First Report from Healing Set, Continued Cloud Atlas Coverage (UK, Beijing), Hugo Weaving 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.

We finally have our first report from the Kyneton, Victoria set of Healing. The film, written and directed by Craig Monahan (The Interview, Peaches) stars Hugo Weaving, Don Hany, and Xavier Samuel in lead roles. The plot centers on a prison rehabilitation program matching inmates and injured birds of prey. The new article, published in the Sydney Morning Herald and related papers, features comments from Hany, Samuel and bird-wrangler Andrew Payne. So far Hugo hasn't been interviewed or photographed on set (it's possible he hasn't begun filming yet), but there is a nice new photo of Hany with one of his costars, Bart the eagle:

Actor Don Hany and wedgetail eagle Bart on the Kyneton set of the movie Healing.
Photo: Ben King/Sydney Morning Herald

The rehabilitation program dramatized in the film is fact-based, drawn from articles Monahan read about raptor rehab programs that actually exist in Victoria. Here are some quotes from the SMH piece:

Don Hany: "'I REALLY fell for [a wedge-tailed eagle named] Grace. She was the one I first met. She was probably [injured while] eating carrion on the side of the road, and got a bit cheeky, and a car hit her before she could get clear. She's a bit of a sook, and she did this nuzzle up to my neck, and she just melted me….the parallels between caged animals and caged humans was a great vehicle to tell a story [which underscores] the pain of understanding that you need to leave the cage''.

Bird expert Andrew Payne: "'Don was really good. He handles a bird well, and there's the right balance when the bird's on the glove. Sometimes you'll put a bird on a person's arm and they can look all stiff and uncomfortable. [After the pair are introduced] 'you can get them, with baby steps, to do more and get the bird accustomed to someone different''.

The full article is well worth a read.

Though Hugo hasn't yet been interviewed about Healing, his promotional interviews for Cloud Atlas (conducted in Los Angeles, Berlin, Moscow and Beijing between last October and January) continue appearing in the online press alongside hitherto-unseen photos and video footage. Quite a few of these have accumulated since my last entry, so here they are without further ado.

Perhaps the most intriguing recent posting appeared in Alfred Tsing's blog My Last 365 Days. Tsing attended press events for Cloud Atlas's Beijing premiere, and worked as a translator for interviews conducted for the Chinese press. He also includes his impressions of the film (including a strongly-worded defense of its use of cross-racial casting, which in the final tally seems to have offended white academic types obsessed with political correctness more than most Asians.) You should click on the link and go read the full entry for yourselves: there are wonderful new pics and a thoughtful perspective from someone who's both an "insider" at these events (with access to the directors and actors) and a fan. I'll include his sampling of quotes from Hugo Weaving's interviews and a few pics under the cut, but these are mere highlights and the full piece is fascinating.


L to R: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Zhou Xun, Hugo Weaving and one of the film's producers at the Beijing press conference 20 January 2013; Photo: Alfred Tsing

Hugo Weaving spent most of January 21 being interviewed by the Chinese press; Tsing served as his translator and offered the following observations and excerpts:

Alfred Tsing: As a bilingual Chinese-American working in Beijing I sometimes use my powers for good over evil. In this case, I translated for Hugo Weaving during his full day of interviews. My main remarks on Hugo’s personality is that despite playing some notable “villains”, his vibe is very gentle and compassionate. By the end of an entire day of translating, since so many interview questions were the same, he joked that I should pretty much just answer the questions before he even responds.

Here are some of the questions he was asked throughout the day.

Q: In “Cloud Atlas” all the actors in the movie play multiple roles, including different genders and different identities, what did it feel like for you playing all those roles?

Hugo Weaving: When we were filming V for Vendetta seven years ago, 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 understood what the basic story was. For me, the most fun thing reading the script was that the story structure was completely new 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 as a mosaic. So I was fascinated by the structure of the film.

Q: In real life you’re a gentle man and a good person but in Wachowski movies, you are always cast as the bad guy. How do you feel about that?

