Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hugo Weaving Reportedly Cast in Aussie Crime Drama The Mule, Mystery Road Approaches Release

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.

So far there are very few details available about this story, so I’ll share what I have found and follow up as needed. Deadline Hollywood* ran a one-paragraph item stating that Hugo has been cast in a film called The Mule, which “chronicles a drug mule who is nabbed by the police and the fallout from that capture.” No information is yet available about whether Hugo might play the title character (which would be intriguing but, I fear, unlikely), a police officer, a drug lord or some character that can’t yet be conjectured based on the minimal info we now have. (Deadline is notorious for running with “scoops” so they can claim an “exclusive” rather than waiting for press releases or corroborating details.)  The project is set to film in Australia later this year and is financed by Screen Australia, which financed many of Hugo’s prior Australian projects.

Though the participation of writer Leigh Whannell, who’s best known for the Saw sequels and slightly tonier recent horror films (Insidious) doesn’t sound promising, the second screenwriter (Angus Sampson) and director (Tony Mahony) are relative newcomers; this will be Mahony’s feature debut and the first major writing project for Sampson, who’s primarily worked as an actor to this point, though he’s written a few short films. (All of this comes from IMDb.) Hugo has a long history of working for first-time directors, and, of course, for supporting the Australian film industry and preferring to work close to home.  Interesting trivia item: Whannel, Sampson and Weaving all did voice roles for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole a few years ago. I doubt this is how they met up, but I’ve heard stranger stories. 😉

Ain’t It Cool News has just posted an enthusiastic item on the project that is wholly based on the Deadline report; this writer interprets Deadline’s language as implying Hugo has the title role, but I’m not so sure. Variety fills in a few more details: they label The Mule a “black comedy” and note that Whannell will “co-produce, co-write and star in the pic”…I’m already suspecting he’s given himself the title role. (Whannell does have a long resume as an actor; perhaps he thought other producers and directors weren’t giving him interesting-enough roles, so he decided to get proactive.) In general I am impressed when any actor or director tries to break away from established patterns or typecasting, and Hugo generally chooses roles based on the quality of the script, though there have been notable exceptions to this (Hellooooo Transformers!) At this point I’m cautiously optimistic, though already worried Hugo’s been handed another routine villain/obstacle role.  According to Mumbrella, the film’s promotional tagline is “Ray Jenkins, an unlikely drug mule from Sunshine, Victoria, takes on all the authority figures in his life using the only option within his control – holding on!”  Which is what we fans will have to do until more information is officially released. 😉 But let’s hope this one is intelligent fun. Hugo might have wanted a change of pace after starring in three serious dramas (Mystery Road, The Turning, Healing) in a row.

*As usual, LJ is not allowing me to post direct links to Deadline, for reasons I can’t fathom. To read the original article, go to
www[dot] deadline [dot] com[slash]2013[slash]04[slash]hugo-weaving-set-for-aussie-crime-drama-the-mule

Which brings me to a much more uncomfortable subject I’ve also been trying to uncover factual reporting about: Hugo’s alleged participation in a pair of advertisements which bring back his Smith character from The Matrix. I know that just about everyone on the planet is taking these ads at face value, and if any other actor or celebrity were involved, I would too. But Hugo has a long (30 year), honorable history of not involving himself in product advertising, even for product tie-ins connected with the Matrix and Lord of the Rings films. In a 2003 Matrix Reloaded promo interview, he was asked about a series of PowerAde ads by a reporter for; he replied, “[The producers] showed what they were going to do [with the ads]. They wanted me to do them, but I didn’t really want to go there.”  (Actors playing the “upgrade” Agents appeared in some ads, an actor resembling Joe Pesci doing a bad Smith impersonation appeared in another.)

