Hugo Weaving prepares to be interviewed by ABC Perth at CinefestOz Photo: 720 ABC Perth via Twitter
I’m going to try and avoid too much commentary this time and just post all the great new material that’s appeared this week in conjunction with Hugo Weaving’s appearance at Cinefest Oz in Busselton, West Australia. There have been three amazing interviews, (two text, one audio) and a plethora of new photos from both fans and the press. Hugo hasn’t revealed any new projects but continues to say that he’ll be committed to focusing on Australian films over the next year; still not certain if he has already signed on for some of these or is just speaking generally; we’ll have to wait and see. But his interviews reinforce what a lovely, humble person he is and where his true priorities lie, and I’m happy to hear he continues to prefer underappreciated Australian indies to international projects that would earn him more money and fame, but in most cases wouldn’t serve the full spectrum of his talent. I also appreciate the fact that he feels conflicted about the notion of being named a “screen legend”, but was still willing to appear because it served the greater good of drawing attention to Australian film in general.
Here’s hoping that The Dressmaker becomes that elusive home-grown project that finally has an impact worldwide, and appeals to fans of both his commercial and artistic sides. The participation of Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth certainly can’t hurt, but above all I hope this finally breaks Hugo free of the franchise villain typecasting that has limited how too many international fans perceive him… and that it finally earns Jocelyn Moorhouse the respect she deserves.
Here are the three interviews Hugo’s given (so far)… I haven’t yet found any video footage of Hugo’s Cinefest appearances (including last night’s Living Legend gala) but we’ll see if any gets posted. CinefestOz has shared video footage in years past, but none so far this time around. Click on the title of interviews for hyperlinks back to source sites.
First up here’s the Soundcloud version of Hugo’s interview with Geoff Hutchinson of 720 ABC Perth for The Morning Show. You can listen to the full show, which also includes 10-minute chats with David Wenham and Sarah Snook, here. Note that the unedited program will only be available for seven days from original airing.
The West Australian
Mark Naglazas 28 August 2015
David Wenham, Sarah Snook and David Wenham at the Busselton Jetty. Photo: Courtney McAllister/Mac1Photography via The West Australian. Larger version here
Hugo Weaving is being honoured as this year’s CinefestOZ Screen Legend but the Matrix and Lord of the Rings star is not one for dwelling on his stellar career.
“The only time I look back is when I meet somebody I worked with and I’m trying to remember their name,” laughed Weaving, who is making his first visit to the South West for the five-day celebration of Australian and French cinema.
Although he is best known for his Hollywood blockbusters, he is proudest of the smaller films he has made in Australia, such as Little Fish and The Interview.
“The sad thing for me is that these films are not better known and the directors have struggled to go on to make a second or a third film,” Weaving said.
His passion for Australian movies is the reason he continues to work here, even though he could have a full-time Hollywood career and why he believes events such as CinefestOZ are vital.
CinefestOZ started on Wednesday night with the Australian premiere of Now Add Honey, a family comedy from Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler. It is one of five competing for the $100,000 Film Prize.
CinefestOz’s screen legend for 2015 on Tony Abbott, reuniting with director Jocelyn Moorhouse and why you’ve probably never seen his best work
Hugo Weaving on the Busselton boardwalk. Photograph: Courtney McAllister/Mac1Photography via The Guardian. Larger version here
Hugo Weaving likes playing faceless villains, he once told an American journalist, because it means people are less likely to recognise him in real life. It’s a good tactic but one that certainly isn’t working for him in sleepy Busselton, Western Australia, where he’s in town to be honoured with the title of “screen legend” at the city’s annual CinefestOz festival – home to Australia’s richest film prize.
Over the course of five days, Weaving is repeatedly invited up to the mic – at opening ceremonies, screenings and lunches – and regularly stopped on the street by industry peers slapping him on the back or by local cinema-goers keen to take a selfie with him.
“It’s lovely to be here and a little embarrassing, but at the same time I appreciate it,” says Weaving, folding his 6’2” (188cm) frame into a chair at Busselton’s only hipster coffee outlet. “I do feel honoured but it’s hard to say that.”
This is not luvvie dissembling. Known to the world for his roles in the Matrix, Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, this modest, intensely private man has also been the linchpin in dozens of smaller Australian independent films, as Luke Buckmaster’s rewatching film blog reminds us on a weekly basis. It’s only a shame so few people have seen them.
