that there are people that come into your life that you don’t see foresee coming into your life or whatever, that maybe repeat and that serve a purpose that you’re not aware of and that being flexible and taking advantage of these people that come in, that you draw to you, recognizing them I think has a flavor of that. Certainly my children were incredibly familiar to me, and my daughter at three said, “When did I choose you for my mother?” and “Where were we when Jack was the same age as me?” meaning…I don’t know. She said, “How deep is deep space?” So something in your psyche is already there that had a connectiveness with me and with her brother who was four years younger. And all of those things point to the mystery that we can’t understand, but I think the most important thing is this concept that your action not only create who you are, how you spend your energy, but also have reverberations that you can’t possibly even know necessarily. Certainly films do that. I’ll get letters from people who had taken something out of a film that has changed their life. Maybe some, obviously, like Rocky Horror Show and Thelma and Louise, but other ones, I remember getting letters from people after The Client saying, “I went into AA,” and I’m thinking, “Really? That came out of that film? That’s amazing.” So you never know, and I think that’s why you have to be responsible for what you put out there because every time you reinforce the status quo, if it’s sexist, ageist, racist, whatever, you’re encouraging it. They don’t call it political when it reinforces, but then every film that challenges something, it stars a dialogue and I think your life is the same way. People see you do things, your kids see you. Just little random acts of kindness or cruelty, as they say crimes, in the movie, birth your future. I totally believe in that. I totally believe in that.
One of the driving forces of acting is that you have the opportunity to sort of lend your soul to stories that you hope will endure. This narrative is that. How appealing was that to you?
SS: Very. Very appealing. You have to choose movies that you can talk about for five days in a junket. What are you going to do if you just did it for the money and it’s some stupid story? There has to be something there that you love.
HW: You would hope that they would endure, but you can’t try and choose them, in order that they endure. I think that there’s a difference. You’ve got to try and…you choose things because they have a kind of impact on you, almost physically. Instinctively you want to do it, and you’re not quite sure why that is. Then those sorts, “Well, I want to do it for these reasons,” and then, “These are things that are in this that I are contained…these are the ideas that are contained within this script and these are the things that excite me. And oh, there’s this thing here as well that would be fantastic to bring out and to kind of grow and let other people see,” and you’re thinking about the other and the viewers and then you may start thinking about, “We hope that this will speak to other people and I hope then when that comes out that it might reverberate through some sort of time and have some sort of affect on many people.” But you can’t be thinking like that. “I’ve got to choose a project that is some sort of monument to my life, and I’ve got to be known as this person who was involved in this great film in three or four centuries,” because that way lies kind of madness.
SS: I’m thinking more be careful what you do because everybody has a camera on their phone and they put everything they’re seeing and every movie you’re making is now somewhere on the internet. I mean, people are serving up pictures of me from the ’80′s that I never even saw. So there is this bank of things, whether or not it’s films or whatever. Somewhere things are existing in the cloud. Isn’t it called the cloud now?
HW: Yes, the cloud. The scary cloud.
CJ: Yeah, Hugo… avoid the scary cloud at all costs. Meaning don’t entrust all your personal stuff solely to some website that charges entry fees, can be hacked, and can arbitrarily change the rules and hold all your stuff hostage. 😉 I think I’d have to disagree with Hugo on his interpretation of character progression: I’m still not buying any notion of literal reincarnation in the film, but there isn’t a degeneration of Hugo’s characters: Kesselring certainly isn’t as awful as Haskell Moore, and I’d argue that Old Georgie is the most powerful of all, because he’s literally a part of Zachry, and by extension, a part of all human beings. And you can’t ever fully kill that part of yourself. Since I don’t really have a strict good vs evil interpretation of character traits in the first place, I don’t really see Old Georgie as a devil… more an elemental spirit or Reptile Brain. He’s most interested in basic (and base) survival, which is inherently selfish and reactive. But you can’t have a Mammal Brain without that Reptile Brain foundation. I could also get into Yin and Yang interpretations, but I fear I’ve already gotten too pretentious. On with the last one:
by Christina Radish Posted: October 24th, 2012 at 11:08 am (Collider)
From acclaimed filmmakers Andy & Lana Wachowski (The Matrix trilogy, Speed Racer) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) comes the stunning, epic and powerful Cloud Atlas, based on the best-selling novel by David Mitchell. Through various genres and time periods, spanning 500 years, and with the actors playing a variety of characters that cross genders and races, the story contains drama, mystery, action and love, interwoven in such a way that illustrates how everything is connected and that the actions and choices in one era can have consequences in another. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Wishaw and James D’Arcy.