Hugo has done several PSAs for various charities, including and Earthshare, and, of course, he’s appeared in trailers for his films, but that’s it. He’s also consistently, though unobtrusively, voiced progressive political opinions over the years and shared a general disinterest in “the business side” of filmmaking. The notion that Hugo would turn his most famous character into a cuddly, corporate mascot for a notorious mega-corporation with a long record of malfeasance is so out of character that my first response was to question it, assuming the ads were a Yes Men style hoax/parody or that the character had been recreated with CG without Hugo’s direct involvement. GE’s press releases contain no mention of Hugo, no quotes from him, and no detailed information about when or where the ads were created. A GE spokesperson was quoted as saying the Wachowskis licensed the character and Matrix references, but contrary to some reports, they did not write or direct the ad; they’re currently busy filming Jupiter Ascending in the UK.

A lot of other things about this mess don’t add up: Hugo has been photographed with a heavy beard steadily since the end of 2011; his last clean-shaven role was, of course, Cloud Atlas, which wrapped in December of that year. He starred in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Mystery Road, The Turning and Healing and sat over a period of several months for artist Del Kathryn Barton’s Archibald-winning portrait.  It’s doubtful a company would film footage in 2011 then sit on it for over a year. Hugo hasn’t been photographed since the end of March, on the Healing set, but he definitely still had the beard then. If he did participate in these ads, it would have to have been very recently, and they must have been filmed in Australia. None of the “reports” on the ads (most of which are fawning descriptions of its contents with a few lines from GE press releases) feature any real reporting. Usually when a celebrity does this sort of thing, some information about the shoot, circumstances and fees are released (Brad Pitt’s unintentionally hilarious Chanel ad being a case in point.) On the other hand, it’s doubtful that Hugo’s image could be used in this way without his permission. If it is really him, it’s the most stilted, embarrassing performance he’s given, and is a betrayal of many of his previously oft-stated principals. It’s also the worst possible misappropriation of a character and films I genuinely love.

Hugo will have to answer direct questioning about all of this at some point; it’s a pity that these sorts of questions might overshadow the promotion for Mystery Road, which is nearing completion and already has strong buzz. A lot of people who know little about Hugo beyond Smith and Elrond (and, maybe, V and Red Skull) are saying a lot of incredibly stupid things about these ads, to the point it’s been depressing to participate in the online fandom at all. I’ve put off making any sort of statement about these ads because I loathe them and also wanted to wait until there was real information to be had including anything Hugo himself might have to say. Of course, when he does discuss this, I’ll pass that along. It’s disappointing how many people think fandom should be uncritical fawning over every element of an artist’s output, usually emphasizing least-common-denominator minor pop culture projects over serious output. It pains me to think that those stupid commercials will be retweeted and reblogged with much more frequency than Hugo’s next three indie projects combined, though obviously Hugo put a lot more work and personal commitment into Mystery Road, The Turning and Healing, all of which could be termed “passion projects” which reteam him with costars and directors he’s often said he treasures working with.

In 2010, while promoting The Wolfman, Hugo said he considered the Smith character “dead” and that there were no plans for Matrix sequels. (“But there won’t be any other Matrix films! Agent Smith is gone, you can rest assured about that.”: as quoted by AMC).  Though I’ve always enjoyed some of the fan interpretations/parodies of the character, he should remain immune from any sort of corporate appropriation, as should all beloved (if that’s the right word) 😉 fictional characters. GE was already on my shit list for their obnoxious previous ads which misused robots, cyborgs and other “machine” characters pilfered from the history of film and television… and of course for their business practices. I’m aware that all of us have to live with a certain amount of compromise to make a living at all in the world these days, and that there are degrees of “selling out”.  I know that all major big-budget films include a certain number of product tie-ins, many of which are ridiculous. But I can share info on The Hobbit without feeling a need to pass on word of ghastly-sounding “culinary” tie-ins from a certain greasy-spoon breakfast chain best known as a haunt for late-night stoners. And I can giggle at the irony of a certain electronics company using product placement in V for Vendetta which makes it look like The Media Choice For Tyrannical Regimes Everywhere in context. I can easily forgive struggling young actors or musicians who appear in commercials to make ends meet, or license their songs to reach a wider audience. But once you reach a certain degree of fame, you are indeed staking your reputation and using your name in service of an advertiser if you go down this road. There’s also a difference between having your unknown song innocuously featured as background music and actually changing the lyrics of your big hit song to paean the virtues of a product. The latter is more egregious, and it utterly ruins the song– at least as long as the ad campaign runs .

But, to my mind, this is the worst possible way of selling out. These ads, lacking any sort of creativity or viable narrative of their own, steal the creative work of others and utterly change and degrade the context and meaning of this work and these characters in hopes of making a few bucks (or increasing “brand visibility” ). Whether the corporation is trying to exploit viewer nostalgia or attract younger viewers who think they’re so self-aware and ironic that they require self-aware, ironic ads (I suspect both motives are at work here) the ads are an obvious violation of the spirit of the Matrix films and the Smith character in the most basic sense. The idea that the Wachowskis or Hugo might have been okay with any of this is incredibly depressing. (As recently as Cloud Atlas promotion, the Wachowskis claimed they had no interest in doing additional Matrix films… apparently selling off the integrity of the existing ones to the highest bidder wasn’t a problem.)

As a fan who has championed these directors and of course this actor, and has devoted thousands of hours of time (and quite a bit of hard-earned income) promoting the Matrix films, V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas, I can’t help but feeling mystified and a little betrayed. I can’t make sense of this choice from filmmakers whose most recent film was a gutsy, unironic film they spent years toiling on, which they financed with a good deal of their own money, and which featured a major subplot (An Orison of Sonmi-451) whose major theme was the ruination of society by greedy corporations and a tiny, oligarchic elite who considered the majority of humanity either consumers to be manipulated or fabricated, disposable beings created to serve those consumers. In David Mitchell’s novel, the anti-corporate theme is much more pronounced and tragic, but it certainly exists in the film. The film is also one of the most open-hearted, sincere-to-the-point-it-risks-parody opuses to human endurance in the face of tyranny and moral compromise.  Why would these filmmakers and this actor chose to sell out now, and to this company? GE is unlikely to make machines smarter… they might make your hospital bills even more astronomical or your private medical information a lot less private.

I know a lot of people are probably thinking ads are nothing to worry about, or try to accommodate their inescapable presence in our daily lives by finding them amusing or harmless. I find most advertising at best an annoying intrusion and at worst a form of deceit. Of course I buy products and participate in a capitalist economy, but I can’t recall ever buying any product based on advertising… I can recall avoiding certain products/services because the ads were so gratingly annoying, or misused songs and fictional characters I once cared about. The current generation thinks itself all-knowing, completely self-aware and hip to all advertisers’ tricks… I say the joke is on them. If you’re enthusing about an ad, you’re doing exactly what the corporation wants you to do. The current generation of ads is consequently based on smug irony, self-aware humor and a sense that no context is inappropriate. Product placement on reality shows or late-night talk shows often has this sort of blase self-mockery to it… I find this even more annoying than the old-school, “sincere” advertisements. There are a depressing number of magazines and websites wholly devoted to worshipful appraisals of advertising as an “art form”. Which makes me think we’re a lot closer to Sonmi-451’s reality than we’d all like to believe.

Some fans think that the only proper expression of fandom is non-judgmental joy at everything a given artist produces, or at least objective sharing of all details about an artist’s projects in a way which implies they’re all equal and deserve equal respect. Over the years I’ve generated a certain degree of controversy by not being that sort of fan, and by having strong opinions. As I see it, you become a fan for a reason. Some reasons are shallow and fleeting, based on physical attraction or an affinity for a specific role; these fandoms tend to be short-lived. Other fandoms grow into a more grounded, mature appreciation of the full variety of work an artist accomplishes–by how they continue to surprise you as much as how well they do exactly the sort of thing you’d expect. I’ve been active in the online Hugo Weaving fandom since 2003, and have been writing Hugonuts since 2005. I didn’t plan this to be my primary online hobby, and have never actively participated in a fandom to this degree, though I have several others, including some which are decades old. You learn to draw certain boundaries as you mature into certain roles in these sometimes-questionable endeavors. You learn to tone down the hormonal aspects, and to make sure everything you pass along is properly fact-checked, and all sources properly credited. Particularly if you’ve been lucky enough to meet the artist in question, you learn to respect their privacy, and the fact that, while they value your enthusiasm for their work, that their personal lives must remain off-limits, as must their personal time. Paparazzi photos and autograph hounding when the artist is off the clock become unacceptable.

I have no official ties to Hugo Weaving, nor do any other fansites, though some, like Random Scribblings, are valuable, comprehensive resources. Hugo has said he rarely uses the internet, and has no official online presence.  Twitter and Facebook accounts using his name are either outright frauds or “tribute” sites run by fans. Running Hugonuts or any fansite isn’t a job, but something you do for love. That sort of love must always be, by nature, unrequited and a bit problematic, particularly for actors like Hugo who claim to be uncomfortable with celebrity and with trying to serve the perceived needs of any given audience demographic. Fandom is by definition unobjective to begin with. I’m always more likely to give a Hugo Weaving project the benefit of the doubt, but on the other hand, I also hold him to a higher standard. 95% of the time, he’s rather astonishingly lived up to expectations, and I’ve discovered a lot of great, unsung films, TV movies/miniseries, short films and other projects I never would have heard about. People who only know about or value Hugo’s “nerd movies” (their term) are missing out on the bulk of an extraordinary– and varied– career. But all artists have at least a few bad projects scattered among the good ones– actors in particular are limited in how much they can mitigate a dreadful script or misguided direction, or a studio losing faith in a film and either messing it up or burying it for fiscal reasons. Even in most of these cases, Hugo’s delivered highly watchable work that often elevates the film. His stage roles have also been generally challenging and beyond reproach, and I only wish more had been preserved on film so I could see them.

But Hugo has also made a handful of choices that baffled me, and that I couldn’t bring myself to support. Transformers would be #1 on that list (until now, anyhow). Even Hugo has never really given a reason for his participation in those films, and has said he hasn’t watched them. He drew a lot of flak last summer for saying he personally found them “meaningless” and didn’t understand the scripts. People have misconstrued a lot of Hugo’s remarks about this and another trivial, one-note role (Red Skull in Captain America) because these remarks were quoted out of context all over the web. Fanboys have whined that Hugo said he thought such roles were “beneath him”, which, of course, he never said. They’ve suggested he did them for the money, though he never said that either, and one would think that if money was his sole objective, he wouldn’t be so refreshingly honest about not wanting to do more of these movies. Hugo actually said that he did the Red Skull role, despite initial misgivings, because he thought it might be fun and because he’d enjoyed working for Joe Johnston and the film crew from The Wolfman, many of whom also worked on Captain America. Beyond that, he said in an MTV video interview, “It’s just a job, really.” So there might be some financial incentive in a few cases, but even the briefest look at his larger resume would reveal that many if not most of his choices are not greed-driven. (Fanboys should be less possessive and myopic as a general rule… even Robert Downey Jr has made noises to the effect that consigning the rest of his career to franchise sequels might not be the most fulfilling option.)

Again, if Hugo wanted to fully sell out, he’d be re-upping on an endless stream of Marvel fare and Smith variants in bad American movies rather than doing four independent films in a row (well, interrupted by a stage play– again, not the big money choice.) Maybe Hugo feels he has to make a few mercenary choices here and there to finance the artistic ones; maybe he’s afraid to say “no” too often (a condition among character actors that I call “Walken’s disease”, though even ol’ Chris has become much more picky in recent years). Maybe he’s too easily swayed by directors he admires or, like many of us, can get star-struck or succumb to easy flattery under the right circumstances.  Maybe he’s capable of a degree of cognitive dissonance that I’m not, and thinks he can get away with believing that his playing of a character doesn’t necessarily mean he endorses the full scope of a corporation’s activities. (He said, in the AMC Wolfman interview, “I don’t normally associate [ my most famous characters] with myself — I enjoyed Agent Smith enormously, but he’s the brainchild of Larry and Andy Wachowski. And Elrond, that was very much Peter Jackson’s baby. They’re the ones who made the impact, not me.” Perhaps if the Wachowskis felt as perversely enthusiastic about the ads the corporate spokesperson insisted, Hugo felt obligated to perform the character in whatever context they saw fit.)

But then maybe he’s so sick of being asked about the Smith character that he thought he’d destroy the character once and for all via he most crass, witless re-contextualization imaginable. 😉 If so, that calculation backfired, because far too many people are happy to see their favorite characters misused this way. I can understand why any actor might be tempted to revisit their most famous role years after the fact, but, as the relatively unsung Matrix character Switch might have put it, “Not like this. Not like this!” Context is everything. Smith should have been left well enough alone: he was the only aspect of all three films that even sequel-detractors loved. I hope these ads disappear quickly and don’t damage that legacy.  As another famous antihero, Tony Soprano, once put it: ” ‘Remember when…’ is the lowest form of conversation”.  (I sincerely hope he isn’t repurposed in advertising anytime soon, though the actor who played Paulie Walnuts was in enough advertising to suggest that many companies wouldn’t find that inappropriate.)    The Matrix films aren’t a distant source of cheap, fuzzy nostalgia for me. They actually meant something to me beyond whiz-bang SFX and aerial kung fu. I had hoped they meant something to their creators as well.

Hugo isn’t objective about his past roles, so why should I be? As I see it, films like Captain America and Transformers don’t need me. They’re inescapable, particularly online. Hugo didn’t do much to promote those films either, apart from a brief Comic Con appearance for the former. He did no press junkets or interviews when the films were released. In contrast, he went all-out in promoting Cloud Atlas (and all other Wachowski collaborations) and indie films like Last Ride and Oranges and Sunshine. There might be contractual obligations involved, but Hugo’s enthusiasm for those projects seemed absolutely sincere, and made me understand why he chose to work on them, what they meant to him. In contrast, he seems uncomfortable when asked about Transformers or Captain America when he’s promoting other projects. (He splits the difference with The Hobbit– he attended one premiere out of four and did a few brief interviews. He also gave decent reasons for reprising Elrond– it’s drawn from JRR Tolkien’s existing mythology rather than being merely an opportunistic rehash, and it gave him a chance to portray a lighter, more spirited side of the character. That said, I understand why some people feel The Hobbit will never live up to the standards set by LOTR, and wish in general that creative people knew when to walk away from their finest hour. Hugo himself modestly noted, “For a number of reasons,  [the filmmakers] decided that there are three films in there.  I hope there are.  I don’t know.  I was truly there for four or five weeks and enjoyed myself, and went home again.  My knowledge of the workings of Middle Earth, at the moment, are very minimal.” (Collider, October 2012). )

Nothing Hugo might say about the commercials presently under discussion is going to make me approve of them, but I do want to know what he thinks, to what extent he was involved, and what his motives might have been. I still have to hope that there are some extenuating circumstances or things we aren’t being told, though I know that makes me sound like the conspiracy nuts I tend to mock. 😉 But until Hugo does make a public statement about the ads, I’m not going to give them any additional publicity, nor am I going to embed or link to them here. As I said before, I’d rather focus on projects that do need fan word of mouth, and that Hugo Weaving actually spent more than a few cynical hours working on. GE has ensured that their pernicious, soul-destroying little promos have been translated into every language on earth and spread to all corners of the globe. (My Chinese friends said it’s even been translated into their language– though almost none of Hugo’s Australian indie films have been. Another cause for depression…) In the time since they appeared, I’ve yet to see one tweet about Mystery Road, The Turning or Healing except the few that Elisa at RS and myself posted, though Mystery Road in particular has been in the news recently in the Australian media. As fans, we all choose what our priorities are going to be. These are mine. I hope everyone understands. If you feel differently, you’re welcome to share whatever you like on your own website or blog, or through your favorite social networking sites.

I’m sorry to have gone on this long… I thought that if I waited long enough, I could formulate something a bit more succinct and pithy, but obviously emotions still run high. I’m still angry. Certainly I’m able to forgive, and I don’t plan on leaving the fandom over this, though if Hugo suddenly goes the Shatner route and makes a habit of this sort of thing, I might reconsider. I’m now going to try to focus on Hugo’s serious film and stage work, and hope that his big-budget larks in the future are less craven. He did a great job of balancing the right big-budget projects and indies and plays until 2007. Since then it’s harder to find “event” films up The Matrix and LOTR’s standards, maybe. I’m no elitist. I had a great deal of fun with The Wolfman and Happy Feet 2, which no one would claim are masterpieces. I do admire Hugo’s need to remain elusive, and to some degree inscrutable to fans and the pop culture in general. He has said doesn’t use the internet and doesn’t watch TV– that there isn’t even a television hookup at his Hunter Valley property. Maybe, in a perverse way, he’s trying to get his serious fans to unplug a bit more by deliberately driving them away from TV and the internet with these ads. (Wishful thinking, probably, as is my hope he was CG’d in without permission.)

But I will restate my frustration that Hugo’s least-significant work will continue to get widespread attention and shallow approval while the films he has always said he most values don’t get a fraction of that attention.

George Carlin once said that “The decay and disintegration of this culture is astonishingly amusing if you are emotionally detached from it. I have always viewed it from a safe distance, knowing I don’t belong; it doesn’t include me, and it never has…I view my species with a combination of wonder and pity, and root for its destruction.”   Though I miss Carlin and agree with him on many fronts (particularly the areas of politics, religion and the deterioration of the English language), I can’t quite embrace this notion. Yes, most of what’s out there in the culture (highbrow and low), media and the arts is highly disposable and meaningless, meant for fleeting distraction and amusement. But occasionally, someone makes art that means something, that makes all of the other frivolous bullshit worth enduring, and the hardships life and political chicanery of people in power easier to tolerate. And if you’ve given up on religion and politics, art is the last refuge you have left. More often than most, Hugo Weaving’s work is still meaningful and thought provoking for me. The longer I stay on this planet, the shorter the list of artists who consistently produce such work  gets, but I need to believe in that work, and its meaning, that it shouldn’t be frivolously commodified, that its most artistic aspects– rather than only its most commercial– need to be celebrated.

In my own clumsy way, that’s what I’m trying to do here. I’m not trying to form any sort of official connection with Hugo Weaving– that’s not my place, nor should he be soliciting fans or opinion polls about his career. The less he knows about the online fandom, or the way he’s usually misconceived in the pop culture, the saner he’ll remain. I’m in this to spread the word about films and plays I’ve genuinely loved. I’ve made friends all over the world through the fandom; it’s broadened my horizons tremendously, in ways I could never have imagined. I hope this continues. Just as Hugo’s choices are, in the end, none of our business and his own to make, so our our choices of how to receive that work and what to emphasize.  I would think he’d prefer that his admirers think for themselves and act independently (and,of course, live fully-realized lives outside the fandom) rather than forming a cultish, uniform entity that rubber-stamps everything he does with equal fervor.

Finally, as far as I’m concerned, that isn’t Agent Smith in the ads at all, but the Oracle, having some post-Revolutions “shell” issues. The candy reference is a dead giveaway. 😉 Poor, deluded dear was always trying to change the system from within.

Again, sorry that took so long. I hope no one is offended, but I have to be true to myself, or, as V for Vendetta’s Valerie Page might have put it, to not give up “that last inch” of myself and act against my conscience.

On to happier, though much less widely-covered, subjects. As I mentioned before, director Ivan Sen is approaching completion on his film Mystery Road, which stars Aaron Pedersen as detective Jay Swan, an aboriginal detective investigating the murder of a young girl, and features Hugo as Johnno, a policeman “with questionable motives”. The confirmation of Hugo’s character’s name comes report mentioning a charity auction to be held in Winton (where the project was filmed last year), which was to include a hat worn by Hugo’s character among the items up for bids. This article quoted one of the film’s producers, David Jowsey, as saying he hoped to hold the world premiere for Mystery Road in Winton “later this year”. ABC News Landline later ran an update which featured video footage of the area (though none from the film itself) and stated that the film’s Winton premiere might be held “in a few weeks”, though no specifics were provided. According to The Australian, early word on the film has been “very strong” and that “Mystery Road is a hot tip for selection” in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, either in the main competition or Un Certain Regard category. So far nothing definite has been confirmed in that area, but it would be wonderful news. Hugo hasn’t attended the Cannes festival since The Matrix Reloaded had a gala premiere (out of competition) in 2003; before then, he’d attended back to back Cannes Film Fests with director Stephan Elliott, promoting Frauds in 1993 and, to much greater acclaim, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994. [UPDATE: alas, the film isn’t listed in among the initial Cannes competition roster. One hopes it might still play the festival, unless Sen has decided to target it for completion later, in time for the Toronto International Film Festival; see following paragraph for more speculation in that direction.] You can also read Winton natives Geoff Potter and Richard Searle’s accounts of their experiences as extras on the set of Mystery Road in Queensland Country Life.

Hugo Weaving on the set of Mystery Road Photo: Claudia Baxter, Fraser Coast Chronicle

SBS creates further anticipation by noting that a ten-minute preview of the film screened at a recent function at the Australian Film Television and Radio School “…caused a palpable buzz among the audience, not least for Sen’s stunning cinematography in and around the outback towns of Moree and Winton.” No hitherto-unknown plot or character details were provided, but producer Jowsey “told SBS Film the film is still in post and he hasn’t set a launch date yet. He envisions a release of 15-30 screens. The $2 million film was financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland and the ABC. Gary Hamilton’s Arclight Films has world sales rights outside Australia, and an international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September is on the cards.”  So Hugo might conceivably make another TIFF appearance following last year’s world premiere of Cloud Atlas if all goes well.

Aaron Pedersen in Mystery Road. Photo: Matt Putland

Finally, a young actor named Harry Greenwood made his Sydney Theatre Company debut in an incendiary new production titled Fury, written by Joanna Murray-Smith and costarring Sarah Peirse, Geraldine Hakewill and Robert Menzies. STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton directed. Though the production has received mixed reviews, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian— rival publications that rarely agree on anything– singled out Greenwood for praise. (The play has been compared to Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, which Hugo Weaving costarred in for Melbourne Theatre Company back in 2009.) Andrew Upton talks about the play in more detail here. Though I dislike nepotism as a rule, it will only get any actor so far, and such a prominent debut in a controversial project probably makes critics more…well… hypercritical when one has a famous pedigree and there might be suggestions of getting a leg up. The Aussie press is notoriously fond of cutting down “tall poppies”, or anyone who gets too famous for their own good. So this is impressive by any standard.

Geraldine Hakewill and Harry Greenwood in Fury; Photo: Lisa Tomasetti, the Sydney Morning Herald

New Scans to Celebrate Hugo Weaving’s Birthday

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.

I was hoping we’d have a splashy breaking story or two to make Hugo’s Birthday extra special, but he’s sensibly keeping things quiet. 😉 The one news item I have spotted lately is his name on the guest list for the Sydney premiere for the globally popular play One Man, Two Guvnors along with once and future STC costar Richard Roxburgh (according to the Sydney Morning Herald; no pictures of either have yet emerged.) If Hugo is indeed in Sydney, this would suggest that production on The Healing has either wrapped or has paused (or that Hugo is finished with his scenes). Nothing is confirmed yet, and I don’t want to read too much into one unsubstantiated news item.

But, as promised, I do have some nice Hugo Weaving interview scans (all dating from late last year). Since I try to share relatively high-res scans, all will be included under a cut. The first piece is from the print edition of DuJour, the New York based fashion magazine. They posted their feature on character actors (also featuring Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin) online last fall. I tracked down a copy of the print version just in case; it does feature the same brief (and to my mind, overly simplistic) profile piece with some quotes from Hugo (acquired from Cloud Atlas promotion press junket in Los Angeles October 2012) and a nice full-page photo, but there was a bonus in the form of another pic of Hugo from the Table of Contents. Article text is by Adam Rathe, photos by Thomas Whiteside.

After that, there’s Hugo’s portion of Empire Magazine’s mammoth Hobbit special issue from last December. It includes a promotional image of Hugo as Elrond and a promotional interview (also conducted during the Cloud Atlas press junket in LA in October.)

Note: Hugo’s comments were edited from a press junket interview in which he said fans tend to know him from THREE contexts, and of course included mention of his Australian independent films, which any fans knows are his favorite work (though of course he deeply values all three types of experience.) And I’ll repeat that I don’t think it’s OK that actors get “pigeonholed”. A few clueless people can “only” see him as Smith or Elrond, but he’s always avoided creative stagnation. But I understand, after Hugo’s remarks about not wanting to appear in Marvel sequels and such were taken out of context and distorted, that he wants people not to think he’s ungrateful for all the opportunities he’s had. His last sentence neatly qualifies everything. 🙂

Here’s the Elrond piece:

Still no definitive word on whether Elrond will appear in the Battle of Five Armies, or if Hugo will need to make additional trips to New Zealand this spring or summer. My bet would be “yes”, but we’ll have to wait and see. According to some sources, material for the third film– and reshoots for the second, if I know Peter Jackson– begin next month, but I’d keep an eye on Peter Jackson’s Facebook Page for the final word.

UPDATE: according to said Facebook page, the second film is currently being edited and “we actually start on the third next week!”… PJ also promises more footage from the  “Exclusive Online Event” available to TH: AUJ DVD buyers will be made available at the official Hobbit site soon. As usual, Warner Bros are holding everything up trying to wangle more DVD purchases. To that I say: I’ll buy the Expanded Edition you’ll be putting out before Smaug’s theatrical release. And don’t deny that’s your plan. 😉

I know some of you are wondering why I didn’t scan and post the entire Empire Hobbit special issue… well, I didn’t post it. I do try to keep my Flickr archive somewhat Hugo-centric, and I also don’t want anyone suing me for online sharing of what amounts to an entire magazine issue. To be fair, this came out several months ago, and most hardcore Ringers already have the issue (or all five different covers.) But there is other minor Hugo content scattered through a few other articles in the 60-odd pages of Hobbit preview. (The only other photo of Elrond in those 60 pages is a small copy of this image, which has already appeared widely online.)

So, in celebration of Hugo’s birthday, I’ve uploaded a special file here, which will be available for 24 hours ONLY. And if anyone wants scans of specific cast interviews, let me know and I’ll email you those bits (there are lengthy interviews with Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, shorter ones with nearly everyone else in the cast– including,yes, all 13 bloody Dwarves. The magazine differentiates them better the the movie did.)

My good friend Nyctalus (a Ringer and Hugo Weaving fan some some renown) has sent along a complementary set of scans from the German-language magazine Cinema, for Hobbit fans wer Deutsch spricht. (I am not fluent, but didn’t have much trouble getting the major points. And there are lots of photos) 😉

If you’ve seen the full Empire issue (or something similar) you basically have a translation of this. 😉

If I find time, I’ll add additional scans later; these are the major magazine scans, but I might have a few more bits on the Archibald Prizes and the SFF Archives (the latter features 50-odd years of program scans I need to look through.) 😉

Speaking of The Hobbit, though, a small portion of the online event (exclusive to buyers of An Unexpected Journey on DVD/BluRay) has been publicly shared. It includes fan Q&A, a few glimpses from The Desolation of Smaug (mostly green-screen set footage) and a question on Elf Discrimination from uber-Ringer Stephen Colbert:

Since there’s no Elrond Content I embedded the small version, but you can go here for HD.

In Other Hobbit News: there’s some lovely fan art, including a pen and ink rendering of Elrond, at Flicks and Bits.

And new Cloud Atlas reviews still continue to appear; the latest can be perused at Popcorn Panel, and The Film Lounge.

As it’s now officially April 4 in Australia, let me wish Hugo Weaving a very happy 53rd birthday, and once again offer my thanks for all the great work and inspiration– not that I expect you’d be reading this (or any online fan enthusiasm). 😉 And Happy Hugo’s Birthday to all of you guys, and thanks for reading (and, in many cases, helping out.)