There was a deluge of new material as Hugo Weaving attended Strangerland’s premiere at Sundance Friday (Jan 23), then participated in interviews and photo ops for much of Saturday. So far there hasn’t been any breaking news today, but a few more photos of yesterday’s press events continue to appear online.
There have been at least three video interviews presented by various entertainment websites: Hugo and Joseph Fiennes sat for 10-minute interviews with HuffPost Live and The Wrap yesterday afternoon. I was lucky enough to catch the live feed but could only record audio. (My video recording software is primitive and chokes on HD; I did try to record video but was unable to.) When Hugo has attended press junkets at festivals before, the websites obtaining the interviews were usually good enough to post the complete segments afterward so viewers who might not have been available for the live feed can see them. After all, that’s why the actors participate– to promote their films to as wide an audience as possible. But so far neither The Wrap nor HuffPost Live has deigned to share their interviews, even more than 24 hours after they were held. This is obnoxious, frankly, and I hope the interviews are eventually shared in complete form, as both were thoughtful and informative. I WILL share the audio if the websites don’t cooperate, but I’m still hoping they’ll hold up their end and do the right thing by us fans.
Meanwhile, here are the two videos from sites that did share their interviews. The first is Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes’ IMDb/Amazon Instant Video chat, which is short but hilarious. the second a far more in-depth interview with Nicole Kidman posted to IndieWire. Unfortunately, Kidman didn’t participate in any of the Jan 24 press sessions, which might be one reason why the sites in question aren’t sharing the material immediately. (Another might be they’re sitting on the interviews until the film is released, which would be infuriating.)
Proof Hugo is as invaluable when being silly as when being thoughtful and serious. Sundance desperately needed that Donald Duck voice. 😉
(Note: I can’t embed the Nicole Kidman interview directly to WordPress due to their infernal “whitelisting” restrictions, but it’s definitely worth following the link)
Rather perversely, we have abundant photo documentation of both “missing” interviews in addition to a wealth of new pics of the premiere and other Sundance events. I’m going to try to post these in a coherent, vaguely chronological manner (not promising anything!)… As a general rule, anything featuring Hugo in a blue shirt is from Friday, anything with him in a brown shirt is from Saturday. All are photos posted online posted since my prior entry, which included the first bunch.
Friday, January 23 Strangerland pre-premiere party, Grey Goose Lounge
The cast and crew of Strangerland (including Joseph Fiennes, Fiona Seres, Nicole Kidman, Maddison Brown, Lisa Flanagan, Hugo Weaving, Meyne Wyatt, Kim Farrant, Sean Keenan and Michael Kinirons
Both above photos: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Above two photos: Ray Tamarra/GC Images/Getty
Cast Portraits, 23 January
L to R: Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Kim Farrant, Sean Keenan and Maddison Brown
Above four photos: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Hugo Weaving Out & About At Sundance January 23 (Including some great fan photos)
“Hanging with Hugo. You never know who you will bump into at Sundance.” Alec Pedersen via Instagram
Above eight photos: Splash News/Corbis
“Hugo Weaving is a cool aussie. #Sundance” shawnqk via Instagram
“Lots of #Aussies here at #SundanceFilmFestival With #HugoWeaving at #Strangerland party” Katherine Tulich visa Instagram
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
“#hugoweaving #sundance15 #strangerland” Lucia Cornejo via Instagram
“What a fantastic day at work this was! emoji #HugoWeaving” Tinara Braham via Instagram
Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes
Above four photos: Mat Hayward/GC/Getty Images
Strangerland Red Carpet and Premiere, 23 January
Above three photos: Chris Pizzello / AP
Above five photos: Michael Hurcomb/Corbis
“After the world premiere screening of Kim Farrant’s Strangerland, Kim, cast and writers take the stage for the Q&A. #sundance” Trevor Groth via Instagram
“Great screening tonight #strangerland” Macdara Kelleher via Twitter
“#Sundance2015: #NicoleKidman #JosephFiennes #HugoWeaving #LisaFlanagan #KimFarrant at tonight’s premiere of #Strangerland” Ed Gibbs via Twitter
January 24 Interview Sessions With Joseph Fiennes
Hugo Weaving at IMDb/Amazon Instant Video interview session
With IMDb interviewer Keith Simanton
Guess which five seconds of Hugo Weaving’s Sudance Film Festival experience got the most press? 😉 Joseph Fiennes tries to outdo James Nesbitt’s valiant 2012 Hobbit red carpet efforts
Above six photos: Jerod Harris/Getty Images
Another angle on the smooch, from IMDB’s twitter feed
Weaving and Fiennes discuss Strangerland with The Wrap‘s interviewer
Both above pics: The Wrap’s Twitter feed
Photo: Tyler Straight via Instagram
A few things I remember offhand from The Wrap’s interview: Both actors were asked what they felt their “most representative” role was; Hugo said Little Fish, Joseph Shakespeare in Love. Both were also asked about the Oscars; Hugo said he doesn’t follow or pay much heed to such events. Fans often are perplexed why Hugo’s never been nominated for Oscars, but to me, the reason is simple: Hugo doesn’t kiss up to the entertainment industry or buy ads selling himself as a contender. Nor does he schmooze at industry events which aren’t explicitly about promoting a specific film. These are all things one has to do to be under consideration. Since Oscars only occasionally recognize what’s really the best work in any given yer, I’d rather Hugo be exactly as he is than ever win Oscars. He’s a breath of fresh air in an industry where actual quality is well down the list of important qualifiers for recognition.