Hugo Weaving: The character’s I play do not perceive themselves as pure villains, nor do I portray them deliberately as “the bad guys”; I like to play contradictory roles. For instance Agent Smith or the characters I play in Cloud Atlas. Many are agents against change invested in the maintenance of a system. They are fighting to keep things the way they are. On The Matrix, when I read the script, I found the character of Smith to be very funny; that character always made me laugh. The Wachowskis also thought Smith was very funny. So I guess they knew I could take on these sorts of roles because we’ve always seen things very much on the same level and of course we’re good friends in real life.

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 challenging; it took four hours to apply. I had to get used to wearing the heavy costume. It wasn’t easy, but I really enjoyed the process.


Alfred Tsing with Hugo Weaving


L to R: Hugo Weaving, Keanu Reeves, Alfred Tsing, Lana Wachowski

Alfred Tsing: "At the end of the press tour we had a nice dinner and Keanu Reeves came by to support. He was also in town working on post-production for his latest China-US co-production Man of Tai Chi."

Tsing's full blog post includes many additional photos, Tsing's interviews with the film's directors, hints about the Wachowskis next project Jupiter Ascending, a meet-up with Chinese director Stephen Chow and many other goodies, so do check it out!


Photo: Alfred Tsing

While Cloud Atlas didn't have a formal Australian premiere, it did open in Australia 28 February. The Sydney Morning Herald has posted/printed a few versions of a Hugo Weaving interview conducted by Caris Bizzaca; it's unknown if this was conducted during earlier press junkets (as most of the UK promo interviews featuring Hugo were) or if he spoke to this reporter from Australia while prepping for Healing… either way it's a brief but interesting discussion of the film and Hugo's most memorable characters. I'll post the text of the online version under the cut; the print version can be read here. Both featured stills of Hugo's Cloud Atlas characters rather than new photos.
An unusual change of face
March 1, 2013
by Caris Bizzaca (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP)
"The many faces of Hugo Weaving in Cloud Atlas.

Hugo Weaving has played the villainous Agent Smith and freedom fighter V, but in just one film – Cloud Atlas – the Aussie actor has taken on more characters than in his entire 14-year collaboration with directors Andy and Lana Wachowski.

Weaving plays a total of six characters in Cloud Atlas, an ambitious adaptation of David Mitchell's novel that tackles big existential ideas such as reincarnation and the repercussions of actions in one life to another.

Like his co-stars – including Halle Berry, Tom Hanks and Susan Sarandon – Weaving plays a variety of characters, who cross genders, social classes and race over a period of about 500 years.

One in particular is Nurse Noakes, a burly, nasty woman working in an aged-care facility. Weaving said he was excited as the prospect of playing this "hysterical monster".

"There are roles you kind of get thrilled about," Weaving says. "When Andy [Wachowski] said we want you to play Nurse Noakes, I was like, 'You want ME to play Nurse Noakes? That is fantastic.'

"And then I thought, 'How the hell and we going to do that?' "

With a lot of prosthetics, it turns out.

While Weaving originally imagined the character to be tall and thin, the Wachowskis and co-director Tom Tykwer envisioned her as a large woman.

Weaving had to don a heavy fat suit and facial prosthetics for the transformation, but unlike other characters he plays in the film, he didn't get much time to get used to the costume.

"That was a challenge just to try and forget about it actually and to inhabit it in a way that wasn't too preposterous," he says.

"But no, the idea of playing a different gender, the idea of playing anything is . . . it's thrilling and daunting."

The way characters such as Nurse Noakes allowed Cloud Atlas to cross social barriers, including gender, spoke personally to director Lana Wachowski.

Formerly known as Larry, (she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2009) she, likewise, says Cloud Atlas is the kind of movie that refuses to be put into a box by social conventions.

"Yes, you're drawn to art that resonates in your own life and my life has been a struggle against a society, a culture that is pathologically obsessed with binary," she says.

"The culture does not want to contemplate the idea of a spectral range of gender."

Cloud Atlas marks the first film Weaving has worked on with Lana since she had her surgery, but the fifth Wachowski film that he has been in – a long collaboration that began in 1999 with The Matrix, followed by its two sequels in 2003 and V for Vendetta in 2005.

It was actually during filming for V for Vendetta that Weaving first came across the novel Cloud Atlas. His co-star Natalie Portman was reading it, so he followed suit and has previously said it became one of his top 10 books.

Reading the script for the first time, Weaving says he was fascinated by how the writer/directors approached the story.

