Hugo Weaving Attends Beijing Cloud Atlas Premiere (Photos, Video, Interviews)

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.

Some completely unexpected by welcome Hugo Weaving news to report: Hugo attended the Beijing premiere of Cloud Atlas yesterday, along with directors Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer and costar Zhou Xun, who finally gets some proper attention on her home turf. (She portrayed Yoona 939, Zachry's sister Rose, and the male hotel clerk who helps Luisa Rey break into Sixsmith's room.)

There's a 20 minute press conference video available here (unfortunately, I haven't been able to convince LJ to accept the embed code…). Hugo speaks at 8.26 and 17.00 but the whole thing is well worth a look; you can infer most of the questions through the answers, though one reporter asks Hugo a particularly challenging question in English. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I'll try to transcribe Hugo's comments soon. Lana Wachowski makes an impassioned defense of the film's cross-gender and -racial casting… and I'll have to add once again that anyone hung up on this point doesn't understand the film and is blinkered by misguided identity politics.  

I've also found a few photos and will add more as they become available; there's a bit of a language barrier, but I have figured out Hugo's name in Chinese ้›จๆžœ·็ปดๆ–‡, so that should point me in the right direction. I can't translate anything written in Chinese with any degree of nuance, so I'll apologize for that up front. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Hugo at the 20 January Beijing press conference. Photo: weibo.com/dianyinguntu via sinaimg.cn

Cloud Atlas was edited by some 30 minutes in its Chinese release, mostly to excise sexual scenes, and violence (which must make the Neo Seoul segment about five minutes long.) ๐Ÿ˜‰  However, the Chinese trailer (which is much more spoiler-filled than the previous versions) has its share of shocking moments, including several deaths, so the film hasn't been completely censored. I'd be interested in knowing what specifically was changed, if anyone's seen both versions.


Hugo Weaving as Boardman Mephi: Chinese promo stills from sina.com.cn


Hugo Weaving as Haskell Moore


Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes and Gotz Otto as Withers

Hugo has given other interviews to the Chinese media as well; he told xinmin.cn "I don't feel that [my] characters perceive themselves as the so-called" villain; instead I focused on their individual motives and drives." The movie's theme is one of karma, Hugo believes, "…[that] everything one does will have a certain impact on others and the world."  About the actors' performances in the film, Hugo Weaving says, "The film is not a competition between one actor and another, but each their own roles to strenthen the entire team. In addition, Hugo said, the stunning martial arts fisticuffs  [of his past roles] won't be as much of factor in future roles: "[The physical aspect of] 'The Matrix' was very hard", he said with a smile that [now that he's older, he probably should allow for certain concessions to age]"

Again, the translation is rough, so apologies for any imprecision… if you can read Chinese, the original text is here.


Zhou Xun and Hugo Weaving at the Beijing press conference Photo: xinmin.cn

An article at hinews.cn quotes Hugo briefly about the film's themes: "The sense partnership [with the Wachowskis] has remained strong and I was intrigued by the the reincarnation concept in the stories, [Lana Wachhowski] has particularly strong feelings on the subject [of transformation of identity]. I can't speak for her but I can feel it in her passion for this project." They also pointlessly rehash Transformers-gate, but I suspect everyone's already read those quotes in the original English. (So far as I can tell, they just quoted the Collider piece rather than asking Hugo directly.) Needless to say, I still don't understand the fuss over this issue, and I'm fairly certain Hugo doesn't either. He shouldn't be permanently tethered to an unsubstantial voice role which rendered him unrecognizable in the first place. Hugo's six roles are noted at people.com.cn (and there's a film still of Hugo as Bill Smoke); no quotes from him, but some nice comments from author David Mitchell at that site.


HHugo Weaving interviewed by Beijing media for Cloud Atlas; Photos: sina.com.cn via hinews.com.ca

Yes, I'm looking for video of that interview, but you can read the text at hinews.com.ca; rough tranlation follows:

Q:  "Cloud Atlas" feels like a dream in which of all the actors in the movie plays multiple roles, including different genders and different identities, what did it feel like for you the first time you read the scrip? Did you know what kind of trip/journey you were getting involved with?

Hugo Weaving: When we were filming V for Vendetta seven years ago, [with a lot of the same film crew], the Wachowski siblings and I both read the novel Cloud Atlas. [Actress Natalie Portman introduced them to it.]  When I got the screenplay, I'd already read the original version twice, so I understand what the basic story was. If I had not read the original, I think that it would have been much more difficult to read the script. For me, the most fun thing to read the script was that the story structure is completely new, completely different and original. The [novel's] narrative style is somewhat like a Russian Doll, each story is half told chronologically, then the second halves in reverse-chronology. The screenplay tells the six stories all in one go. So I am fascinated by the structure of the film.

Q: In real life you're a gentleman, a good person. But Wachowski movies, you are always cast as the bad guys. Do you know why Wachowski always do this to you?

Hugo Weaving: Our first collaboration was on 'The Matrix'; when I was in talks to play Agent Smith, and read the script, I found the character very funny. I enjoyed the filming process, [working on that character] always made me laugh. The Wachowskis had a similar take on Smith;  they also feel he's very funny. So I guess [they] knew I could take on these sorts of roles because we opened our friendship and collaboration with that role, but of course we're good friends in real life.

Q: In this movie, all of a sudden you play not one, but six of the bad guys. How did this feel?

Hugo Weaving: I have never played six characters in the same film. Each role is very different, but they also have in a lot in common. Let's say they need through killings, persecution, slavery, and and other forms of control, they are invested in the maintenance of a system. Some of these roles might be a fatherly [like Haskell Moore], but they resort to evil means to fulfill their agendas. They do not perceive themselves as pure villains, nor do I portray them deliberately as "the bad guys"; I like to play contradictory roles.

Q: Which role did you enjoy the most?

Hugo Weaving: I enjoyed each of them, but my favorite is the role of the old Georgie, who only exists in Tom Hanks' character Zachry's imagination. He's a manifestation of his fear, and I really like to play this aspect of human imagination.

Q: What about Nurse Noakes?

Hugo Weaving: She's the mean nurse in [the Timothy Cavendish plotline]; she's simply a monster. I always wanted to laugh when playing her. Her character makeup was the most ambitious and chalenging; it took four hours to apply. I have gotten used to wearing heavy costmes on sets before, but also lose yourself in the process of putting on makeup. It is not easy, but I really enjoyed that process.

Q: Do you know some Chinese movies and actors? Would you be interested in working with filmmakers in China?

Hugo Weaving:  I liked Tony [Leung?]. And director Ang Lee. Although do not know him, I very much hope I could collaborate with him someday.

Again., that's a very loose translation, though it helps that Hugo's answered similar questions about the film in previous press junkets.


Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Hugo Weaving and Zhou Xun and Zhu Zhu at the Cloud Atlas Beijing press conference. Photo:  Yangtze Evening News via China Daily Online

I'll keep a lookout for other photos and articles from the Beijing Cloud Atlas premiere… great to see Hugo still doing all he can for the film, and I know the Chinese fans will appreciate it. (Is this Hugo's first time in China? I've often suspected he chooses premieres selectively based on which cities he can visit.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

In non-Beijing Hugo News, Jeremy Ratnam has just announced via Twitter that he'll be interviewing Hugo on Kiss FM 91.3 tomorrow at 2pm (Singapore time, ie 13 hours ahead of EST and nine ahead of GMT) and is taking potential questions. I always ask something obscure like "Will we ever get to see The Key Man", so my questions never get passed along. Actually, I might also implore this reporter and any others to not refer to Hugo as "The Matrix Man", which probably makes him wince internally. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Cloud Atlas also recently opened in Singapore, so questions will probably focus on that film… which is fine with me.

Recent Cloud Atlas Reviews/Articles: Straits Times, Kyle Garvey, Poached Mag, Finally Surfacing (great, incendiary essay on Hollywood and the American media's utter incomprehension of the film), Cool Awesome Movies, IZ Reloaded, F Movie Mag, Alex's East Asian Studies, Twisted Samuelle, SG New Wave, Dan Martin (Italian), Positifcinema (Italian), Cinefatti (Italian), Subash Movie Reviews,   Also: Asia One reprinted a selection of quotes from previous press conferences (including some comments from Hugo about Nurse Noakes) in advance of the Beijing premiere. Cloud Atlas is nominated for Outstanding Wide-Release Film by the GLAAD Awards. And STV promotes the film's Glasgow Film Festival screening February 17, in advance of the UK opening the next day.

Recent Hobbit: AUJ Reviews: The Daily Athenaeum, Deerfield Review, USU Statesman, FSU Torch, Catholic Leader.


Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke in Cloud Atlas. Chinese promo stills: sina.com.cn


Hugo Weaving as Old Georgie


Hugo Weaving, Tom Tykwer, Lana and Andy Wachowski. Photo (plus next three): Hinews.cn

Alongside these photos from Hinews.cn were additional interview comments from the directors and Hugo; I'll print a translation of Hugo's remarks below:

Hugo Weaving: The beginning of the film was shot in two places: I spent three weeks in the United Kingdom [Glasgow, Scotland]. [Then] the Wachowskis' Neo Seoul Korean segment took three weeks. We all regrouped in Germany [at Studio Babelsberg] , but there they are also divided the directing tasks. The locations were separated very close, within walking distance. We had preparatory work to do before the shooting; the directors were very helpful and cooperative during this process, very generous, selfless. Preparatory work [on this kind of project] is essential, so when it came time to film the actors between the two groups [of directors and crews] there were very convenient transitions. If not not for this careful preparation, we couldn't have completed the film.

Hugo Weaving: [The Asian actors in Cloud Atlas] had a strong work ethic, and were accustomed to working at a faster pace [than most Western actors]. I think the trend of internationalization [in filmmaking] is not the only way [of doing it], but one which will become increasingly common. Films and audiences will become more international in scope, and this is a very exciting thing. Cloud Atlas is such a work.

Hugo Weaving : You recognize [that] each role is very important, there is no bit-part players. My characters exist in six different time periods, but they represent the oppressors. In order to protect his own interests, each [impinges on the rights of others in some way] , to protect the system that he has been successful in; he believes he is a pillar of the era, feels that he acts in protection of the basic values โ€‹โ€‹of that society. But each role [is morally] tangled [and each is] far from perfect.

[After one of the Chinese announcers says that he finds Cloud Atlas "more international [in scope] than a typical superhero film"]

Hugo Weaving : I very much agree with you…[the creative team]  jumped from familiar territory to uncharted territory, to feel the surprise of the unknown. All those involved in the movie are very brave.

Lana Wachowski : We have been in use this topic to explore these issues of gender, race, in the works. [In The Matrix, charchters'] actual role of gender is not the same as with the interpretation of it in outside world. Gender is the proposition that we have been exploring, is one of our most important cultural issues.
Hugo Weaving : In "V for Vendetta", this theme of performance is very obvious
.
Lana Wachowski : In "V for Vendetta" female characters always want to take off their masks, while men discuss the need for this mask, of gender roles; [V and Evey] also quoted Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" , in which characters masquerade outside of in different gender roles…We have been discussing this proposition, and will continue to explore it."…

Hugo Weaving : The movie is like a multi-part canvas of multiple voices, expressing a common theme for me, very creative; [the] novel and screenplay movie have this feeling, I believe the Chinese audience will be pleasantly surprised.

Frustrating news: there's a 35 minute video of one of the Beijing interviews here, but my access is being blocked. I can't translate the popup explaining why, but international viewing restrictions are often to blame. If anyone can get ahold of this footage: please let us know!


Zhou Xun and Hugo Weaving at the Beijing press conference. Photo: xinmin.cn


All photos in this section: xinmin.cn


Here's a variation from The Yangzte Daily via News 163

From Wuham Morning:

…And Henan Business Daily

…And a few more from xinmin.cn (next four)

Hugo Weaving: "[Cloud Atlas's themes] can be about kinds of reincarnation or the butterfly effect, a little thing [in one person's life] that may eventually affect the whole world." He also said "You have to learn to laugh at yourself" when asked how he felt about the Wachowskis calling him "their evil Muse". (I personally wish they'd quit it…)

More on why his Matrix days are behind him (via Wuhan Morning): "I think [that if one is serious about Kung Fu] one should be training begins from the age of 6, rather than the 36-year-old I was when I began 'The Matrix'. I trained very hard, but now I'm older, and probably shouldn't try it."

Getty Images' pics of the event now available:


Hugo Weaving at the Beijing Cloud Atlas press conference; ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images (plus next 8)


I'm now thinking I could make an entire 12 month calendar featuring these Rockettes photos of the cast. ๐Ÿ˜‰
L to R: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Hugo Weaving, Zhou Xun, Zhu Zhu


Hugo arrives at the Beijing premiere


…looking like the proverbial cat who swallowed the canary. ๐Ÿ˜‰


Hugo greets costar Zhou Xun at the press conference

 OK, that should tide you over for… a few hours anyhow. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Back soon if I find more… again, if anyone has good-quality video of any of these interviews, Hugo's international fans would love to see it!

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