Tag Archives: Angus Sampson

The Dressmaker Wraps Production (incl Hugo Weaving set photos); BOFA Promo Material; #TheMuleLive

Apologies for the gap between entries… as you know, this is a very busy time of year.

The Battle of the Five Armies

I did attend a marathon screening of all three Hobbit films on 15 December but will withhold my full review until the end of the moth, as there are still a few regions whee The Battle of the Five Armies hasn’t opened (including Australia), and many reviewers have already been too loose with the spoilers. I will say that yes, these films don’t hold a candle to Lord of The Rings. But I had a fun time seeing tis trilogy and– some early technical difficulties aside– it was an effortlessly fun way to spend a day. I was never bored. And I’ll dare say that these three films go down easier seen at at once than with a year in between. (Peter Jackson’s reliance on cliffhangers this time around is legitimate grounds for criticism; the Lord of the Rings films each ended on a decisive note with one story element completed as the overall arc continued.) Interestingly, An Unexpected Journey improves with a second viewng while The Desolation of Smaug deteriorates a bit– not only due to the distinct lack of Hugo Weaving in the second film.)

Yes, the material probably would’ve fit just fine in two films rather than three. But I’m reminded of the Beatles’ White Album conundrum: most fans say it could have easily been edited down to one great album instead of two “merely” good ones, but I’ve yet to see two Beatles fans agree completely on WHAT they’d cut. Similarly, reviews critical of BOFA (and The Hobbit trilogy in general) seem divided on whether the extravagant action sequences are in need of trimming or the plotting nuances between. I’m in the former camp. In fact, I’d have enjoyed a longer BOFA if the some character-based material was added to make the transitions between action setpieces a bit less jarring. My favorite parts of the film– and the trilogy– are the small character moments. And the immense talent of most of the actors on hand makes even the underwritten material (and too-swift transitions) work.

Hugo Weaving and Peter Jackson prep for the Dol Guldur rescue scene in BOFA. HD version of this photo here.

If you’re only watching these films to see Hugo Weaving (or Cate Blanchett, or Christopher Lee) you might be disappointed. Their sequence battling Nazgul at Dol Guldur (to resolve the Gandalf’s capture cliffhanger in DOS) comes early in the film and is over within minutes. Much of Hugo’s footage appears to be a stunt double or CG, and he only has about three lines. He has little to do- less than the other White Council members– once he makes the grand entrance seen in all the trailers and TV ads. I would argue the scene is necessary and gives the titular battle greater stakes than the novel as originally written, as it ties this conflict to the larger one in LOTR. While Tolkien might not have staged this specific scene per se, he did explicitly attempt to link The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings through supplemental material, and at one point toyed with the notion of rewriting The Hobbit as a darker tale more in tune with LOTR. While his work is more lyrical and less action-driven than Peter Jackson’s take, I would argue no great liberties are taken. Jackson fills in gaps left undefined rather than violating the spirit of Tolkien’s work. I’m not an overly devout fan of either the director or the writer– both have provided great entertainment at various times in my life, and both have flaws.

I’ll say no more about plot specifics until the film is open everywhere, as I can’t get too far into describing what worked (or didn’t) about the film without spoilers.  As far as recommending the film, I would wholeheartedly to anyone who likes what they’ve seen so far. If you hated the first two parts, though, or simply aren’t into these sorts of films, BOFA won’t magically change your mind. It’s completely of a piece with the first two. I actually understand (and in some cases, agree with) various criticism of the film and trilogy. But I have enough affection for the films and characters that even glaring flaws don’t matter as much as they might in films featuring less talented actors and filmmakers.

Here are some of the promo videos for The Battle of the Five Armies that have appeared since my last entry:

The Hobbit trilogy B-Roll footage (Hugo at 1.50) ; Screen Slam via YouTube

Memories of Middle Earth behind-the-scenes featurette w/actor interviews; Hugo Weaving interview snippet at 1.22 Warner Bros via YouTube

Completing Middle Earth (six film overview) featurette; Warner Bros via YouTube

17 Years in the Making Hobbit/LOTR overview; Hugo footage at 1.39, 2.00, 2.49, and 5.40; Warner Bros via YouTube

I’m not even going to attempt to compile all the reviews of the film; many are very cynical. But some of the more balanced, well-written ones appear at Empire Online, Entertainment Focus, Victoria Advocate, The Radio Times, Flickering Myth (1), The Boston Globe, The Scotsman, TIME, Flickering Myth (2), ABS/CBN, Examiner.com, The Daily News Online and MoviePilot.

Additional feature stories about Battle of the Five Armies and The Hobbit trilogy have appeared at The Guardian, Films on Wax (Howard Shore interview about the film’s score), Digital Spy, The New York Daily News,

You can watch Evangeline Lilly’s gonzo promo interview on Conan at TeamCoco.com and see a behind-the-scenes glimpse of uber-fan Stephen Colbert having the ultimate cosplay fun prepping for his Entertainment Weekly Hobbit cover story at EW Online. (Yes, I have the print magazine (Bilbo cover) and will try to have scans up at Flickr soon.) There’s an Ian McKellen photo quiz at TwitchFilm.  And a Cate Blanchett interview which notes The Hobbit in passing at The Daily Telegraph.

…And I’ve added three Hobbit-themed print articles from The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express to my Flickr Archive. No Hugo Weaving interviews per se in these, but a two feature images of him.