In the novel, huge chunks are spent on different characters, but in the film, the stories are all cut together.

Weaving says Andy explained the film to him by comparing it to a mosaic, in that all the stories are introduced immediately, as opposed to "this Russian Doll of a structure" that the book had.

The Australian actor said he was glad to have already been familiar with the book and seeing what they wanted to do with it.

"You know the world, you know the characters, you know how they parallel each other and interconnect," he says. "So it was a thrilling kind of read because I love the book so much."

Cloud Atlas is out now."

Australian reporter Alicia Malone spoke to Hugo (and Susan Sarandon) during the LA press junket back in October; I'll include the YouTube clip of that interview under the next cut, along with Metro.co.uk's joint Hugo Weaving/Susan Sarandon interview and a link Yahoo UK's video featuring Hugo and Bae Doona tackling The Reincarnation Question in Berlin last November.

Alicia Malone's Movie Minute:

Some other Hugo Weaving quotes Malone posted at The Brag:
"That’s the thing that interests me… how the actions you take in your life reverberate somehow, and often the things you are doing in your life are as a consequence of the people who may have been connected to you in time, geography or culture. If you extrapolate that idea, we’re all connected in some way. That butterfly effect. Every action you make has an effect on everyone else in the world, to some extent .

“I get on extremely well with both of [the Wachowskis] and I love them very much. I’m always challenged and stimulated by them and their ideas. I never used to get separate notes from them, which would be the main difference. They’re more individuated than before.[T]owards the end [of filming], the cameos grew. All the actors were saying, ‘I want to be in that story too. Can I play… anything?"
****

Here's the Metro.co.uk interview, with introduction included to demonstrate why some of the interview questions end up being so incorrigibly silly:

Ross McD interviewed the cast and crew of Cloud Atlas at a round table press junket in LA. In part three he meets Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon…

11AM Beverly Hills, Los Angeles – Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon

Uh-oh. Things have taken a sour turn. Hollywood royalty may be about to walk in, but at least one person isn’t preoccupying himself with rolling out the red carpet. No sooner have Whishaw and D’Arcy left the room when the Italian lights up on one of the female South African journos, apparently for cutting across one of his monologue/questions.

‘I’m trying to get one quote, and you start….’

‘What. Is. Cloud. Atlas? Four words,’ she suggests.

‘I DON’T GIVE A F**K WHAT HE WEARS, WHAT SHE’S WEARING, WHICH MOVIE WAS HE IN! I need to write these quotes!’

‘I don’t give a f**k what you think.’
‘But you took too long.’

‘I don’t give a sh*t.’

‘IF YOU COULD all take you seats,’ a PA announces to the room through a rather intense smile, ‘we are ready for Susan and Hugo.’

‘We should also put down things to tape what you say,’ Susan smiles, wryly eyeing the Dictaphones – and perhaps concerned for her safety, having sniffed the tail end of a potential journo brawl.

Hugo smiles, no stranger to brawls under the Wachowskis, having played the iconic Agent Smith in all three Matrixes. He’s rocking an impressively shaggy beard right now and couldn’t look any further from the impeccable computer program. Unless he were to dress up as a sadistic, hulking blonde female nurse, I suppose….

‘You’ve worked with the Wachowski’s before, in what way was it different this time?’ One of the Japanese journos wanted to know.

‘It was very similar. The first time we met we hit it off very quickly, and it feels like I’ve been laughing and raving with them for years, so…’

‘You know raving means something entirely different in this country?’ Susan advises him in her trademark playful tone. ‘It involves certain drugs, dancing, sweating…’

‘Oh it does? I meant talking a lot,’ Hugo clarifies.

‘It was like a circus,’ said Susan, who worked under the Wachowskis on Speed Racer. ‘The fact that people were playing big parts and little parts and giving up their egos and their iconic status and just jumping in… and Hugh Grant going naked with tattoos was hilarious. It set this feeling like you were kind of at Camp Cloud Atlas.’

And like a circus, the fun and frivolity of the surface are firmly rooted in meticulous choreography: the casting was not just an aimlessly assembled ensemble.