Also: Both actors discussed Strangerland’s themes and most potent scenes at length. Both actors know the drill on working under the time and budget constraints of independent film, but both say they thrive amid the challenge. Some scenes in Strangerland had to be changed or eliminated due to financial issues and the conditions on the set. Both actors also praised Nicole Kidman’s work ethic and willingness to do whatever a role requires of her. Hugo’s character, a policeman who investigates the teenaged children of Fiennes and Kidman’s characters, wasn’t discussed at length but Hugo noted that he accepts roles on the basis of the script, without trying to imagine how he’d tackle a given role on the first read-through.
Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes arrive for an inteview with HuffPost Live, January 24
The HuffPostLive interview: Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, moderator Ricky Camilleri
Eight above photos: Tiffany Rose/Getty Images
“Talk about #Sundance chic… #JosephFiennes & #HugoWeaving dressed the part for today’s interview about their new film #Strangerland.” Photo: HuffPost Live via Instagram
Ths was the longest of the three joint interviews, and I’m most eager to see it again. The interviewer was enthusiastic about the film and stayed on-topic in discussing it. Hugo at first seemed slightly distracted, picking lint off his clothes, but really engaged and spoke eloquently once the interview was properly underway. I’ll reiterate that both The Wrap and HuffPost Live really need to post these clips unedited, as they’re a far better indicator of what this film is really like than all of the snarky reviews (I’m already thinking this festival, rife with posturing young hipsters who’d rather pretend to discover the latest thing than recognize industry vets like this cast, might have been the wrong forum to launch this particular project.)
Hugo Weaving Out and About At Sundance, 24 January
Above two photos: Fame/Flynet Pictures
Above two photos: Alo Cebalos/Getty Images
“Hugo Weaving. 2:02pm #sundance” andyundo via Instagram
“Hugo Weaving just left Park City Live in Main Street. #Sundance2015” SLC Ink via Twitter
Above two lovely portraits: John Parra via Getty Images
Above two pics: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
“Taking a selfie with Hugo Weaving was like taking a selfie with Lord Elrond, Agent Smith, and Red Skull all at once.” Brenna Empey via Twitter
As I noted earlier, the formal review posted thusfar have ranged from middling to poisonously jaded, often sounding suspiciously like the critics either decided what they thought of the film before actually seeing it, or thought it would be more formulaic (or “message-heavy”) and derided it for being more ambiguous than they’d anticipated. Though I’d be the first to concede Hugo has been in some less-than-brilliant projects over his career (most of his post-Matrix cartoon-villain roles would top that list, but a few indies such as The Tender Hook have also sold him short) I find it very hard to believe some of these critics. This is Kim Farrant’s first feature length dramatic film, but she’s made documentaries and short films for many years, and what I’ve seen of her work has been superlative.
I also distrust reviewers who need a thunderingly obvious “message” about female sexuality, aboriginal rights or whatever else they thought the film needed… I always enjoyed ambiguity and plot threads that don’t necessarily tie so neatly into the main strand that the whole thing resembles a CBS procedural (in which every line of dialogue and seemingly-random visual actually provides a clue to the outcome). I’m rather surprised critics in a festival audience would be so averse to ambiguity, but then I read about the films they enjoyed or indie darlings they fawn over… and “obvious” seems to be the trend this year. Also, there’s been an undeserved piling-on of Nicole Kidman by many critics over the “failure” of several of her recent projects, though some of those films were actually good. (Box office disappointment has nothing to do with quality… another thing I thought the hipster crowd got.) So none of the reviews so far are getting links from me. Sorry. If the film indeed turns out to be disappointing, I’ll be honest about that… I actually get more guff from other Hugo fans about NOT liking certain films than about being too uncritical. But the tone of these reviews has been so snide I find it hard to take them seriously.
Also, I’m one of a handful of fans who’s been aware of this project for a long time as the director has labored to secure backing and a cast. Hugo Weaving signed on as early as 2006, Farrant says she’s worked on the film for a dozen years. There were several cast changes (with Anthony LaPaglia and Guy Pearce up for the Joseph Fiennes role at various times) but Hugo stayed attached. that a group of jaded critics think they can smother this film at birth after such a long, hard-fought gestation does get on my nerves just a bit, especially when some of these critics have praised films or series involving family drama of various sorts which was handled in a more more generic or gimmick driven manner. (If only Farrant had filmed one scene per yar over that twelve year period, or made her characters more politically trendy…) 😉 I should note that public reception of the film (by people not paid for their opinions) has been much more even handed, and positive comments have far outweighed negative. And that the negative comments have read like bad insult comedy.
As far as objective or positive press coverage goes: The Sunday Morning Herald accentuated the positive response, including comments from Farrant and Kidman. The Sundance website gave a summary of the film’s premiere, though their social media sites have paid the film almost no attention. Nicole Kidman spoke vabout the film with Golden Globes online in addition to IndieWire.
One of the more charming festiovalgoer accounts can be read at The Film Experience, where writer Nathaniel R describes barely getting in to the Strangerland pre-screening party, and chatting with Hugo:
“Nicole was late to her own party (and stayed only briefly). I was somehow roped into taking a photo of her with a fan. Sadly that fan was not me. Awkward. She did a friendly little wave to me as she disappeared. Hugo Weaving, who plays the detective investigating the case, was chattier. He was visibly surprised to hear that Proof (1991) was my entry point into his career – that fine Australian film is way too underseen. He says the Hollywood stuff is the anomaly – what he mostly does is ‘these little Australian films that no one sees.’ He says that Nicole is a joy to work with and fearless. That she’ll basically come right out and say things like ‘I’ll do anything for the camera’ but off camera she’s a ‘dag’. He could tell I didn’t know what the word meant, so he started with the literal meaning which, much to my horror, is basically a sheep’s dingleberries! Thankfully it has a much more affectionately teasing figurative meaning, basically a ‘nerd,’and he promised that cast and crew loves her.”
“Nioole, Joseph, and Hugo. Joseph’s boots were gigantic!” Photo: Nathaniel R, The Film Experience
Proof was also the first Hugo Weaving film I saw… one reason I find the post-Matrix typecasting so irritating. I’ve known all along there was so much more to his range. Also, bringing up Hugo’s indie films (or simply asking him to sign a DVD/Blu-Ray cover for one) is a sure way to get a great conversation with him. I know that from experience. 😉
Kim Farrant described the long process of bringing Strangerland to the screen in Filmmaker Magazine.
The best industry news concerning Strangerland a Sundance has been the acquisition of a US distributor, Alchemy Pictures. Deadline broke the story, but The Wrap has a few more details, and LJ doesn’t barf when I try to link to them. (No idea what LJ has against Deadline in particular… If they started blocking all hype-based sites they should at least include The Hollywood Reporter.) 😉 The deal includes “a multi-platform release as well as a theatrical commitment in 15 U.S. markets” meaning I stand a fair chance of seeing it in a cinema… and even an outside chance of not having to pay New York parking fares (or public transport fees if I took the train.) The original Deadline piece adds “[Strangerland] got a strong response particularly for a powerful performance by Kidman. Worldview financed and Wild Bunch is selling foreign.” So the film might gain worldwide cinema distribution despite the best efforts of those critics. 😉
The Australian covers the full contingent of Australian movies at the festival. And… you can read intel on the Grey Goose pre-premiere party (and its libations) at Tipsy Diaries. Frankly I;m gonna need some Grey Goose of my own if I read any more hipster snark about this movie. 😉
I’ll keep looking for those video interviews from HuffPostLive and The Wrap; if I’m not updating Twitter tomorrow it’ll be because we’re expecting a blizzard tomorrow and could lose power. But feel free to keep checking their links (and asking where the interviews are at their social media sites, etc.) I hope they’ll be up soon.