At the film’s press day, actor Hugo Weaving spoke to Collider, in both a roundtable and 1-on-1 interview, about what it was like to finally get to see the film all put together, how he hopes people will be willing to get it a chance , his impression of the book when he first read it back while shooting V for Vendetta, what made this such a special and unique experience, which character he was most excited to embody, and the roles that fans approach him about most often. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Question: What was it like to finally get to see this film, all put together with all of the different stories?
HUGO WEAVING: It’s actually impossible, the idea of sitting through this and pretending I don’t know anything about it. When I first saw this film, I couldn’t see it with [the audiences’] eyes, as if I didn’t know anything about it, and I’d love to, but I never will be able to [do that]. I thought, “If I didn’t know anything about this, you’ve got an establishment of six different threads, six different stars, six different world and six different geographies, and there’s a fantastic scope and a great spread to it and these vistas. There’s a lot of information traveling.” That’s probably what I would be feeling. And then, connecting with each story, I didn’t think it was too hard. As soon as you see Halle [Berry] or Tom [Hanks] or Jim [Sturgess] again, you’re like, “Okay, I’m in that story.” Those stories, individually, are not particularly complex, but most of them are really quite simple in their structure. And then, as you watch it, the parallel nature of those stories do increasingly become one, and that draws you toward the end of the film. So, I guess that’s what I might feel, but I don’t know. It’s hard.
Do you think audiences will be able to give in and give it a chance, and just go on the ride with it?
WEAVING: Well, a lot of people have a fear of Shakespeare, for example. Even actors do. People are like, “Oh, I won’t go and see Shakespeare because the language is so hard,” but it is. When you read it on the page, you go, “What?! What does that mean?!” If you go to a Shakespeare play and you’ve never been, you sit there and go, “I’m an idiot! I don’t get it!” I took my daughter to Romeo & Juliet when she was about 13. I had taken her to a few pieces of theater before, and I said, “The language is really different, but just allow it to be what it is and trust that it’s okay.” A couple of times, she leaned over and said, “Dad, I don’t understand.” But, by the end of the play, she was telling me, “Oh, when this person did this and when they said that . . .” She was using her own language, but talking about what had been said. It’s a very, very simple love story about two families in conflict and the two young people within each family who love each other. It’s a tragedy, and it’s very simple, really. This film is the same. It has great ideas and themes, and it seems to incorporate the breadth of humanity and the cyclical nature of life. There are all those ideas, and yet each story is really quite simple and elemental. The really simple thing in this film is that it’s evident and it becomes evident, if you allow it to become evident. I hope that people seeing this film don’t reject it because it’s different. I hope they don’t go, “I haven’t seen this film. What genre is this film? It’s a mess. What is this film? I give up! It’s terrible!” I hope that doesn’t happen because it deserves a lot more than that.
Had you read this book, prior to signing on for the film?