The joy of being an actor is that you have this opportunity to be many different people in one lifetime, that’s kind of the point,’ Susan explained. ‘My characters all have a kind of spirituality and are a little bit more enlightened, whatever; [Hugo's] are a little bit more controlled and maybe somewhat more evil. They had done that when they cast, it wasn’t just a haphazard kind of filling in. And then people were begging to be in stories they weren’t in and wanted to play little parts…’

Hugo added: ‘But that character had to, in some way, have an acceptable link or time link to the other characters they might have played.’

‘I think the idea of changing genders and colours, having the opportunity for a Korean actress to play a Mexican and everyone to play another gender, somehow underneath it all, the film subliminally breaks down and makes this fluidity the point of the film. No matter how the wrapping is underneath, the spirit and the humanity is consistent,’ Susan went on. ‘Even though they don’t hit you over the head with it, it was something that affected us – not just popping contact lenses in and chins and noses and stuff, but the idea of actually getting a chance of walking in someone else’s moccasins and be a man for a day.’

Of all the worlds we’ve visited today so far, this pairing appear to be most confident that the film will be a success. Are they?

I think it is a success,’ Susan claims. ‘Are you talking about commercial success? I think it is extraordinary this film was made, and it signals to the industry an opportunity to break a mould.’

From early reviews, one of the fears surrounding whether or not the film will indeed be a commercial success overall is that it’s trying to be too clever, and that audiences just might not get it.

But, according to Susan, there is a hunger among cinemagoers for something different: ‘I think that the public is much smarter than anybody thinks and they don’t need to see the same movie six times, they don’t need to have everything be derivative.

‘I’m sure there will be some people who will go in and say “Oh my God, what is this?” in the first five minutes.

‘I have a sister, you take her to France and she orders a pizza, and she’s disappointed that it’s not like in New York. She’s just not a good traveller. You need people who are good travellers who can surrender and say “Okay, this is something new” and be excited and not threatened.’

‘And we all did that, and really had the most extraordinary time,’ Hugo adds. ‘And that’s enough, that’s reward in itself for us, regardless of whether its financially successful or not. Of course you hope that it is because that means a lot of people have seen it and hopefully were moved in the same way we were. But, beyond that, it’s not really a concern.’

As one of the Japanese journalists correctly points out, Susan is one of a handful of actors who seems to get work consistently – is it down to the roles she chooses, luck, or something else?

‘Well I’m playing supporting parts – a lot of men won’t do that,’ she replies, matter-of-factly. ‘I see myself as a character actor, and if a project is exciting and the other people I’m working with are good…I do a lot of first time directors, so I’m the go to person for that.

‘I’ve always been kind of outside of the system, so if somebody sends me something and I haven’t done it before and I think it’ll be fun – and I don’t have to be there for five months for a smaller part – as long as I’m still having fun, then I’ll keep doing it.’

CJ: As a lifelong American, I'd have to say that, apart from a brief period in the 1990s, Hugo's definition of "rave" is most common here. But maybe Sarandon has spent too much time in LA. 😉

Yahoo UK asked several actors The Reincarnation Question again; Hugo gave a slightly different response this time around (the interview was taped in Berlin) than when the same question came up in LA. I'll try to embed, but since non-YouTube embeds typically fail here lately (grrrrr!) click here if no video appears. Very interesting to note the falcon/falcon handler answers from D'Arcy and Whishaw given Hugo's casting in Healing. 😉

Cloud Atlas Press Articles:

  • Interviews with the actors who attended the UK premiere (Hugh Grant, James D'Arcy, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent) at FilmBeat
  • Alicia Malone's cast interviews with Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Jim Broadbent are excerpted at The Brag (Beat Magazine reposts the same piece)
  • BBC News coverage and cast interviews of the Cloud Atlas UK premiere
  • James D'Arcy's Glasgow Film Fest interview promoting Cloud Atlas
  • The Guardian's assessment of how Warner Bros marketing might have hurt its US box office take (the film is now close to recouping its $100 million budget, thanks to more enlightened overseas audiences)
  • An uproarious Jim Sturgess/James D'Arcy interview using fan questions at Total Film
  • There are in-depth interviews with the visual effects artists and production photos showing how key scenes evolved at Flickering Myth
  • Tom Tykwer radio interview on BBC4's The Film Programme
  • Great Jim Broadbent Radio Times interview in which the actor excoriates Hollywood award shows that snubbed the film
  • Empire Online Q&A/Behind the Scenes feature with Jim Stugess and James D'Arcy  (Who discuss how that their death scenes at the hands of Hugh Grant and Hugo, respectively, were "fun")
  • Cloud Atlas's Scotland locations are detailed in The Scotsman (including the Glasgow street– pretending to be San Francisco– where Bill Smoke tries to run down Luisa Rey, and the Scott Monument, where Frobisher watches his lover Sixsmith search for him)
  • James D'Arcy interviews at TheView.co.uk, The Belissimo Files, Spin 1038
  • Filmosphere's interview with conceptual artist Adam Cuczsek (French)
  • Parkes Champion Post Tom Tykwer interview/Cloud Atlas preview
  • Making-of featurette in The Age (featuring interviews with the directors).
Also, if you are a fan of James D'Arcy or Jim Sturgess, do check out JamesD'ArcyForum.net and/or Jim Stugess Online for many, many more pics and articles covering the UK premiere of Cloud Atlas. These communities and their mods have provided critical assistance and boundless enthusiasm during these giddy months of Cloud Atlas coverage.

New Cloud Atlas Reviews: DianaBabe.com, Best For Film, Colourless Opinions, MoveMeez, Blogomatic 3000, Comic Buzz, MovieMail.com, Bring The Noise, BanterFlix, The Establishing Shot, ViewLondon.co.uk, Popcorn Addict, Express.co.uk, Mild Concern, PreviewFiilms.com.au, Get-Reel.net, The Film Cricket, London, Hollywood, Tim The Film Guy, Den of Geek (middling review including some amusing errors, demonstrating that a lot of people dissing certain elements of the film failed to really pay attention), Movie Ramblings, TheArtsDesk.com, Flickering Myth, Ed's Electronics Review, Impact Online, The Australian, SFX.co.uk, Empire Online, Marked Movies, Triptothepictures, Lisa Thatcher, FMV Magazine, Female First, The Bioscopist, The Celluloid Sage, The Movie Bit, TV and Film Review, Film 4, Monday Movie Show, The Irish Examiner, The Film Pie, Platform Online, Alienationmentale, Implied Subjectivity, DUSA Media, Mac Robinson, TheMusic.com.au, The 500 Club, Raybeard, Fanatical Film, Quickflix, Pieces of Reece, The Digital Fix, LeftLion.co.uk, Insights.uca.org, Cambridge Tab, The Statesman, The Sydney Morning Herald, At The Movies, M/C Reviews, Expand Your Canvas, 3aw.com.au, West Sussex County Times, Mustache Magazine, Inside 7th Art, Shadowplay, Social Intercourse, Cinema with Sarah O'Connor, The Big Brown Chair, Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop, Rip It Up and The Blend. [Takes a deep breath!…] 😉  It should be noted that the vast majority of these are positive and thoughtfully written, and that Cloud Atlas has quickly become one of Hugo's most-reviewed and internationally celebrated projects. Not bad for a film misleadingly labelled a "failure" in the shallower corners of the US media.

Finally, as far as Cloud Atlas is concerned, the US DVD/BluRay finally has a firm release date (May 14) and can now be preordered at Amazon and other retailers (I encourage fans to shop around, as always). The BluRay package will include the DVD and download versions, seven new featurettes  and cast interviews, but– as we've become accustomed to from the Wachowskis– no deleted scenes. For additional details and the frustratingly pedestrian (IMO) box art, check out HighDefDiscNews, Home Theater Forum, We Got This Covered, JoBlo.com

My friend Abigail wants Hugo Weaving fans to know that if you simply want a new, random Hugo photo or film still every day without so much text to get through, she's started a new community here called Daily Hugo Weaving Photo.

Waiting For Godot News: Though Sydney Theatre Company's new production of the Samuel Beckett classic (costarring Richard Roxburgh) is still several months away, tickets are already scarce, thanks to record box-office sales. More details at Aussie Theatre. And finally, in NIDA/STC News, a young actor named Harry Greenwood, who recently graduated from NIDA, has been cast in his first Sydney Theatre Company production, The Fury. Any similarities to another young NIDA alum who first made a splash at STC in the early 1980s are purely coincidental, no doubt. 😉

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