Mystery Road Opens in UK; New Hugo Weaving Interview
First off, apologies that there’s been such a gap between entries lately. Hugo Weaving continues his marathon run in Sydney Theatre Company’s audacious production of Macbeth, and reviews continue to appear as more audiences see the play, but the initial onslaught of new material has abated. Fortunately Hugo conducted a few promotional interviews for the Axiom Films UK release of his film Mystery Road; I posted the first of those, for Total Film, in the prior entry. An abbreviated version has surfaced online via Cover Media, bearing the somewhat absurd headline “Hugo Weaving Thanks Globetrotter Mom”, and removing the movie titles-as-questions gimmick. (For the record, Hugo’s family relocated many times throughout his childhood because his father’s job as a seismologist required it; his mother and two siblings were simply along for the ride. He has resided in Sydney since age 16. His father passed away a few years ago, but his mother is alive and well, and occasionally gives her own interviews and writes Letters to the Editor.) 😉
Anyhow, a second recent interview has now surfaced in The Observer; like the Total Film piece it’s tacitly meant to promote Mystery Road, but the film isn’t mentioned in the published version, which appears to be heavily edited (the questions aren’t even provided… I don’t think the interviewer called Hugo up and said “OK, we’d like a list of random observations and biographical factoids for our Things I Know feature.”) 😉 Clearly he was steered toward certain subjects and his answers truncated, as Hugo doesn’t tend to speak in soundbites. But what was published retains his typical self-effacing charm. I’m going to post the print version from The Observer, but the full interview was also posted online via The Guardian (and you can read other celebrities’ thoughts in their Things I Know archive). Typically, they picked the most potentially embarrassing or attention-getting sentence for a headline in the online version, but as least– unlike Cover Media– they didn’t make something up. And there are some new details about Hugo’s history of epilepsy, family life and interests that he hadn’t previously shared. (I’m now wondering which film forced Hugo to give up his meds– it could be Last Ride, Mystery Road or even Strangerland. I know he said in 2006 that he still took medication, though he’s been asymptomatic for over a decade.) Also, the lovely Francis Berthier portrait– taken at this year’s Berlinale– is unique to the print version. So here you go.
Looks a bit like George Carlin there, doesn’t he? Much more handsome, though, of course. 😉
For the record, Hugo has done tons of public appearances and speaking at various events over the years; in previous interviews he’s said he finds one-on-one interviews easier than big public events; he has made public appearances for various charities and (obviously) film promotion, but is reticent about being the “public face” of anything, and dislikes premieres, though he often attends those for his own films. And he served as Jury President for last year’s Sydney Film Festival, though he let the other panelists choose the prize winner against his personal inclinations. All of this meaning to say he’s somewhat shy and dislikes publicity for its own sake, but isn’t an anxiety-driven recluse. In group interviews– even those for Macbeth– he’s tended to let others dominate the conversation, but is thoughtful and articulate in giving his own impressions.
I should also emphasize that Hugo’s case of epilepsy isn’t typical (there are over a dozen basic syndromes and myriad variations within those, with many degrees of severity) so no one should stop taking their meds without consulting their doctor. Hugo apparently had a very mild form of the disease that abated over time. But, conversely, no one should go around feeling overmedicated either. So ask a medical professional you trust if you have questions in this area. Neither this column nor The Guardian’s is meant to diagnose or treat any symptom or disorder. 😉
Mystery Road has been positively received in most of its recent UK reviews; you can read the latest at Melissa Wellhem’s Blogspot, Film Reviews & News, Why Is Wilhelm Screaming, HeyUGuys, Loose Lips and Culturefly.
Axiom Films‘ amazing UK poster for Mystery Road
The UK Blu-Ray is released 27 October, with similar specs to the Australian edition; more details at Blu-Ray.com.
The US Blu-Ray for Mystety Road will be released 24 September by Well Go USA, but several DVD/Blu-Ray sites have troublingly listed a run time of “92 minutes”, a fuil half-hour short of the film’s original runtime. (The cut I saw at the Hampton’s Film Festival last fall ran 122 minutes, and I didn’t think a single one didn’t belong.) Blu-Ray News and Rock Shop Pop Forums provide other details. I’d love to hear from anyone connected to Well Go or the film itself about this running time issue, as I can’t in good conscience recommend a heavily-edited version of this film. (The UK version is uncut, by all accounts). I do love the US cover art, though.
Here are the latest reviews and fan photos; as always, I recommend clicking the links for full texts and sites of origin:
“So apparently it was Opposite Day at the Sydney Theatre tonight? #macbeth #stc #hugoagogo #theoleswitcharoo #isthisanauditoriumiseebeforeme #theatreseatingrepresentingthefeudalsystem” James William Wrong via Twitter/Instagram
Jemma Payne: ” Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth was the highlight of my year so far. I’m a huge fan of Macbeth/Macbeth in itself, so I was bound to go from the second I heard someone was doing it. The news that it’d be “inside-out” – the audience sitting on the stage, facing the empty house – only added to my excitement, but if I’m honest, also made me a bit nervous. The potential for awesomeness was matched only by that for gimmickry, and, sidling up like the third Weird Sister, the possibility that awesomeness would be neutralised in an effort to avoid gimmickry… However, it works pretty well and avoids all three pitfalls. The director, Kip Williams, uses the unique environment to set up an interesting spatiality…
In terms of relevance to the play, this spatiality is the most striking effect of the auditorium reversal. The sense of exile, scattering, and of a large kingdom (is the auditorium a kingdom ruled by an actor? Eek, the whole thing gives me that could-write-a-thesis-on-this feeling!) dovetails nicely with the play’s emphasis on the political chaos caused by the assassination of Duncan…
At various points the play is seemingly invested with some overarching directorial meaning – an effort to unify the production through an aspect of the text – at others more or less straightforwardly (though brilliantly, of course) acting the characters. This disconcerting alternation feels like it should be one or the other…
In general Mrs Macbeth (it made me think of that – Mrs Macbeth) is given much less prominence than is usual, in our culture and our stagings. The ‘Out damned spot’ scene becomes almost an intrusion on Macbeth’s agony. There is no doctor to medicalise Lady Macbeth’s anguish; even the audience is distracted enough to not quite appreciate it. The desensitisation and normalisation of her anguish harks back to the earlier focus on Scotland’s state of political and social disorder – and trauma…
But the other reason it’s a tad hard to focus at this point is that Hugo Weaving as Macbeth is so amazing. His Macbeth gradually takes on the Lady’s hysteria in a way that’s much more compelling to watch; indeed, almost to the point that you want to look away. Rather than an accumulation of mental anguish, each horror – Banquo’s ghost, Lady Macbeth’s death – strikes him anew such that there’s no recourse even to retrospection, only a visceral response to the latest happening…
The brilliant acting and interesting directions (however inconsistent in their execution) are what make this production much more than a cool new physical perspective on a big stage. Yet the development of the spatial dimension allows the unique space to be used in a focussed way, without gimmickry or the fear of it intruding upon the production… Hugo Weaving’s acting is absolutely sublime… And the seating that the other patrons were complaining about? I kind of liked it. “
Hugo greeting fans post-performance. Would love to credit photographer for this photo: please contact me if it’s yours! Recognize Sharon Cooper from earlier Instagram photo
Dean Thorne, Weekend Notes: “A powerfully dark and gripping tale about hubris, greed, and the madness of guilt; Macbeth is one of William Shakespeare’s classics and is brought to life in Sydney Theatre by a talented cast headed by the enthralling Hugo Weaving…
In hindsight, I regret not writing this article sooner as I was actually given pre-release tickets by my company (sponsoring the production) for the dress rehearsal. However, the production progressed with only one hiccup where Hugo Weaving had to ask for a prompt for one of his lines. Overall, as someone who rarely watches theatre but does love literature, I highly recommend this production. It is uniquely staged and features incredible acting talent…
The production, under director Kip Williams, is conducted in a more intimate setting. The audience will enter through a side door, with the regular seats in Sydney Theatre as the backdrop. Temporary seating has been constructed on the stage itself, and the actors live out their play right in front of the audience (I think someone in the front row even got splashed a little by the fake blood). The close proximity of the actors brings out every little detail, and enhances the acting…
You will literally feel Hugo Weaving’s presence as he begins to talk and move. He has an uncanny ability to capture your attention and never let it go as long as he is moving or talking. His charisma is truly brought to life and his emotion is palpable – he will suck you into his character and take you through the psychological journey of Macbeth until you forget that you are watching a play and it is not real life. His performance is quite simply astounding.”
“Macbeth at Sydney Theatre Company #outdamnspot #gettingmycultureon #hugoweaving #sydneytheatreco #macbeth #motherfatherdaughterdate” Amy Porter via Instagram
Peter Wilkins, Canberra Critics Circle: “[Kip] Williams is obviously cognisant of how well-known is the dramatic tale of Macbeth’s fearful fall from grace; how familiar the text with its plethora of instantly identifiable soliloqies. His production unabashedly strives to jolt his audience into disconcerted attention, thrusting them from their complacent comfort zone and challenging them to sit in judgement of the unfolding tale. Narrow and largely uncomfortable tiered seating on the mainstage rises from the reduced performance space with the vast auditorium behind. To display his own inversion of his usual directrorial and storytelling practice, Williams also inverts the audience and his actors. Already, such brazen assault upon the Mainhouse convention demands an altered perspective on the action…
Throughout, Weaving’s Macbeth is a man possessed and obsessed. Melita Jurisic’s Lady Macbeth may act the catalyst, but Weaving’s noble hero corrupts at the prophesy of the witches and the sheer power of his performance gives full credence to his total usurping of the role of protagonist, allowing Jurisic’s Lady Macbeth to play the fragile strains of neurosis from the outset and cast her fateful trajectory towards the vale of insanity. Her twisted, tormented sleepwalking soliloquy reveals a more fragmented spirit as her feet turn upon a spot upon the floor. Here is utter degradation, lending plausibility to her impending death. Hers is one of Shakepeare’s most challenging and elusive female roles and Jurisic makes it entirely her own, eliciting some sympathy for the woman whose loyalty and devotion sealed her irrevocable demise…
But it is Weaving’s Macbeth that towers above all expectation. His performance is riveting, charging inevitably towards utter degradation and defeat as he crawls in contorted agony to grasp the ankles of victorious Macduff, played with vocal authority and conviction by Kate Box. Williams’s decision to cast a mere eight actors may disturb conventional expectation, but it does create a strong ensemble, who serve Shakespeare’s simple plot with the storyteller’s art of engagement, mystery, suspense and resolution…
Sydney Theatre Company’s Macbeth is a director’s playground, allowing Williams and his company to tell a familiar morality tale afresh. The universality of Shakespeare’s commentary on immoral ambition, fate and consequence gives licence to a contemporary staging of a story that will contain for all time the eternal nature of the human condition. This production tells it as it is, simply, truthfully and with powerful allegiance to Shakespeare’s mirror up to nature. “
“Hugo Weaving (Elrond in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy & The Hobbit trilogy, Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy… #Epic” Bradley7861 via Instagram
Matthew Esterman, My Mind’s Museum: “The Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Macbeth or – to those cast and crew most aware of its suspicious tendency towards the supernatural… The Scottish Play – had of course excellent performances. It naturally let Hugo Weaving develop from a successful but flawed hero of the sword-churned battlefield into the hollow-hearted villain we see on the battlements looking down on Burnham Wood. I truly wish I could have taken my English classes to this production so they could see a masterclass in lighting, props and the rest…
What was most confronting for me… what the audience was most likely chatting about before the dark held sway… was the backdrop. For in this production the audience was seated on the stage of the mighty Sydney Theatre – about 300 of us – close enough to literally touch a scheming Lady Macbeth or the man himself as he is seduced and enchanted by the prophecies of the weird sisters…
Those seats [of the empty auditorium] hold the potential being of future audiences as much as memories of past. An immeasurable well of humanity writhing in passion with the ideas flaring from the stage. Those seats make demands of us as an audience, as a society, and as individuals. Their stare eyeless at us, silently screaming for us to exist, to think, and to imagine.”
“Hugo Weaving #v#agentsmith#elrond#hugoweaving#sydneytheatre#macbeth” Cady Liang via Instagram
Huon Hooke, Hooked on Wine: “Weaving was entrancing, a great actor at the peak of his career, and the performance – directed by rising star of Australian theatre Kip Williams – was challenging, daring and triumphant. The audience was seated on sports arena type plastic seats on the stage, facing the empty seats opposite. We entered by a small side-passage…
The device was effective, making us more like participants in the drama than spectators. There was smoke – more smoke than I’ve ever seen in a theatre! – lots of gore, of course, and the intensity sustained by the cast of the actors, who had no interval in which to catch their breath, was impressive. The scene where Banquo’s ghost appears at the dinner table was very moving, Weaving’s tortured Macbeth truly extraordinary.”
“Mmmm theatre #Macbeth #thewharf #thetheatrebarattheendofthewharf #stc” Jo Finnis via Instagram
You’ll also want to keep an eye on STC’s Twitter Feed for daily updates on any new ticket releases; the show is formally sold out through September, but in addition to Suncorp Twenty, STC has periodically released a few tickets they’d previously kept under wraps. I also note any online re-sales of Macbeth tickets I find visa my own Twitter feed.
Also: Broadsheet profiled production designer Alice Babidge. And included some nice, big preview, rehearsal and production pics. Again, my undying thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts and photos. Unless STC decides to tour this production (or change their mind about filming/simulcasting) you’re all I have.
With Australian and US releases slated for the coming months, the black comedy The Mule has snuck in a few festival screenings recently, including the New Zealand International Film Fest which garnered the following review (click links for full version). It’s next slated to screen at Fantasy Film Fest in Berlin several times 29 August through 12 September. Check their website for full details and ticketing info.
Ian, Films and More: “Angus Sampson, writer, director and star of The Mule does a convincing job of playing the passive, uncommunicative Ray and convince us that he is trying hard to avoid going to the loo for 7 days. Hugo Weaving has a ball playing Detective Croft, well outside official police procedure and John Noble is suitably creepy as the local crime boss. Georgina Haig as the lawyer plays well against Hugo Weaving’s crass macho posturing… Like The Castle, The Dish and Muriel’s Wedding; The Mule is an example of what Australian film makers do well – a funny film centred on a simple story staring ordinary people. 3.5 out of 5 Stars”
SBS highlighted The Mule in their list of anticipated Aussie films opening in coming months; they also shared this spiffing new still of Hugo Weaving’s charcter, Det. Croft:
Not a ton of recent news on the epic final installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy, The Battle of Five Armies. The director has been lying low (probably deep into the final stretch post-production and editing) since last month’s Comic Con appearance. But there will be a new Air New Zealand campaign featuring characters from the film appearing soon; I’ll note that despite the ambiguous title, this video will highligh safe air travel, not the safe keeping of Hobbits. 😉 The video itself will appear in “late October”, probably around the same time as the first full-length trailer the way things are going. 😉
Also, fans of Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and other WETA Workshop productions will want to check out their voluminous Design Studio Services archive, featuring dozens of concept art pieces connected to the trilogies and other recent films. One highlight is this illustration of Hugo Weaving as Elrond. The tag specifies An Unexpected Journey, but I don’t remember seeing that hawk, so one has to hope he’ll be included in the Battle of Five Armies. 😉
Kim Farrant’s film is currently amid second unit shoots in the Alice Springs region, according to NT News. The lead actors (Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes) aren’t involved, but the sequences being filmed include 50 local extras and depict the Special Emergency Services volunteers’ efforts to find the missing children whose disappearance forms the central mystery of the film’s plot . Cinematographer Chris Tagney has also included some photos and updates on his Twitter feed. The film is scheduled for release in “mid-2015”.
Hugonuts Photo Archive at Photobucket
I’ve finally set about to properly organize the decade (plus)’s worth of Hugo Weaving photos I’ve been storing at Photobucket since 2005 and make the properly annotated pics viewable to other fans. Though I’ve already shared these images via Hugonuts in most cases, I thought fans might like to see them without having to scroll through years of blog posts. It also gives me something to share (in addition to Flickr Print/Digital articles at that other archive) when I don’t have time or enough material for a full Hugonuts post. Also, it’s a way to properly organize and back up my photos for my own purposes– the current Photobucket archive is such a mess that it can take hours to track down a specific photo if it’s not recent. 😉 There isn’t much t the public annex just yet, but I’ll try to add new albums on a regular basis. It’s organized by year, and from there by event, film, or in some cases by photography session. You’re free to view or download anything you like, but if you reblog, PLEASE don’t decontextualize the image, ie repost without the photographer and source info. You don’t know how crazy I get when I see a heretofore unknown Hugo Weaving photo posted without ANY date, photographer or context info. It’s our responsibility as good fans to credit those who share their work (and take such great pictures of Hugo). Anyhow, here’s the link to the brand new Hugonuts Photo Archive at Photobucket. Updates to this archive will be noted via Twitter as they happen.
Speaking of the Flickr Hugo Weaving Article Archive, I’ve recently added a vintage articles about Frauds (1993) from Cinema Papers and a more recent piece on Healing from Australian Wildlife Secrets in addition to the interview pieces featured here. I’ll be adding a classic 2002 Hugo interview/Two Towers article I’ve finally gotten a physical copy of (after a dozen years of searching) but it arrived slightly faded and scrolled, so it’ll need to be flatened out before scanning and retouching. But I can’t wait to share that one.
Finally, one last fan photo, of Hugo with a few young fans at Gallery New South Wales between Macbeth performances:
“Some of our students meeting Hugo Weaving @ the Art Gallery of NSW yesterday ” Corpus Oak Flats via Twitter