WEAVING: Yeah, absolutely! I read the book some years before the film. I’d been doing V for Vendetta with Lana and Andy [Wachowski] in Berlin, and Natalie Portman was reading it and absolutely raving about it, so we all jumped on and read it. Quite quickly, it became one of the top 10 books I’ve ever read, in my entire life, right from the first sentence with that language. I really loved his love of language and his love of words, and his stylistic brilliance. It forced me to try to find those links, and there are little things there. You had to think about, “What are the actual links? What are the ideas and themes that are being repeated?,” and that was a thrill. So, when I knew that they were doing the screenplay, I was just fascinated to see how they were going to restructure it and what they were going to do. The first thing that Andy said was, “Well, this is told more than a mosaic,” rather than how David describes it as a whole lot of Russian dolls. All of the stories are tied up into one and they parallel each other, and I think that was a great way of making the film.
Did your history with the Wachowskis help reassure you that they could pull off something this epic?
WEAVING: Yeah, for sure. Also, the idea of the three of them doing it was genius. Having a like-minded triumvirate of three people who so admire each other and are open to each other’s there, and gathering a cast together that was open to the excitement of doing something different and new, was really important.
With this clearly being the kind of film experience you’ll never have again, were you able to enjoy that fact while you were actually shooting, or does it take finishing the project and looking back on it to fully appreciate it?
WEAVING: All along the line, every time I come into contact with this material, I feel that way. I read the book and thought, “I have never read anything like this before.” When the first chapter just stops mid-sentence, suddenly you’re not in the South Pacific, you’re in Belgium. With that book, I thought, “That’s the most extraordinary piece of work.” And then, the script came and I was like, “This is the most wonderful adaptation of that work, and how is this going to work as a film?” But, it was clear from the way in which it had been edited on the page that it was absolutely possible. And then, we got together with everyone and saw the images on the wall, at the first read-through, of the beginning of the film to the end, with characters, actors, scenes and art department stuff, and just walked through that with Lana, and heard Tom’s music, knowing that was going to wrap it all together. So, every step of the way at that first read-through, I knew this was a project that was something really radically different. We could feel it in the air. Actors weren’t reading one role. You were hearing everyone’s voice shift. The writer of the book was there, reading a small role, and the directors were all reading small roles. You knew that everyone there was doing something that hadn’t been done before. Every step of the way, that was in evidence. I was always aware that it was quite radical in its conception, and very unconventional, in its structure, and really joyously unconventional in the way we had to deal with it, from day to day, as actors. And then, seeing the film for the first time, you went, “This has a visual beauty, scope and sweep like Lawrence of Arabia had, but there’s six of them. It’s like Lawrence of Arabia and 2001. It’s got all of these ideas, images and geographies involved.” Coming back together with this people and having such a good, strong connection with them is unusual, to that extent.
Was there a character that you most excited about taking on and exploring?
WEAVING: I think I was most looking forward to exploring Georgie, for a lot of reasons. He’s a voice inside something else’s head. Playing a character who’s not necessarily human, but is an idea and a concept and the rod inside your own head that stops you from liberating yourself is fascinating. We all get to this conflicted place where we argue with ourselves, internally, but I got to play one of those voices, and yet he’s on the screen. The interesting thing about that character was how we were going to film that. If you see him as a human, then he becomes a human, and he’s not. If you see him come into the frame, it means he’s walking from somewhere. Where did he walk from? He doesn’t walk ‘cause he’s inside Zachary’s head. So, when you see something happening to Zachry, then you can see Georgie. When Zachry hears Georgie, he turns and Georgie is there ‘cause he can see him. And then, he’s taken back to the world. And then, he fears something else and Georgie can be there again. That, to me, was really fascinating. I talked to Lana and Andy about how to reveal Georgie and the insistent vocal nature of Georgie. In the book, everything Georgie says is in italics. His voice, his message and his drive is the important thing. That was great. And I just loved the language. I love David Mitchell’s language, and I love the language [of that world]. That language is the most rich, muscular and vital language, of all the languages in the piece, because that world has been the most stripped back and destroyed. The language in the book that is the most minimal are the voices in Neo Seoul, where language is cheapened and dying. One of the great things is that, in the rebirth in the last story, that language is actually at its richest.