“I could name 10 films I’ve done where I’ve thought: what a shame they didn’t catch on,” says Weaving, singling out Rowan Woods’ dark Sydney drama Little Fish with Cate Blanchett, as well as Last Ride, Glendyn Ivin’s 2009 film about a father and son on the run across Australia. “Not because I’m in them,” he stresses, “but because they are great works and they express something about who we are.”
His latest outing, The Dressmaker, which premieres at Toronto film festival this month, does not seem destined to disappear. A classic revenge Western dressed up in Dior, it stars Kate Winslet as the titular seamstress who returns from self-imposed exodus in Europe to her small “white-sliced” hometown and its smaller-minded residents. Liam Hemsworth, Judy Davis, Barry Otto, Shane Jacobson and Sarah Snook also feature – a who’s who of established and emerging Aussie talent.
“It’s certainly an ensemble piece,” says Weaving, adding that the days when everyone was on set had a “reunion” vibe to them. The film also reunites him with director Jocelyn Moorhouse, at least professionally – the two have been friends since Moorhouse directed Weaving opposite a young Russell Crowe in her excellent 1991 film, Proof. “There is a sort of subterranean element to my relationship with Joss,” he says. “Proof was a long time ago but then there was the whole Eucalyptus saga. Or tragedy – whatever you want to call it.”
He’s referring to the 2005 Australian film that never was, adapted by Moorhouse from the Miles Franklin-winning novel by Murray Bail and set to star Nicole Kidman, Crowe and Weaving, until Fox cancelled production just three days into filming due to “creative differences” between Crowe and Moorhouse. Reports at the time suggested the differences were all Crowe’s. “The whole film going down was just really sad,” is all Weaving will say. “It was one of the greatest scripts I’ve ever read, just fantastic work from Joss. Fox ended up owning it and I don’t know whether she has ever got it back.”
The incident almost wiped Moorhouse out, Weaving adds, but she is back on confident form with The Dressmaker: “Joss has got such an eye for detail and specific sense of humour. There’s a surface expression to what she says and then something beneath that’s a little darker. I’m kind of interested in that.”
That same formulation seems to sum up Weaving’s acting – on stage, as well as screen. He has recently emerged from playing Hamm in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at Sydney Theatre Company back to back with taking STC’s award-winning Waiting for Godot to London for a run at the Barbican. A “Beckfest”, as he calls it, and he’s still not had his fill.
“I’m just re-reading his four early novellas, these absolutely beautiful little stories, all different, all difficult, and I’d love to bring to them to the stage. Put two on one night, two the next, mix and match them a bit, possibly on the same set. They are just extraordinary pieces of work. He’s exhausting and wonderful at the same time.”
Whether Weaving gets to realise this project any time soon is another matter. He has been a fixture of Sydney Theatre Company under artistic directors Andrew Upton and (until 2013) Cate Blanchett. But Upton is leaving in late 2015, to be replaced by British theatre-maker Jonathan Church. Does it feel like the end of an era for what, in its regular use of the same actors, began to feel like a rep company?
“It was a very fertile time,” says Weaving. “One thing leads to another and I loved that sense of exploration as a company, of moving forward as a unit.” He praises Upton for his openness and democracy in the rehearsal room, and Blanchett for her poise. “Cate’s extraordinary. She’s in hyperspace in terms of her profile – much more so me. But she manages to maintain her sanity, sometimes barely. I know it’s difficult.”
Is it easier to maintain a private life in Australia than in Hollywood? “Probably, says Weaving. “Possibly, a bit, yes, maybe. You’ve got to actively find that space for yourself. You’ve got to actively disappear. This industry is so vast that once you’re a part of it, you can easily lose yourself and the trade-off isn’t necessarily a great thing for your soul, you know.”
He hasn’t met Church but says “it will be a big change, a bit shift”, adding his hope that Church will nurture acting and directing talent, not just shows. It echoes Weaving’s stance on cinema. “Film is the great artistic medium and yet we don’t see it as that,” he says. “We don’t allow it to be everything it could be.”
Hugo Weaving in front of his CinefestOz 2015 screen legend plaque. Photograph: Mac1 photography Larger version here
At a meeting of Chinese and Australian film producers during CinefestOz, Screen Australia showed a promo reel in which big name Australian actors – Blanchett and Joel Edgerton among them – sung to camera the praises of those working behind it. This is more than a sell, says Weaving, citing veteran Australian producers Jan Chapman, David Jowsey and Vincent Sheehan, and cinematographers Donald McAlpine (Moulin Rouge) and Stefan Duscio, whose work on Michael Petroni’s thriller Backtrack could scoop it the festival’s $100,000 prize.
“The industry exists here,” he insists. “Just because films aren’t seen doesn’t mean they don’t exist; doesn’t mean they’re not good. That’s always the tragedy for me. I get so …”. He tails off only to pick up again. “What do we have to do to mature to the extent that we choose to watch and look at our own culture? Why don’t we do that?”
The fault doesn’t necessarily lie with Australian audiences, he says. It comes “from the top”, by which I’m guessing Weaving means government. “Yes,” he says – coupled with a US-dominated industry that makes it hard for any other market to break through internationally. “I’m not into free markets. I think they are just an excuse for destroying things, an excuse to make massive profits at the expense of cultures and people.”
Weaving has never been shy of criticising the Abbott government, voicing his concerns about ongoing cuts to the ABC in 2014, and recently adding his face to the stepped-up campaign for Australian marriage equality. “It’s less about the marriage bit for me” – Weaving and his partner since 1984, artist Katrina Greenwood, have two children but have never tied the knot – “and more about equality. Just because I don’t need to marry, doesn’t mean other people can’t.”
Conversation steers to the UK, where Weaving grew up, and its ramped-up rhetoric on immigration. “Now we’ve got Abbott lecturing the Europeans about what to do: “Turn back the boats.” You think, oh man! This is insane the world we live in.” Culturally, Weaving still feels the influence of his British upbringing. “My childhood and heritage and the stories I grew up with, well, I accept I’m not the purest Australian,” he says. “At the same time, I go back there and I don’t really feel English. We’re all a mixture of all the influences that made us.”
Should the government be protecting Australian film talent with production quotas, as some in the industry have suggested? Weaving sees a bigger picture. When it comes to policy, everything is connected, he says: “Protecting your culture, protecting your environment, protecting your land, protecting your stories, protecting who you are, protecting your thoughts – it’s all crucial.”
And he still doesn’t know what the fix is. “If it were obvious it would have been done. In terms of the skilled practitioners making the films, they are here. And they’ll keep on doing what they do in the hope that somehow, at the end, when the tap’s turned on, something comes out. At the moment, we’ve got rainfall, but it’s not coming out of the tap.”
Here are all the photos I’ve found of Hugo Weaving appearing at various screenings, events and interviews. Thanks to all the news outlets and fans who shared these! Captions below photos are from original posts by the photographers/sharers.
Behind the scenes Today Show! David Wenham, Sarah Snook & Hugo Weaving!!! @MargaretRiver @ScreenWest #eventswa Photo: CinefestOz via Twitter
“Hugo Weaving and David Wenham at #cinefestoz awesome to see these guys in WA to support Australian Cinema” Photo: Lauren Monicka via Instagram
“Couple of icons of the Australian screen #DavidWenham and #HugoWeaving take to the stage at @cinefestoz #cinefestoz ” Photo: Lucy Gibson via Twitter
“Hugo Weaving as we are about to start” Photo: ABC South West WA via Twitter
“Hugo Weaving & David Wenham commandeer the cobra! @cinefestoz #southwest #australianfilmindustry #cinefestoz.” Aravina Estate via Twitter/Facebook
“Aravina Directors lunch is underway! David Wenham & Hugo Weaving doing some Q & A’s. Simply stunning day!” Photo: CinefestOz via Instagram
“My nephew just met Hugo weaving WFT wow ” Photo: StevoVictoria via Twitter
“Hangin’ with Hugo #hugoweaving #CinefestOZ #filmfestival @ Aravina Estate” Photo: Tasha Campbell via Twitter/Instagram
“”Hugo Weaving- CinefestOZ Screen Legend!! Check out his plaque outside Orana Cinemas Busselton!” Photo: CinefestOz via Instagram
“Gold Fever models Libby & Tabs rockin’ the red carpet tonight at CinefestOz Bunbury with the very generous Hugo Weaving. Big thanks to Gemma Collins Makeup & Nadin from Niche for hair. #goldfevervintage #pinupgirlclothing #cinefestoz #cinefestoz #southwestlife #gemmacollinsmakeup #westisbest #downsouth #hollywoodglamour” Gold Fever Vintage via Instagram
“@_ashleejulian_ and #kadiaarmstrong of @cm_management #luluandvee alongside #Hellbunny with Actor #HugoWeaving @cinefestoz red carpet event! MUA: @gemmacollinsmakeupartist Hair: Nadine @nicheforhair Image via Stylo and Thankyou @goldfevervintage #redcarpet #gowns #models #glamour #southwestlife #WADesigner #aussieactor #cinefestoz ” Natalie Angus via Instagram
Hugo interviewed on the red carpet at the Living Legend gala, 29 August CinefestOz Photo: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail
Hugo on the red carpet at the Living Legend gala, 29 August CinefestOz Photo: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail
Hugo interviewed on the red carpet at the Living Legend gala, 29 August CinefestOz Photo: Busselton-Dunsborough Mail
“And then Hugo said……… When I lead in with “I love you and that’s ok… ” you know hilarity and silly buggerish will ensue. Great opening night @cinefestoz here in the beautiful southwest. Welcome to country by Josh Whiteland; smooth tune from the glamourous Local Vintage fine local bubbles followed by the Australian movie premiere of Now Add Honey. Robyn Butler you are absolute joy to watch and SO funny. What a cracking cast.” RemedyStore via Instagram
Other CinefestOz press: Sarah Snook (Hugo’s costar in The Dressmaker) was interviewed by The West Australian. And Hugo is briefly quoted in a festival-themed article at CommunityNews.com.au And there’s a full gallery of photos of the Living Legend and Awards gala at the Busselton-Dunsboriugh Mail.
We won’t have too long to wait before Hugo’s next film (and last completed project for awhile) debuts with the World Premiere Gala for The Dressmaker at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 14. While Hugo hasn’t officially confirmed is presence at the premiere, I would be very surprised if he didn’t attend, as he’s been very supportive of the film and his director in all of his recent interviews, and has always gone to TIFF in the past unless a prior commitment prevented him.
Meanwhile, the film’s social media presence has kicked into high gear recently, sharing some new photos and character profiles. Here’s their formal introduction to Hugo’s character, Sergeant Farratt:
The film has also secured British distribution and will premiere in the UK on 6 November. (The film’s IMDb page lists October and November 2015 release dates for Australia (29 Oct), New Zealand, Turkey, Argentina, Portugal, Thailand and Brazil, with the US given only a vague 2015 tentative release date.) It is also slated to screen at Korea’s Busan Film Festival in October (date TBA).There are additional articles about the film at Premier of Victoria and The Border Mail, the latter including a interview with novelist Rosalie Ham and producer Sue Maslin.
Fans will also want to check out Rosalie Ham’s television interview on Network 7’s The Daily Edition.
The Hobbit Trilogy Expanded Editions Get Theatrical Release
In advance of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy completing its Expanded Edition release on DVD/Blu-Ray this fall, all three films will be re-released in the expanded cuts to theatres in 500 locations on October 5 (An Unexpected Journey) October 7 (The Desolation of Smaug) and October 13 (The Battle of the Five Armies). This will be fans’ first opportunity to see Five Armies in long form, and, as with last year’s marathon trilogy screenings, these will feature special introductions from Jackson. Here’s the official trailer for the reissue. You can buy tickets (US locations) here. The extended cut of Battle of the Five Armies has been re-rated R for violent content, but no specifics on whether Hugo Weaving has any additional footage. I’m guessing not from early descriptions of the 20 minutes of new material, which seem to focus on the titular battle. (Also, Hugo has mentioned in interviews that filming the additional scenes for his expanded role in the film (ie the five minute rescue of Gandalf near the beginning of BOFA, also featuring Cate Blanchett and Christopher Lee) only took a few extra days.) I’d absolutely love to be wrong. I’m not sure whether my finances will permit me to indulge in the theatrical re-release, though I’d love to go. (I will be investing in the Blu-Ray eventually.) I first saw LOTR in the expanded cuts prior to Return of the King’s debut 2003, and I’ve always thought the theatrical edits of those films were inferior… but no one would argue that LOTR is generally the superior trilogy of the two and had much lengthier source material to draw from than The Hobbit.