New Healing Reviews and Hugo Weaving/Don Hany Interviews; Strangerland Wraps Filming

First off, I want to thank everyone who’s been so kind and patient as I’ve “set up shop” in the new LJ Hugonuts location and our brand new WordPress location. I’m still ironing out the kinks (particularly at WordPress, where I’m still figuring out the basics) but I now have all of this years posts at both locations. And in case anyone was wondering, content is the same at both locations. WordPress is a failsafe against further LJ outtages/problems, though I’ve noticed it provides a new set of readers and experiences, which is both exciting and terrifying. I do hope to tinker further with the WordPress layout as I find time, including the addition of a sidebar with links to other character actor sites. Over the years I’ve found that, just as Hugo Weaving’s career has been enhanced by collaboration with other talented character actors/actresses like Cate Blanchett, David Wenham, Geoffrey Rush and many others, so their fandoms are enhanced by similar cross-pollination and information-sharing. Also, since the subject has come up, I want to again note that when I quote from news articles or share photos here, I always link back to the site of origin. Hyperlinks are red at WordPress and usually blue at LJ. Often full reviews or additional information is available at those sites, and it’s my strict policy to credit all original sources.


The preliminaries being dispensed with, it’s been an exciting week as promotion for Hugo’s new film Healing is now in full swing. Several new, positive reviews have appeared, and audience response to preview screenings (which have featured actor Don Hany, director Craig Monahan and– in Sydney– Hugo himself) are nearly universally positive. Hugo definitely seems to be letting his costar Hany handle most of the promotional duties, probably because the film’s plot pivots around Hany’s character. (Also, Hugo usually prefers give other actors– particularly those in attention-getting or career-enhancing roles– the lion’s share of the spotlight when appropriate.) Hugo has participated in at least two interviews, though, and I know that a third has been conducted though not yet posted online. So far Hany has spoken to ABC Radio (RN Drive), Newstalk 4BC 1116 Brisbane, the Sydney Morning Herald (and associated online papers) –in a piece which also featured a video interview and film footage, and Brisbane News (article scan). The two radio interviews are both over ten minutes long and provide a lot of intriguing detail about Hany’s process creating the character Viktor, and of course the challenges and joys of working with raptors like Jess the eagle, his spotlight-stealing costar in the film.

Hugo and Don spoke jointly to SBS/AAP about the film; here is an excerpt with Hugo’s comments:

‘Weaving says watching Hany work with the eagles was incredible, particularly on the last day of the shoot.

In fading light, Hany had to call down one of the birds, which lined him up from 75 metres out, before swooping in to land on his arm.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic piece of work from Don, who really worked a lot with them. I just pretended I knew all about them,” he says, adding he just dealt with the eagles’ smaller cousins.

“I got the fluffy, little chirpy, little Boobook owls – the ones I could handle.”

While the birds play a big part in Healing, writer and director Craig Monahan also shows how the prisoners and Weaving’s character Matt form an offbeat surrogate family at Won Wron Correctional Centre.

Hany says their relationships are a vehicle to explore the pain men experience expressing feelings like love and loss.

So thematically, despite the fact it’s set in a jail and it’s blokes and it’s about loyalty and brotherhood and there’s a strong father-son theme, it’s actually like a bromance,” he says.

“In the landscape of films and genres, I think this one fits into warm, runny, feel-good chick flick, which runs at odds to the way it’s been marketed as a prison film, with the expectation you’re going to see some mano-a-mano, hard and fast violence.”…

Weaving says unlike a classic prison film this doesn’t take place in maximum security.

“This is a really very different world,” he says.

“There are no boundary fences. If they want to run away they can, but they’ll be picked up and put back into medium-security so they don’t.”

He says low-security jails try and get prisoners to take responsibility for themselves.

It was one of the reasons Healing caught his attention.

“(And) the whole thing comes from a true story and that really interested me,” he says.

“The sense of healing, of getting wounded inmates to heal wounded raptors and release them before they’re being released themselves.”  ‘

I personally wish Hany would refrain from using cringe-inducing terms like “bromance” and “chick-flick”, though I understand he’s trying to widen the film’s potential audience. Both actors want the audience to know that Healing isn’t a standard issue “prison movie” replete with shivvings, jailbreaks and snitches. But it’s also not a soft-focus soap opera. As Hany told Newstalk 4BC, “There aren’t many chicks in the film [Healing], but there are plenty of birds.” 😉 Critics and the media need to stop stereotyping audiences by gender anyhow– I’d much rather watch Tarantino films than sit through The Notebook. Healing should appeal to both genders and deserves to be taken seriously– most reviewers (including Variety and ) insist it steers clear of potential genre cliches.

Hugo Weaving also called in a brief interview with Radio NOVA FM on their Sunday evening Confidential program. Though NOVA has posted audio or podcasts (sometimes even video) of past interviews, including past Hugo Weaving interviews, they have inexplicably failed to do so this time around.  Since there was virtually no notice for the interview, I wasn’t on hand to roll tape (and I’ve been spoiled by ABC and other Australian stations generously archiving their interviews, even offering downloads.) Liten at Random Scribblings did grab the audio and has it archived at her site. In most cases I prefer to link directly to original sources for material, because doing otherwise could potentially get myself and any other fans I link to into trouble. (I’ve dealt with this many times over the years, which is why I’ve learned to employ such strict standards, though frankly in many cases other fans do a better job at sharing or archiving information, and would probably conduct more interesting interviews.) I am including links back to the NOVA site in hopes that they’ll eventually post the interview there, but if you don’t want to wait around for that, check it out over at RS. It is rather cursory, as pop radio interviews tend to be.  I do credit the host for bringing up Healing for a question or two after rushing headlong into The Hobbit (which any fan could tell you Hugo has no current gossip about anyhow– he filmed for a month in April 2011, was back later that year for post-production VO work, and that’s it. He wasn’t involved in last year’s pick-up shoots.) Also, I admire their restraint in not asking about Star Wars. ; ) Strangerland is also mentioned in passing.Here’s a repost of the best photo from April 24’s Sydney preview screening and Q&A, the only one Hugo has attended:

L to R:  Journalist Giles Hardie who ran the Sydney Q and A session, Don, co-writer-director Craig Monahan and Hugo Weaving.

The Don Hany Facebook page, which shared the above photo,  had correspondents at this preview screening; you can read their impressions and reactions at the event– which one called  “A mesmerising movie followed by a very enjoyable Q and A session which along with insightful information on the production of this wonderful movie, included tears, hugs and laughter”– here.

So far the only interview Xavier Samuel has done for the film appeared in the Canvas section of the Courier-Mail’s print edition on April 26. I’ll include my scan of the piece below.

Note to WordPress readers: Right-click on image then click “open in a new tab/window” for full-sized image

Apart from the odd gripe from critics like David Stratton, who seems to have wanted more prison movie cliches (and who didn’t give the film an entirely negative review) Healing has won over the critics. Here are some excerpts from reviews posted since my last entry. Some reviews share minor plot spoilers.

Margaret Pomeranz, At The Movies: “This is possibly the most sentimental prison movie I’ve ever seen. And I was so grateful. It’s really lovely. The performances are fabulous, Don Hany who’s established such a fine credibility on television productions like East West 101 and The Broken Shore, is ravaged and old here, as well as fine. Hugo Weaving has to be the most stoic and solid performer in this country, he’s just always great. He plays a man with his own issues in this. But all the performances are solid, Jane Menelaus as the wildlife expert, Tony Martin as Matt’s colleague, Justine Clark as a social worker and Anthony Hayes as a controlling inmate. But the real kudos here goes to Andrew Payne who was the bird handler on the film. He’s a star and so are the birds.”

(Note: You can see a few full scenes from the film, along with its trailer, at the At The Movies website. They do contain plot spoilers, but aren’t “shocking developments” one couldn’t infer from the trailer or interviews, which establish certain plot and character points. One clip in particular had me welling up and very eager to see the rest of the movie.)

Prison Movies: “Healing contains none of the high-octane drama of the traditional prison movie. In its place it provides an authentic picture of the minimum-security environment where there are no riots and stabbings, but where prisoners struggle to sort themselves out before returning to the community and prison officers wrestle with the competing demands of their role. It is at its most impactful when Viktor is forced to deal with inevitable setbacks, such as when he falteringly tries to reconnect with his grown-up son with whom he has had no contact for 18 years. Themes of honour and shame, family reconciliation, rehabilitation, relapse and being given a second chance are constantly woven throughout the narrative…IIt is a spectacularly shot film, with the birds competing with Viktor, Matt and Shane for centre stage, and often winning. But more importantly, it is a refreshingly different prison story, told with gentle humour and compassion, and firm in its declaration of support for second chances.”

Jason King, Salty Popcorn: “HEALING is a superb Australian film, as good as any Hollywood film, and as equal as most art house films. It is a cinematography masterpiece for its cinematography of birds, and the plot is admirable. But it is not listed on the website as getting a commercial release in the big guy’s cinemas – my mind is currently boggling?? …WEBSITE has it listed only in art house cinemas. Why why why? Shame shame shame. I loved this film…

This is a film about redemption, freedom, healing, taming and bonding. It is beautifully told and Craig Monahan weaves a tale told with an Australian heart. Characters slowly develop and they are all more than one dimension deep. It is a prison film, like no other, it does not have fences and prisoners are only locked in at night. It is more of a half way house for damaged inmates, who like their newly acquired feathery inmates, need some TLC and rehabilitation before being allowed back into the real world. Most stereotypes are missing, excluding Anthony Hayes as Warren, the wanna be bully of the prison, but his character was needed to bond the others and give darkness to the light…

The acting is all top notch. I can only remember Hany from OFFSPRING but he has had many roles, all of them apparently my mother worships. His performance is strong and he holds the camera, with one exception, no offence, but his accent did my head in. His character is Iranian/Australian but I could only hear it as a fake accent, I did not fully buy him as the Iranian he was playing. While this was mildly distracting his performance and the character allowed me to overcome it. Weaving is just Weaving, a master at all he does, but it was great seeing him so relaxed and “outback” in Australia. I really loved his character, Matt Perry. He was overcoming as many issues as the inmates and the birds and his past tragedy really allowed him to be more like the residents, feathered or not, of the prison…

I also have to mention Xavier Samuel… I am a fan….It was very different seeing him as the scared, humble and emotional wreck that he is in this role, he was nowhere near as dominant in the role but a great addition and he is the character you feel nurturing towards, he also adds some damn fine looks to the movie.  Stand out for me was Mark Leonard Winter as Shane. The young, screwed up, emotionally destroyed character who has given up on life. Winter’s portrayal of Shane is an AFI coming, it is remarkable… The cinematography by Andrew Lesnie is worth the cost of a ticket alone. His use of ‘magic hour’ is beauty inspiring and the way he films the birds, just stunning.”

There continue to be preview screenings and ticket giveaways for Healing in advance of its 8 May Australian opening; my Twitter feed (sidebar at WordPress), the Don Hany Facebook fan page and Pinnacle Films‘ Twiiter will keep you up to date on those. Don Hany and Craig Monahan are scheduled to attend Q&A’s at most of these preview shows.

Mark Leonard Winter is drawing raves for his performance in Healing, and he has another trait in common with Hugo Weaving: both will be featured in stage productions for the Sydney Theatre company later this spring. Hugo will star in Macbeth at The Sydney Theatre this July through September and Winter is featured in The Effect at The Wharf Theatre in July. Winter noted his eagerness to meet up with Hugo at that time– and threw in a plug for their film  in an STC blog profile/interview: “I’ve actually got a film coming out soon with Hugo Weaving and he’ll be working on Macbeth at the same time as I’m at STC so I’m really excited to see him again. Working with Hugo was a really important moment for me. The film’s called Healing and it comes out in May. It’s a true story about a minimum security prison and this rehabilitation program that Hugo’s character starts there. I play a scummy little prison rat. It’s a beautiful cast: Hugo, Don Hany and Xavier Samuel, who I went to high school with. Hugo says ‘STC is the best urban working environment in Australia’. That’s a quote from Hugo. You can use that.”  Winter’s comments about the soul-killing effects of trying to jump-start one’s film career in Los Angeles show he has something else in common with Hugo. 😉 As an American constantly exposed to American entertainment, I would tell both of them to keep working in Australia.

UPDATE: AAP/IB Times has just posted this lovely video featurette which includes new film footage, interviews with Hugo Weaving, Don Hany and Craig Monahan. And Hugo waxing poetic about the animals on set. 😉

Sky News shared a second video, obviously filmed at the same time as the AAP/IB Times version.  Both were shot the day the lovely AAP portraits were taken as well… seems they did a lot of advance promotion at once. Unfortunately there’s not an embed option at the moment;  I’ll see what I can do on that front when I have more time. But meanwhile fans of any of the four lead actors will want to check it out at Sky News. (Only Hany and Weaving are interviewed, but Mark Winter and Xavier Samuel get a humorous mention.  Also, Hugo shares a heartwearming and somewhat deranged Budgie Rescue story I’d never heard before.)


As I mentioned in updates of my prior entry, Strangerland seems to have wrapped initial production after a brisk month or so of filming in Broken Hill, Canowindra and Sydney. According to The Herald Sun, (Advertiser in print edition) the film’s final or climactic scene was recently shot in Broken Hill.  I have a scan of the print version of that story (below) but here are the paragraphs added to later online versions:

‘Strangerland producer Macdara Kelleher said filming the last leg of the story was particularly draining.

“It’s very intense, it’s about two kids that go missing and the effect it has on the parents who are Nicole and Joseph (Fiennes),” Kelleher said.

Kelleher said having Kidman in the role was a dream come true, given the Oscar winning actor has not filmed an Australian role using her own accent since Dead Calm in 1989.

“It’s amazing, we couldn’t ask for anyone better in terms of your ideal casting,” he said. “If you’re making an Australian movie and it has Nicole in it, it’s pretty special” ‘

In Other Hugo News

Hugo’s downplayed participation in Healing promotion suggests he’s taking a break before heading into Macbeth preparation; he told The Australian (while promoting STC’s Waiting For Godot back in November) that he planned to take a month off this May, and it’s about that time. One thing he definitely won’t be doing is costarring in the Star Wars sequel, as was finally confirmed by the official casting announcement today, though Hugo’s fans who actually pay attention have known this since February, and were skeptical about such rumors to begin with.  (Here’s another embed of Hugo and David Wenham’s video interview addressing the subject back at February’s Berlinale, where they promoted The Turning. I never get sick of watching it.)   This also includes Hugo’s most recent comments on The Hobbit, which were repeated almost verbatim for NOVA Radio, suggesting THAT REALLY IS ALL HE KNOWS. 😉

Getty Entertainment Video, via YouTube

Speaking of The Hobbit, while we wait for Peter Jackson— who keeps tight control over any REAL intel on the film– to share new production diaries or other glimpses of the final installment, Inside Film has the full text of the press release about its title change. I wish Healing was getting the same kind of press that this semantic alteration and the never-plausible Star Wars rumors have gotten. 😉

Again, thanks to everyone who’s been supportive during the site relocation. I do plan to keep adding older Hugonuts entries (in correct date order) to the WordPress blog; I will probably compile them at the LJ site too, but they’e still available to read at the old location.  And again, I apologize for any technical difficulties or delays in replying to comments or messages while trying to compile new information during this very busy time.


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