You’ve played a number of physically transformative characters, in the past, but did this set of characters challenge you in new ways?
WEAVING: The biggest challenge for me, as an actor, is to be informed, prepared and focused, at the same time. I had to just keep on working, prepping, reading and imagining, all the way through, but on the day, the biggest challenge is always to let go of all that and just be open to others. That’s what we do, as actor. We play with each other and we stimulate each other, and we have to be prepared to be stimulated by the other. That’s always my big challenge. I’m always trepidatious and excited about what I do. I wouldn’t choose to do it, unless I was really excited about it, in some way. The most difficult thing for me was Nurse Noakes, not because it was a gender shift, but more to do with the time I didn’t have to get used to the massive prosthetic and fat suit. We didn’t actually have time to really test that. It wasn’t a nasty problem. That was just a fact. So, I had to jump in and trust that I could do it and it would be okay. There are always those sorts of technical challenges that you need to overcome.
Was any of it harder than V for Vendetta, where you didn’t even have a face?
WEAVING: One of the reasons I wanted to do V was because of that. He’s a masked man. That’s his character, and that’s what he does. That was very liberating. I had always loved doing mask work at drama school, so the opportunity to express from behind a mask and through a mask, when that mask is totally fixed, was a huge challenge. It’s a character who’s talking his head off, but you’re looking at a totally unchanging face. But with Noakes, the challenge was that, when you’ve got that amount of prosthetic on your face, how does your face move? Those are technical challenges you want to try to overcome before you’re on camera, but sometimes the window of working that gets quite small. That’s when it’s wonderful to be in a group of actors who are all in the same boat. We were all doing the same thing. That spirit of bravery and jumping in was so palpable. That’s what we all did, and that was fun.
Throughout your career, you’ve balanced doing memorable roles in bigger movies with smaller character-based projects. What do fans approach you about, most often?
WEAVING: It depends on the person, really, and their experience of me. If you were living in Sydney and you went to the theater a lot, you’d just see me as a theater actor who works at the STC. And if you were someone interested in Australian film, not that there are many people like that in Australia, you would definitely know me as someone who does a lot of low-budget Australian films, playing pretty conflicted characters in contemporary urban or outback dramas. I tend to play flawed men with all sorts of weird weakness and aggressions. But then, the majority of people outside of Australia would definitely know me from The Matrix or The Lord of the Rings because they’re the films that have reached the largest audience. If people have seen V for Vendetta, they may not know it’s me, anyway, because I’m in a mask. So, it depends on your experience with me, but certainly the character that most people would mention would be Agent Smith, I would say.
I love Agent Smith, probably a lot more than I should, but he’s far from Hugo’s greatest accomplishment as an actor. He is probably one of several of my favorite Hugo characters. In the end, I’m just glad there have been so many, because my opinion on that changes based on my mood and personal needs. 😉 The question of which film/character is the “best” and which one is my personal favorite are somewhat different as well– there are plenty of characters I adore in films I know aren’t brilliant cinematic accomplishments. (Hellooooo Wolfman!) I’m also glad that Hugo is so determined to maintain that variety and keep challenging himself.
I’ll get this posted quickly, because tonight will be busy, particularly if Hugo is indeed on hand… I hope some of you will be heading out to midnight screenings on Thursday too. This film needs all the love it can get to stick around in a busy, often dumbed-down multiplex. I do think the film will grow in status as more people give it a chance in the home setting… and I suspect that Culture Snobs might just secretly watch it at home with a box of Kleenex, knowing they’re safe from the jaundiced eyes of their peers. But… it’d be nice if those hoping the film would fail could be handed some sort of come-uppance. And it’d be nice to see proof audiences aren’t afraid to think– or to feel.
But Wait! There’s More! (Courtesy Screen Slam)…Sorry, embed doesn’t seem to work… please click on the link…
And here’s the HitFix interview: