Hugo Weaving to Head SFF 2013 Jury; New Details on Mystery Road, The Mule, Healing

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.

Apologies for the lack of updates in awhile, though things have been fairly quiet lately until last night. I’ve had a difficult month for many reasons, but I hope the worst of that is over. But we’re finally getting some welcome news on several of Hugo’s recently completed films as well as the next one to film.

Hugo has given his first media interviews in a few months in conjunction with the announcement that he will serve as president of the Sydney Film Festival jury. This year’s SFF will also feature the world premiere of Ivan Sen’s film Mystery Road, costarring Hugo, on its opening night. (The film isn’t in competition, so there’s no conflict of interest.) 😉 Hugo Weaving, Aaron Pedersen (the lead actor in Mystery Road) and Festival Director Nashen Moodley all gave video interviews to SBS during a press conference/SFF preview announcement yesterday; I can’t directly embed from SBS, but fortunately Hugo’s interview was cross-posted to YouTube by World News Australia. He discusses Mystery Road and his interest in collaborating with Ivan Sen. We also see our first glimpses of the film (which also stars Ryan Kwanten and Jack Thompson) — presumably the footage is from the trailer.

You can also see Aaron Pedersen’s interview on YouTube.

I’m sorting through dozens of articles about the SFF and 2013 festival announcement; many repeat the same essential information or the SFF press release. SBS had the only video interview with Hugo (so far) but he spoke to several reporters. All of the interviews were about Mystery Road and the upcoming festival, which runs June 5-16.  The premiere gala for Mystery Road is on June 5; tickets are on sale via SFF’s website if you’re in the Sydney area, but you should act fast. According to SFF, most of the main cast and Ivan Sen, who “wrote, directed, shot, edited and scored” the film (take that, Tom Tykwer!) will be in attendance.

***

AAP/Local Today angled for exclusive details about the film, but Hugo couldn’t help them, as he hasn’t seen the finished product or spoken to the director recently: “My experience of working with [Ivan Sen] was over a two week period and I haven’t seen him since, so I can’t tell you a great deal about it…Obviously, I know what the story is and I loved working with him.

“It’s a thriller, so for him (Sen) it’s a bit of a departure I think, because there’s a genre element to it, which you wouldn’t normally associate with his work,”

Hugo said that he wanted to work with Sen based on his admiration of the director’s two prior films, Beneath Clouds and Toomelah: “I thought this guy’s so fantastic. He’s such an unheralded Australian filmmaker…He really has a wonderful eye and a fantastic sort of sensibility that I just wanted to work with him.”

He also shared his enthusiasm about heading the SFF jury for the first time after serving as a patron for many years, and discussed what the filmgoing experience means to him: “”The films that have really stuck with me are films that have in some way broken some ground, where I haven’t seen a film like that before…Films that transport you, that pop your belief in things you think you know… Films always excited me. Ever since I was a little kid, when I was 13 or 14 and saw the first films that really opened my eyes to what the adult world was.”

[The feeling of watching a truly great film is] “deeply thrilling…like going on an exploration into some fantastic landscape, where you’re constantly seeing animals and birds and flowers that you’ve never seen before, you’re hearing sounds you’ve never heard before and you’re the first people to go there. That’s what a great film to me is.”***

Hugo also spoke to FilmInk about the SFF gig: ““Sydney Film Festival is something that I go to anyway every year so it’s a real pleasure for me… I’m hoping being on the jury will just be much the same, only that I’ll get to meet other interesting filmmakers from around the world and talk to them about the films. I’m looking forward to it. I wish it started tomorrow!”

On Mystery Road and working with Ivan Sen: “Beneath Clouds is one of my favourite Australian films. I thought that was such an astonishing and beautiful film, and showed a filmmaker with such an exquisite eye and sense of timing. Then I saw Toomelah at Sydney Film Festival a couple of years ago, and I thought that film was so unheralded by the industry here. He’s an extraordinary filmmaker and I was very keen to work with him, and I actually put out feelers! Lo and behold, the script for Mystery Road came back and it was a real thrill.

“It was quite funny [on set] because [Ivan had] never really worked with that many [professional] actors before. On set he realised, ‘Oh, actors can do all these things and I don’t have to do it for them’. He was excited by having new collaborators and the weight partly lifted from his shoulders.”

You can read additional overviews of the Sydney Film Festival and the films showcased at The Hollywood Reporter (which really, really needs to find a new photo of Hugo!), Music News AustraliaScreen Daily, The Daily Telegraph, The Australian, Twitch Film, AFP/ChannelNewsAsia, news.com.au, The Newcastle Herald and Empire Online, which features the festival’s trailer.

AAP, SBS and other sources quote festival director Nashen Moodley’s thoughts on Weaving’s selection as jury president and on Mystery Road: “We feel very privileged that the great Australian actor Hugo Weaving will serve as the Jury President… I’m a big fan of his work, but I must say that I think his performance in Mystery Road is pretty special. It’s not something I could’ve expected. [The film] has conventions of the western, the thriller, elements of murder, mystery, but [Sen] used that and made a thrilling exciting film that takes a look at the social political context


Hugo Weaving at yesterday’s SFF Announcent; Photo: @Cardinalspin via Twitter
[“
Hugo Weaving rockin’ double denim like a boss”]


Aaron Pedersen and Hugo Weaving at the SFF 2013 Launch, 8 May 2013. Photo: Richard Milnes via Demotix (plus next 3)


L to R: Aaron Pedersen, SFF Festival Director Nadheen Moodley, SFF Board Chairman Chris Freeland, Hugo Weaving

I’ll see what I can do about cleaning these up when I have more time. 😉

\
Aaron Pedersen and Hugo Weaving Photo: Tracey Nearmy/AAP (plus next 5)

I’ll add more photos if they become available

AFP quotes Hugo as adding the following about the SFF opportunity: “”Having keenly attended the SFF for many years, always with the eyes of a somewhat excited and hungry child, it will be a great pleasure and honour for me to take up the position of jury president.” Longterm fans know that Hugo is almost always in attendance at the annual festival unless work prevents him; organizers had wanted him to serve in this role last year, but the New York engagement of Uncle Vanya prevented it. (Can’t complain too much about that.) 😉 In a recent entry I posted a selection of photos from SFF’s new online archive of some of Hugo’s prior appearances, but he’s been photographed there many times as a patron, judge, promoting his own films and enjoying the work of others. This year promises to feature all of the above. More details will be added as I continue research, but fans will want to keep tabs on SFF’s website and Twitter feed.

QWeekend posted a lavish piece on the Winton area where Mystery Road was filmed last year. The truncated online version is here, but I’ve posted the full article (which has a film still from Mystery Road) at Flickr: Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4, Page 5. No quotes from Hugo this time, but lovely photos of the area and interviews with locals who featured as extras. (One of whom “got [his] head blown off”–fictionally– in the film.)  😉

Finally, those concerned that Hugo only filmed “two weeks” on Mystery Road shouldn’t worry it’s a minor role: he only filmed one week on Oranges and Sunshine, and certainly made an impression in that. (Australian productions are much more efficient than American big-budget films. Few film for more than a month.)

***
The Turning

Hugo’s other major film with a festival slot this summer will be The Turning, based on Tim Winton’s collection of thematically linked short stories. It will debut at The Melbourne International Film Festival. Hugo is featured in a segment entitled “The Commission”, directed by friend and frequent costar David Wenham. Cate Blanchett also directed part of the film. According to The Australian, the festival edit of the film runs three hours “with an intermission” and features 17 segments. Earlier reports suggested that the film might be edited down for commercial release with the deleted sequences restored for the DVD/BluRay issue, but this suggests that plan was wisely scrapped. Level K is the international distributor. (Their blurb: “Seventeen extraordinary Australian directors respond to the hauntingly beautiful collection of short stories by Tim Winton. Spanning 30 years, these stories revolve around the turning points in the lives of the people of the coastal town of Angelus. Linking and overlapping, the stories create a stunning portrait of a small coastal community in Western Australia. As befits the title of the film, the stories are preoccupied with the extraordinary turning points in ordinary people’s lives. Relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken, and lives change direction forever.”) MIFF runs July 25-August 11; the specific lineup hasn’t yet been announced, nor have the specifics on The Turning’s cinematic release.

***
The Mule Updates

We still don’t have a lot of information on Hugo’s next project to film, the crime drama (or, according to some reports, black comedy) The Mule. There’s still a lot of confusion over whether Hugo plays the title role or merely “a lead role”, which actually might turn out to be a prominent supporting role (see also: Mystery Road… and probably Healing). But we do know John Noble (Lord of the Rings, Fringe) has signed to costar, which is very good news. Noble tends to be cast as brainy and somewhat…eccentric authority figures, but we haven’t been told much about his role in this production. Probably won’t be a mad scientist, though. (Unless they want to use a Breaking Bad angle on drug production, heh heh…) Twitch Film announced Noble’s casting, and they seem to think Hugo indeed will be playing the drug mule in question. But they also announced, earlier, that Leigh Whannell wrote that role for himself. So… we still don’t know. I really hope there’s creative casting, regardless of who plays what. I’d also humbly suggest a change in title for the film, as there are a dozen other movies out there already going by The Mule, most of which are about drug smugglers. (A few are about burros.) 😉 The most recent was a direct-to-video thriller staring Sharon Stone.

The Australian actress Georgina Haig is also in the cast of The Mule (role also unknown at this time), but announced some interesting details via Twitter: “Start rehearsals this week on Aussie film the Mule, delighted to find out the wonderful John Noble is also cast!” This was posted April 28, so it looks like the film is already in production, and might film this summer rather than “at the end of the year” as previously announced. Presumably Hugo will film this after the Sydney Film Festival, but he might already be working on it. If so, it’s another Beard Role… I’m beginning to think I prefer those. 😉

***
Healing

Midland Express posted a short piece on Hugo’s film Healing (costarring Don Hany), confirming filming is indeed complete. A detailed list of locations is also provided. Healing is now in post-production and will open in Australia at the beginning of next year, possibly after festival appearances this fall.

THIS JUST IN… On top of everything else going on today, we now have our first look at the teaser poster for Healing, featuring an evocative pose with Don Hany and a therapy eagle:


Courtesy Healing’s Facebook page, which credits Ben King “for the great shot and photoshop voodoo…”

In Other Hugo News (Hobbit, Archibald Prize, Key Man):

Richard Armitage mentioned that he enjoyed working with Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchett in the Hobbit films (though he never met Blanchett on set) in an AAP/Local Today interview promoting the DVD release of An Unexpected Journey: ““[Hugo and I kind of became chum…I think he really enjoyed that transformation and revisiting Elrond, what, 12 years later was kind of amusing for him… Thorin and Galadriel (Blanchett’s character) don’t meet but when I watched the movie and I heard Galadriel say Thorin’s name and it sent a chill down my spine. It felt so special that she was saying my name, because her character is just so ethereal and a goddess.” He also volunteered that The Battle of Five Armies is scheduled to shoot later this year and that he anticipated involve ten weeks of filming, but he couldn’t share specifics on who else might be filming more scenes, or when.

 I’ve posted several video interviews with artist Del Kathryn Barton, who’s striking portrait of Hugo Weaving won this year’s Archibald Prize… but this more recent one is by far the best. Barton not only shares details of her working and conceptual process, but some fascinating drafts and alternate poses of Hugo, including one where he had tree limbs for arms(!). Though I agree with the artist’s final choice as the best concept, I loved seeing these “roads not taken”, which feature some great expressions from the subject.


via ArtGallery NSW on YouTube

Speaking of Hugo Weaving/David Wenham collaborations, both actors apparently have cameos in a 5 minute Australian short film entitled No Budget, which was written and directed by  Christopher Stollery and will screen at The St Kilda Film Festival on 24 May. I can’t find any other information on the film, and don’t know to what extent these actors actually appear, but I imagine word will get out once the short has been screened. Maybe it’ll get posted online at some point. (Hugo’s short films have maybe a 50-60% success rate of being posted online or being released on DVD… meaning there are some I still haven’t seen. But some I have are marvelous above and beyond his contributions, so this bears following up on once more info is available.)

Finally, the long-awaited but never-properly distributed 70s gangster yarn The Key Man has finally surfaced in odd quadrants of the internet, suggesting it may yet see the light of day in the US, probably via VOD. Some background, for fans who don’t know the whole, strange story: Hugo Weaving filmed The Key Man for director Peter Himmelstein in 2006, in North Carolina. It was a US indie film costarring Brian Cox, Judy Greer and Jack Davenport, and the plot centered on Davenport’s character being drawn into a scam concocted by gangsters played by Weaving and Cox. After years in limbo, it finally surfaced at the 2011 SXSW Festival in Austin, where it got mixed reviews, though Hugo drew mostly raves. But it’s never been commercially released in any major markets.

This week, I finally found the film available for streaming on websites in the Middle East/North Africa and in New Zealand. According to IMDb, it’s also been released (mostly on VOD or cable TV) in Poland, The Czech Republic, Hungary and The Netherlands. The film has an international distributor, but this is one of the strangest patterns of international distribution I’ve ever seen. I hope this presages a legal, decent-quality DVD or VOD in the US, UK, Australia… you know, countries where the actors are from and the film was made. 😉


Jack Daveport, Hugo Weaving in The Key Man

I’ve seen dozens of links to bootlegged versions, most of which are either poor quality (based on the screencaps shown), “shot with an iPod camera” (by the pirate-site’s admission) or a different film with the same title.  I can’t vouch for any of these sites because they’re a great way to download viruses, malware or adware, and because no one seems to have a quality copy… if this was one of Hugo’s obscure, decades-only miniseries or guest-shots which stands no chance of a legal DVD issue anywhere, and had no clear copyright provenance, I might have a different opinion. But clearly there ARE legal, quality copies available for viewing in some parts of the world, so I recommend patience. And bugging Netflix and the film’s distributors (Occupant Films, K5 Independent) couldn’t hurt.  After I passed on the minimal info I had about legal VOD distribution, Elisa at Random Scribblings passed on the info and was contacted by someone with a Polish-dubbed bootleg of the film, which she screencapped for the website. Since I haven’t seen the film properly, I don’t really want it spoiled through a “flip-book” image-only version… I love screencaps after I’ve seen a film, but not before. And since I’ve been patient this long, I’ll continue to wait for the distributors to get a clue and make this film available legally to the fans who’ve been waiting so long to see it.

Finally, there are reviews and DVD/BluRay extras details about the Cloud Atlas US DVD from Washington Post and SciFiMafia. The US DVD finally comes out May 14.

Again, sorry it’s taken so long to compile an entry, though most of this is breaking news. I hope I have more time for updates and additional details over the coming days. And thanks in particular to my friends Abigail, Yvette and @itanglish for lending an ear/providing encouragement in recent weeks. It’s so good to have news worth reporting. 😉

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