The Mule

I hope some of you were able to participate in #TheMuleLive event back on December 7. (I know several of my Twitter pals were along for the ride).  I rented a copy of the film and tweeted along, and found it an indecent amount of fun.  Though it would be impossible to share everything contributed by the fans, filmmakers (Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell and several film crew members) and actors (John Noble, Sampson and Whannell, Georgina Haig, Ewen Leslie and Chris Pang), here are some highlights, including wonderful behind-the-scenes images and script pages:

Hugo Weaving, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Ewen Leslie during pre-production   Photo: Stefan Duscio (The Mule’s cinematographer) via Twitter

The cast at an early table-read of the script (Hugo is far down on the left)   Photo: Stefan Duscio (The Mule’s cinematographer) via Twitter

Angus Sampson. Hugo Weaving, Ewen Leslie,   on set   Photo: Stefan Duscio (The Mule’s cinematographer) via Twitter

Hugo Weaving on set Photo: Stefan Duscio (The Mule’s cinematographer) via Twitter

Here are script pages from some of Hugo’s (Det Croft’s) funniest scenes, as shared by Angus Sampson. Original screenplay by Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell and Jaime Browne.

“There are tongs for that!” (Croft vs Ziggy)

THAT scene…

“Bit more choke and that would’ve started”

The Infamous Balloon Scene

The Perils of Australian Lamb

Some other great production images:

Fiona Rees-Jones’ make-up kit for the #HugoWeaving #TheMuleLive” The Mule Movie via Twitter

The film’s storyboards  Photo: Stefan Duscio via Twitter

Assembling scenes in the editing room   Photo: Stefan Duscio via Twitter

You can read interviews with Angus Sampson and info about the Live Tweet event at The Sydney Morning Herald, Subculture Entertainment, The West Australian, FilmInk, Quickflix (places The Mule in the Top 10 Australian Films of 2014),

The latest reviews of The Mule (which remain largey positive) can be read at Better Than IMDb, How To Win Game Shows, International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics, Eureka Street, Thy Reviewer, Broadsheet

And if you missed any earlier promo videos or video interviews for The Mule, Angus Sampson has assembled a Playlist (which includes a few of his and Hugo Weaving’s press interviews) on YouTube.

The Dressmaker

Of course, Hugo Weaving was unable to participate in #TheMuleLive and in most of the Battle of the Five Armies promotion because he’s been busy filming The Dressmaker for director Jocelyn Moorhouse at locations in Victoria. Production formally wrapped a few days ago (December 14), but not before several more photos of Hugo Weaving and other cast members (Kate Winslet and Liam Hemsworth chief among them) appeared online via Instagram and several online papers in the Wimmera area, where the last block of filming took place.

The production team announced filming completion via producer Sue Maslin’s second eNews announcement. Click on the link for the full text; here are a few highlights:

“On Friday the 17th of October 2014, we rolled cameras on The Dressmaker at Docklands Studios Melbourne. Eight weeks later we called “Cut!” for the very last time finishing up in Horsham, Victoria. ..

Kate Winslet has been our ideal ‘Tilly’: beautiful, strong, quick-witted, and even quicker with her period Singer sewing machine. The mother-daughter relationship between our ‘Molly’, Judy Davis, and Tilly is authentic, moving and a joy to watch. To see these two great actresses working together on the screen has been electric and often hilarious… Liam Hemsworth brings loads of natural charm and warmth to ‘Teddy’ and it’s no wonder Tilly falls for this likeable and devastatingly handsome rogue. And Hugo Weaving is perfect as our debonair ‘Sergeant Farrat’. Add to this Sacha Horler as the formidable ‘Una’ who attempts to rival Tilly and Sarah Snook, a revelation as ‘Gertrude’ who bowls everyone over in her exquisite gowns designed by Marion Boyce. We are indebted to our entire cast, of which there are so many, who have added such depth and character to the townspeople of Dungatar.”

The Wimmera Mail-Times featured several great photos of cast members (including Hugo) enjoying down-time at local haunt The Exchange Hotel , posing with fans. (Captions are from original news article).

“Nathalie Henry and Sharon McDonald meet stars Gyton Grantley and Hugo Weaving at the Exchange Hotel in Horsham on Tuesday night [9 December].”

“Annie Brack meets Hugo Weaving on Tuesday night.”

“Katherine Coorey and friends get to meet some of The Dressmaker stars at the Exchange.”

“The Dressmaker extra Paige Schmidt, left, and Horsham’s Loucas Vettos, right, with Caroline Goodall, Hugo Weaving, Kerry Fox, Sarah Snook and Shane Jacobson outside The Exchange on Wednesday night.”

All four above photos: The Wimmera Mail-Times; they have additional photos of the set and other cast members in their online gallery.

Here are some additional fan photos (with original captions) that have appeared on Instagram:

So I met Hugo Weaving on the set of ‘The Dressmaker’ the other day. You always think that whenever or if-ever you’ll meet your absolute idol then you’ll have an intelligent conversation, but take it from me, you end up looking like a bumbling idiot asking for an autograph when the opportunity arises. #hugoweaving #agentsmith #lordelrond #thedressmaker #onset #metgodtoday”
Photo: Charles Thompson via Instagram

My beautiful mum met Hugo Weaving, @gytongrantley and other cast members of The Dressmaker on Wednesday night! So lucky. After spending the arvo on set and then meeting these guys that evening – I certainly am jealous! #thedressmaker #hugoweaving #horsham”  Photo: Schmenz via Instagram

“Got to meet one of the best Australian actors ever!! #HugoWeaving” Ella Schorback via Instagram

JustJared posted a number of photos of cast members between scenes on set; most are of Kate Winslet, Liam Hemsworth and Winslet’s husband Ned Rocknroll, but there was one great pic of Hugo with Kate Winslet. (Featuring his infamous fire-carbonized glasses– yes, apparently Hugo needs bifocals now. Guess we’re all gettin’ old together.) 😉

Hugo Weaving, Kate Winslet and a Dressmaker crew member on the film’s Melbourne set   Photo: JustJared; no specific photographer credit given; enlargement here

An additional JustJared gallery doesn’t feature Hugo, but shares some amazing shots of Kate Winslet in a dazzling red dress and Liam Hemsworth in rugby gear.

The Wimmera Mail-Times posted several related stories (and loads of set pics featuring Winslet, Hemsworth and many costumes extras). You can find the links to all here. Hugo Weaving is mentioned but there are no interviews or photos in these pieces.

The film’s production-wrap announcement was covered by Variety, Screen Daily, The Courier-Mail, The Daily Mail, Inside Film, Weekly Times Now and Digital Spy. All featured the film’s first official stil, featuring Kate Winslet (below). Jocelyn Moorhouse is quoted as calling the film “’Unforgiven’ with a sewing machine” and adds “Working with Kate, Judy, Liam and Hugo was wonderful. A great crew, brilliant supporting cast and beautiful locations, costume and design helped make the shoot a delight.”  The Lowdown Under included a number of set photos, including some from the film’s Facebook page.

Kate Winslet as Tilly in The Dressmaker   Film still via Empire on Twitter

In Other Hugo Weaving News

You can now stream Mystery Road on Netflix (in the US) and Healing on QuickFlix (Australia.) Healing is also available on DVD in Australia (region 4) only as of December 3; a US release and European release are tentatively scheduled for next year, but no specifics have been announced, nor any info on whether this would be a cinema run or direct-to-video/streaming/DVD/Blu-Ray. I assume that Starz/Encore will eventually broadcast the film on cable in the US.

Strangerland To Open Sundance; The Mule Live-Tweet Event 7 Dec; Pics from Dressmaker Set

A lot of new Hugo News to report; I’ll try to fit most of it in a single entry, but can’t promise anything as I’m on call for work tonight. I will definitely be avoiding certain items that unfairly overshadowed all the positive news online, though I plan to write a separate entry on that subject later. (That’d be Hugo’s interviews with The Hollywood Reporter and I Am Rogue, which were given to support The Mule, but got more attention for reigniting rumors Hugo might appear in a franchise he’s repeatedly says he finished with, and mostly reiterated he has little interest in returning to. For now I’ll just say that if Marvel wanted Hugo for the third Cap go-round, they’d most certainly have gotten in touch with him by now. He says no one has, and I believe him. Also, Hugo will be starring in Endgame for the STC when production on that film begins, which none of the over-eager rumor-mongers seems to have checked. So I’m fairly certain this closes the door regarding that particular film. I hope Hugo never goes back on his word and is done with lame franchise villain roles. And I’l reserve extended comment for another entry.)


First, some genuinely exciting news: Hugo Weaving’s film Strangerland, costarring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes, will indeed have its world premiere at next February’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Some Italian Nicole Kidman fansites first hinted this might happen last month, and now the major trades have confirmed the news. Not only that, but the film will be featured on Sundance’s Opening Day program, and will be included in the World  Dramatic Cinematic Features competition with eleven other films. You can read the announcement at Screen Australia, Variety, Screen Daily, IndieWire and Sundance Institute’s blog. ; most reports feature only these details, the film’s official synopsis (below) and the familiar post-dust storm image of Kidman and Fiennes. Unfortunately the teaser I shared a few weeks ago turned out to be an unofficial leak (which would explain the Cyrillic in the YouTube title) 😉 so it’s been taken down. The film’s marketers promise an “official” trailer soon… frankly the leaked teaser was pretty damn good in my opinion, so they should just use that, then debut an official longer trailer closer to the opening.

Official Synopsis: Strangerland (Australia-Ireland) (Director: Kim Farrant, Screenwriters: Fiona Seres, Michael Kinirons) — When Catherine and Matthew Parker’s two teenage kids disappear into the remote Australian desert, the couple’s relationship is pushed to the brink as they confront the mystery of their children’s fate. Cast: Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving, Lisa Flanagan, Meyne Wyatt, Maddison Brown.”

Director Kim Farrant’s reaction (as quoted by Screen Australia): “We are thrilled that Strangerland will have its world premiere at one of the top festivals in the world. It’s such an honour to be in (World Dramatic) competition with such a fabulous line up of films and I’m especially excited to be going to Sundance (as I’ve always wanted to go) with my debut dramatic feature. Buying my snow boots now!” Farrant told Inside Film, “Sundance is where everything started with my shorts, so to be able to go back there with my first feature is very exciting. So many of my filmmaking heroes have come through the festival and to be included amongst that history is such an honour. Also, I really like snow.”

Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman, as seen in the “unofficial” teaser

The Mule

Though Hugo Weaving has returned to the Melbourne, Victoria area to continue filming The Dressmaker (which I’ll cover later this entry) his promotional interviews for The Mule continue to appear. I’ll re-post the relevant sections of the Hollywood Reporter and I Am Rogue interviews below, as a sort of corrective to all those entertainment sites which ONLY posted the Hollywood franchise bits which were a minor postscript to those interviews.

Hollywood Reporter Hugo Weaving Interview Excerpts:

What struck you about The Mule?

I really loved the script, and I laughed a lot. I thought it was a very smart, intelligent piece. It’s a terrific character. It presents him one way, but like all the characters in the film, he’s not black and white. They are all pretty gray. They are all harboring secrets and are a little compromised.

What preparation did you do for this role?

I jumped back into 1983 [when the film is set]. There were a number of little things I watched. There was a great TV series at the time in Australia called The Scales of Justice, which was a look at — for want of a better word — the whole justice industry, from a young cop graduating and becoming a policeman, right up until major corruption in the high court. It was made in 1983, and even though it wasn’t a documentary, it sort of took me back to the creative world of the day.

There was a cop both [costar] Ewen (Leslie) and I met up with, and we had a couple of hours to talk about various legalities and various interview transgressions and things you could or couldn’t do with a witness and holding them for a certain amount of time.

The Matrix has one of the all-time great interrogation scenes. Did that work affect your work here?

I didn’t draw a parallel with Smith, but it’s true. They both want something from somebody else. But I guess that’s true of a lot of relationships, really. If you look at any relationship on film, there’s often one dominant and one slightly recessive character, and then perhaps the tables turn. But we all want something from other people from time to time.

What do you like best about playing Croft?

I think the interesting thing about this film is that Croft presents as an old school cop with a pretty questionable interview technique, and he’s obviously a sexist pig, but you enjoy watching him, and I certainly enjoyed playing him. He’s very prepared to bend the rules, but ultimately he ends up at least having a line he doesn’t cross, unlike the majority of the other characters.

CJ: Yes, the interviewer can’t even stay on topic when discussing the film Hugo is promoting. Only someone with the mind of a two-year-old would possibly think Agent Smith somehow informs all of Hugo’s other films. 😉  The Interview (1998) would be a closer parallel, but I doubt anyone working for the Hollywood Reporter has seen it.

I Am Rogue Hugo Weaving Interview Excerpts

IAR: To begin with, how did you get involved with The Mule? Did you previously know actor/co-director/co-writer Angus Sampson, or were you just sent the script and then decided that you wanted you be part of the project?

Hugo Weaving: I had not met Angus before. I had the script sent to me. I read it, loved it and responded very quickly. I first met Angus when we had a read-through for part of the rehearsals. I knew a number of the other actors before. I had worked with Noni Hazlehurst, Geoff Morrell, John Noble and Ewen Leslie. Most of the actors I had worked with. I had never met Leigh (Whannell), Angus or Tony Mahony, the other co-director. I just responded to what I thought was a very smart and funny script. I loved the character. I thought he was great. It presented a type, but actually there was room for a specific person or character in there. I thought I would enjoy it enormously, and I did.

At first, it’s not really clear if your character has any morals, but then it becomes very apparent that he does have his own specific moral code. Can you talk about that?

Weaving: He is what I would call an old-school cop. If you think about 1983, the actual federal police force had just been set up at the time. So it would have been largely a state police force. There was a lot of corruption in Australian police around the time. But having said all of that, if you think about the circumstances as we are watching them in the film, we know that this guy has heroin in his stomach. The federal police pick him up and they are pretty sure he has it as well. He refuses an examination and they then take him. They are by law allowed to hold him for a short period of time. They do keep going down the legal avenues to extend that period of time because they are pretty sure he will not be able to hold on very long and have to produce the evidence. He is lying to them. They know he has got it in him. Croft bends the rules at all times in order to catch his man. That is definitely not considered the sort of thing you should do anymore. There are many more protections for suspects, which is a good thing. But back then this would have been absolutely standard procedure in a way. My character used a more physical interrogation technique, which does not necessarily happen anymore. But at the same time Croft, although he bends the rules, he will not break the rules. He will not break the law. The Australian police had a history of bending rules and maybe even breaking them to get someone because they know he is guilty. Croft would do anything to secure what he thinks is justice for the situation. But he would not go as far as killing someone. At the end of the film, he actually forms this unspoken alliance with someone who is the last person you would expect him to do that with. Croft has an old-school attitude and actually possesses old-school virtues. I always liked that about him.

Obviously you are no stranger to working with co-directors after collaborating with the Wachowskis on The Matrix trilogy. But what was it like working with two directors on The Mule, when one of them is acting in scenes opposite you?

Weaving: It was great actually, a situation that could have been full of major problems. You’ve got Tony, who was employed by Angus earlier to be the director on a set while he is acting. That could have been an incredible imposition of someone when you are trying to direct but that did not happen. Tony is very smart and has a great eye. He is very calm and a very easy-going, intelligent man. Angus did not push their weight around at all. There was a good open discussion about seeing any difference of opinion, which is talked about in a very easy way. It was an incredibly relaxed set I was incredibly impressed by the way in which they managed that. Tony was very much the director on the floor. Angus was just one of the actors, and so was Leigh, who was also a co-writer and executive producer. They both managed to say what they wanted, as did all of the other actors. It was a set full of permission at the time and camaraderie. It was very well managed.


Again with the freakin’ Matrix questions! Hugo completed work on those films twelve YEARS ago! As for rumors of possible Matrix sequels (which the I Am Rogue interviewer gullbly brought up) I’ve heard such rumors since 2005. There’s never been an ounce of truth to any of them. I do think Hugo will probably work with the Wachowskis again, but hope this time they give him a character of more complexity than they did in Cloud Atlas. They are a large part of the reason Hugo is so relentlessly stereotyped in the US media, and it would be nice if they helped remedy that. Tarantino gave Christoph Waltz a  complex non-villain to play in Django Unchained, after all. It CAN be done. 😉

But my favorite new interview was posted at The Dallas Examiner, which managed to stay on-topic and get some in-depth answers. Here’s their full transcript:

“Interview with ‘The Mule’ star Hugo Weaving
November 29, 2014

8:47 AM MST by Bobby Blakey

Few actors have had the impact of Hugo Weaving, who has been tearing his way through the film industry for years. When he made his memorable turn as Agent Smith in the Matrix films he was forever cemented as one of the greatest villains in film history, but that was just the beginning. Since he has not only been a part of numerous block buster franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Transformers and Captain America, but continues to deliver plenty of powerful smaller performances as well. His latest, The Mule is one of those films, but he turns in yet another brilliant performance as expected. I had the chance to sit down with Mr. Weaving to discuss this great film and how they brought this story to life.

Hugo Weaving at the Sydney Theatre Co prepping for Macbeth this past July   Photo: Tim Hunter

Bobby: How did you first get involved with The Mule?

Hugo: They sent me the script; I read it, loved it and said yes. That was the beginning of it and it wasn’t that much longer before I met up with Angus Sampson and Tony Mahony and just started talking about it a little bit, then we were in rehearsal and then shooting it. It was a pretty seamless sort of intro to it. I just responded to the script which I thought was a very smart take on something that we know in Australia very well that has an interesting mix of comedy and there was some thriller aspects to it as well I suppose. I just thought it was a really smart script that made me laugh a lot and I didn’t necessarily know what was going to happen in the next scene so I kept turning the pages and thought it was just a very good piece of writing.

Bobby: At this point in your career you have created so many iconic characters, how much input to you get to create these characters?

Hugo: I just ran with the script really and they were very excited to have all of the actors and it was a very collaborative filmmaking experience. I felt like I had absolute license to go with it, but I was just responding to what I saw on the page. I certainly wasn’t held back at all and felt very free to do what felt right. There was a lot of give and take and a hugely enjoyable experience. We were doing improv scenes every now and then with people just throwing in ideas and we had the flexibility to do just that. There are a number of little grabs in scenes that we came up with while we were shooting so it was very good.

Bobby: Mentioning improve, one of my favorite scenes to the film is the balloon scene. Between the balloon itself and the look on your face was that written that way or did you develop that yourself?

Hugo: I don’t actually remember if that scene was written or not, but I think the balloon might have been and then we just did it, but there were a lot of things like that such as the people playing golf, there were a lot of things that we just rolled with on that day. We got into a groove quite quickly in day 1 and 2 in the way we were filming. We enjoyed each other’s company and there was a lot of permission granted to people and didn’t seem to be a lot of obstruction besides the obvious one with the character of Angus. It was very enjoyable.

Ewen Leslie, Angus Sampson and Hugo Weaving in The Mule    Photo: The Mule Twitter feed

Bobby: As an actor a lot of time you feed off the sets you are working on as well. In this film the majority of the film is in this hotel room. Is there a different approach as an actor that you have to take when you only have limited space to feed off of?

Hugo: That’s the premise of the film in that these two cops take this guy who refuses to have an x-ray or examination so they just take him to this room. The great thing was that on day one of the shoot we were on this set that was a slightly enlarged hotel room set to get the camera in there, but it was a beautiful piece of art direction and production design. Being in that room for the first couple of weeks was great because we were able to really concentrate on what was at the heart of this film and jump straight in there and get on with the business of it. The confines of the room sort of set the tone for the whole piece because essentially that is what the film is about. The hero is inactive and there is nothing they can do but to hold on and everyone else is inactive and all they can do is wait and that is the whole film. The entire thing is character based and who is going to outwit who, everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else, everyone is concealing something from everyone else and it all has something to do with the machinations of character and that is the strength of the film.

Bobby: There is a fairly violent shower scene that you are involved in, is that something that is choreographed out or was it more of a guideline and they just let you guys loose?

Hugo: We definitely had a stunt coordinator that day. Angus did injure himself when he first fell in the shower, but that is another story. In terms of the interaction between him and me, you have a naked body in a slippery shower so you have got to be careful. If you just work through the logical sequence of what happens to that person after they turn the hot taps on and they fall to the floor and then the other person how does the other person get them out? Then you just go through it step by step, he picks him up and then let’s go of him and they fall. So we just walked through the sequence just from one move to the next and then did it a few times without doing it a hundred percent so by the time you come to do it you know the sequence. Then you can jump in and do the whole thing in one and then know you will be going back to do other sections of it and as long as you have got each section of the grab. Once you have that it can be cut together in such a way and indeed it is because you are jumping from one character to the other. If you doing everything properly and communicate well you can actual shoot these things very quickly and effectively.

Photo: The Mule Twitter feed

Bobby: The tone of this film is a real dark comedy, but there are a lot of scenes that involve Angus’ butt. I know it is a professional set, but how hard is it that to deal with and stay in character?

Hugo: I think we all enjoyed the script and laughed a lot. There was always a really great mix and that is why we were interested in doing it. I remember talking a lot about the scene where he has produced the evidence and re-swallowed it, how much do you want to see, how do you shoot, how do you cover a scene like that? That audience needs to see something to know there are no condoms full of heroin there, so there were some real interesting and amusing discussions on how to shoot something like that. Less is more in some instances but on the other hand you do need to see it to some extent. The shooting of that scene there were lots of gags and laughs but essentially there didn’t seem to be a problem with character because each of them is very driven with what they are trying to get so by the time you talk through the shoot on how you are going to shoot it and then doing it, it just seemed true to the character. It was a very easy set to work on.

Bobby: It’s a great movie and that is probably one of the grossest scenes that show almost nothing.

Hugo: Yeah, I love when he is re-swallowing them that it is literally gag making. When you see it with a big audience it is really funny, because the audible reaction of people gagging is fabulous. At the same time you are thrilled for the hapless hero character because he has hit upon this brilliant way of beating the cops, but it involves the most repulsive concept imaginable. So it’s a great scene.

Bobby: Exactly, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and wish you all the best.

Hugo: My pleasure.”

Here, again, are a few previously-shared videos in You-Tube/embed-friendly formats:

Hugo Weaving/Angus Sampson Big Pond Movies video interview (via YouTube)

Hugo Weaving & Angus Sampson Triple M Grill Radio interview (video is static shot seen of Wea\bving and Sampson w/the Triple M Grill Team.)
Brenden Wood via YouTube

You can read the latest reviews of The Mule at Under The Gun, Concrete Playground and Weekend Notes. The film also made Buzzfeed’s list of the Top Australian Films of 2014. Unfortunately, due to some asinine rules about theatrical screening, The Mule wasn’t eligible for the AACTAS. (Hugo’s other 2014 film Healing was also snubbed in all but the Sore category.) Which sort of makes the AACTAs irrelevant this year. 😉

Angus Sampson spoke to The Saturday Paper and SYS Podcast. Leigh Whannell discussed the film with Movies.com and Fangoria. Speaking of Fangoria, anyone seen any photos that were taken of the New York Fangoria screening of The Mule? I saw several people taking pics, including some of the Australian Delegation, but haven’t found any pics online yet. No, wasn’t able to take my own. The curse of not having a cellphone that takes pictures. 😉

And I’ll again remind you that there will be a live-tweet event for the film on Twitter this Sunday (Saturday night for US fans) This handy graphic from the Mule’s always-entertaining Twitter feed includes all of the relevant time zone info:

No, unfortunately it doesn’t look like Hugo will be available (though I’d love there to be a last-minute surprise announcement– he’d have to guest on someone else’s Twitter account.)

And here are a few more of The MuleMovie’s Twitter feed’s recent Croft-centric virtual ads:

The infamous Croft Vs Ziggy Buffet Incident 😉

The Dressmaker

Though we’ve yet to see any official film stills or images of the main cast (apart from old head shots on The Dressmaker’s Pinterest), several interesting fan photos from the set and Melbourne have appeared over the past several days.

Here’s a first glimpse of Hugo in character on the film’s dance hall set. (according to an eyewitness, his Sargeant Farrat and Kate Winslet’s Tilly share a dance)

Photo: Heidi Dee via Twitter/Instagram

Here’s another photo from the set, this time with a fan.   Photo: Monty Fan via Twitter (she posts set photos regularly)

Hugo Weaving with fan Ginny at a Melbourne art gallery (He still wears that Nature Theater of Oklahoma T-shirt!)  Photo: Ginny (@virginiaarhh) via Twitter/Instagram

The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies

A few important new previews from Peter Jackson’s final Tolkien opus have appeared as we enter “the final stretch” before the film’s mid-December wide opening. I’m a bit reluctant to share the first, as it probably consists of about half of Hugo Weaving’s footage from the film, if his interview comments are any indication. At least it mostly focuses on Elrond’s dramatic entrance (and Christopher Lee’s Saruman’s) rather than the meat of the action sequence sure to follow. This and the glimpses of Cate Blanchett seen in TV ads probably ARE the bulk of her role, as she only spent 8 days total on set. (Weaving spent three weeks, but a lot of that was for Elrond’s scenes in the first film, the only part of his story that’s in Tolkien’s book.)

So– this is definitely spoiler territory, but a lot of fans are eating it up anyhow. You can read a frame-by-frame discussion of the scene at Movie Pilot. And there are three other preview clips featuring Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Bilbo (Martin Freeman), Thranduil (Lee Pace) and Bard (Luke Evans)– and some gnarly Goblin Catapults– at Flickering Myth.

Comic Book Movie.com via YouTube

Less spoilery, but just as much fun, is this Hugo Weaving behind the scenes interview about the Hobbit films. Though it’s explicitly labeled promotion for The Battle of The Five Armies, it’s suspiciously similar to Hugo’s set interview for An Unexpected Journey two years ago, and doesn’t divulge any intel about the current film. Hugo does discuss what it’s like to work with Peter Jackson, and the basics about “creating the world” of the films.

Screen Slam via YouTube

Unfortunately, Hugo was unable to appear at the film’s London premiere on December 1 due to his work commitment on The Dressmaker. (His fellow White Council members were also absent.) I suspect Hugo won’t be heavily involved in promotion of this film, as he only has a small role in it. As he told I Am Rogue:  “It was just another return to middle earth. We went over there [in April, 2011] to do The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It had just been announced that the one film was now going to be two. We got over there to do one, and they gave us the script for the second one. I really only had a couple of scenes to be perfectly honest. The shooting for me was over in a relatively short period of time. Now it seems like a while ago. When I left, I was told that it would again be a trilogy. I then did not know whether my scenes, which were originally in the second film, would be in the third Hobbit film. I assumed they would be once I saw the second movie and noticed I wasn’t in it. So that is what I have pent up in me to be honest. I am looking forward very much to seeing the final film.”

Peter Jackson HAS confirmed this will be his final Tolkien film (to The Independent.ie), which is probably for the best. (Some fans are salivating over the notion of seeing The Silmarillion filmed, but it’s an exttremely dry read that defies easy screen translation. Though PJ and co could probably do it justice, Tolkien’s heirs remain obstinate about not allowing him access to the rights.) The Dallas Observer posted an early review which was mixed but, in my opinion, very fair. I see a lot of the same virtues and flaws in these films. Here’s what critic Alan Scherstuhl said about The White Council’s scene: “A haunted-city showdown between shivery ghost knights and the staff-and-hair-whipping superteam of Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Saruman (Christopher Lee) proves almost as grand [as Smaug’s opening shot]. It’s sad that Hollywood filmmaking is so often about attempting to put the dreams of children onto our screens, but shouldn’t it still be notable when someone actually manages it?”

Hugo Weaving with Peter Jackson on the BOFA set

My Review of The Mule Plus New Hugo Weaving Interviews/Promotion of The Film

After a lot of planning, followed by a lot of frenetic last-minute scrambling around when some initial plans fell through, I was able to make the Fangoria special screening of The Mule at Village Cinema in New York City a couple of days ago. It was a crazy, unique and utterly rewarding evening despite some logistics difficulties (finding a working parking garage within a mile of the theater chief among them.) Though the film is being touted and promoted on the basis of its direct-to-VOD model (and has met with immediate success doing so– more on which later) I found the experience of watching the film in a cinema with a lively, engaged and sometimes mischievious audience much more fascinating than any home-streaming experience could ever be.

The Experience

I had initially planned to head into NYC with my boyfriend, who’s also a big movie nerd (we met over that shared interest, and our somewhat-skewed taste in films), and who’s had the patience of a saint about a certain fandom of mine. But he was unable to make it at the last minute. I’m not in a great place financially at the moment and needed someone to step in at the last minute to help cover gas and parking money. The screening was free as advertised, but going in to New York NEVER is. (In the end, I coulda bought the HD iTunes version of The Mule twice for the parking fees alone…) perversely, my mother (yes, my mother), who knew I was going, had watched some free preview material online and read a review comparing the film to the Coen brothers. I tried my best to dissuade her, being as graphic as possible about The Mule’s content and, indeed, the “event” its entire plot hinges on. While Mum isn’t a prude, an in addition to enjoying the Coens has seen Hugo’s films Last Ride and Mystery Road. But I thought this one might be a bridge too far, and kept trying to find other activities, cafes, bookstores, etc she might avail herself of once she fled the theater in disgust. But she insisted on going and I couldn’t find anyone else so late in the game.

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson on Sunrise at 7  More screencaps and Mule promo stills here

Despite some additional delays involving chickens and retrieving some family members from the airport (which I won’t get into) we were able to make good time on the drive into NY. The rain early that day had tapered off, and it was a pleasant, unseasonably warm evening. I ended up being glad we’d left a lot of extra travel time because the parking situation, as mentioned before, was deplorable; two garages within a block of the cinema (both of which advertised online) were boarded up, another two a bit further out were full. (There was some sort of busy street fare going on, which complicated navigation and parking.) We finally found a garage about a twenty minute walk away. Which took full advantage of the situation by charging what the market would bear, ie whatever the hell they felt like. 😉

The line had started forming at the theater when we finally finished our walk. I’d had no idea what to expect as far as the movie crowd was concerned, and thought it might be an odd assortment of gore-hounds and “midnight movie” enthusiasts given the content and the magazine emceeing the event. While there were definitely some of those, I instead found myself amid the most eclectic and possibly the most diverse crowd I’d ever been in, in terms of age, race, fashion sense and taste– but all up for what the movie was going to deal them. The setup was very informal– there was a designated waiting area outside, but none of the ID checks I’d been led to expect, nor, alas, any promo material typically handed out at these sorts of events. The film wasn’t even listed on the marquee outside. (There was a poster in the lobby under Coming Soon– I hope this means there might be a formal theatrical run in NYC, but I don’t know.)

Love that coincidental caption 😉

One group of women seated in front of us immediately brought out a giant stash of mini chocolate candy bars and began eating them. I wasn’t sure if they hadn’t gotten the brief about the film’s content or if they had and were having a bit of demented fun. There were several Australians in the crowd, but only actor Ewen Leslie on hand from the film’s cast. (Looking very differently than he does in the film.) He briefly said a few words of introduction, and apologised for “that scene”, noted he was happy to attend the film’s “New York premiere” and how much he’d enjoyed working on the project and seeing it reach fruition. (There was no Q&A session afterward, alas.)  Then the film began to screen.

Unfortunately, it was evident from the beginning that we would be experiencing technical difficulties with the audio. Several scenes played out with overdriven soundtrack and background score but barely-audible (and sometimes completely inaudible) dialogue.  Fortunatelt they stopped the film after an entire scene (the one where Gavin drops Ray at his mother’s house, and tries to bribe him to go to Thailand) elapsed with no audible dialogue whatsoever. The film was restarted (they said they’d “try a different print”), meaning Ray’s humiliating cavity search at the airport unfolded again… but the sound problem continued, and this time this scene, too, was dialogue free. (Motivating an audience member to shout out, “Now you’re doing it for no reason, buddy!”, and others to blow raspberries when he assured the position.) Fortunately some additional tinkering was done which made the full audio soundtrack audible, if not perfectly balanced.

Aussie fans at a Melbourne preview screening, 23 November  Photo: Angus Sampson via Twitter

The audience was engaged and “participatory” from the start.  We seemed to have a member of Mr. Phuk and his uncle seated behind us, offering a running commentary in both English and Thai. (He never interrupted dialogue and was often amusing.) It wasn’t a sellout crowd but it often sounded like one, with howls of laughter and, at times, gasps of disbelief or disgust in all the right places. Say what you will about the comfort and convenience (and control over the sound quality) of streaming a movie at home– it wouldn’t have been this much fun. Everyone was on Ray’s side, everyone thought Det. Croft completely appalling (but loved him anyway) and everyone was thrilled at the final outcome and giddily chatting on the sidewalk after the screening let out. I have no issues with VOD and watch the vast majority of films that way or on Cable these days. The nearest arthouse is a 40-minute drive from my house and a night at the movies can run anything from $10 for a matinee to $40 for a premiere screening with 3D/IMAX trimmings and I don’t have the time or budget to do that regularly. the Mule’s NYC screening was both “free” and (once parking and gas costs added in) very expensive, but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. I wish I could see movies that way all the time. But I’m glad I have this crazy fandom which prompts me to make the effort for a select few of them.

Oh, and I haven’t found any official merch for the film, so I made my own. This shirt seems to have been made for this transfer, no? 😉

My Review of The Mule

Before I start, I’d like to say that most of my quibbles about the film aren’t so much about content as about the fact I knew way too much about the film before I saw it, so I’d advise anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film to go ahead and do so before reading this or any detailed review. While I won’t divulge the specifics about the film’s ending or how it comes about, I will be dropping major spoilers about certain characters, along with other hints obvious enough to allow intelligent fans to guess who/what I mean.  One drawback of being in the Hugo fandom is that in immersing myself wholeheartedly in so much promotional material before a film comes out,  I often find the films themselves less surprising than I otherwise might have. I’m unfortunately very good at guessing plot twists and character arcs from the mildest hints in trailers or reviews, and too often trailers or reviews are anything but subtle in the first place. So I’ve made a habit of not watching film trailers or reading reviews of films I’m curious about in all but Hugo fandom cases.

“All but Hugo fandom cases”… aye, there’s the rub. 😉 And I probably won’t quit eagerly devouring promo material for his films (or novels they’re based on, in some cases) despite this tradeoff. It’s far too much fun. But I do know some fans who religiously avoid trailers and all other promo material before seeing a film, and I don’t blame them one bit. In the case of The Mule, most of the film’s funniest lines were in the preview scenes or scene compilations, particularly the “Sweary Supercut”. And several major plot points and turnarounds were also divulged in interviews, with Hugo Weaving himself playing spoiler-monkey on several occasions in discussing the appeal of his character, sometimes quoting revelatory lines from the film in doing so. I don’t fault him too much, and to some extent he’s always been like this– unable to play coy or play salesmanship games when he’d much rather honestly discuss why he loves working on certain films. It’s often an endearing trait. In this case, it robbed me some of this visceral thrill of seeing Croft  [spoiler alert] convincingly turn from an obstructive bully to someone– if not exactly heroic– than far more nuanced and moral than we’d previously been led to expect. It was thrilling anyway, of course, but I would’ve loved for it to have been an utter surprise too. Before the promotional push for this film began in earnest, I was resigned to seeing Hugo’s character either being killed or scatologically humiliated in some way. 😉 Well, the latter does happen, but most of the other cop characters get it far worse than his does, and it’s not the final twist of the plot. And he does deserve that bit of accidental payback. 😉

Anyhow, on to the review. Yes, I know I’ve delayed far too long already. Most people reading this will not only be familiar with the film’s plot, but will have read dozens of variations on the synopsis by this point, so I’ll try to be brief. Again, don’t read this unless you’ve already seen the film.

The story concerns Ray (Angus Sampson), a chronically underestimated, passive mama’s boy who is manipulated into being a drug mule by a seedy pal (Leigh Whannel’s Gavin) , and by circumstances placing his family in danger. His stepfather John, portrayed by Geoff Morrell, owes massive gambling debts to Pat Shepherd (John Noble), the same drug lord for whom Gavin is importing illicit cargo. One of Pat’s hired goons, a Lithuanian heavy named Ziggy, shows up at Ray’s family’s house and explicitly threatens his mother if John doesn’t pay up. Even after reluctantly agreeing to help Gavin smuggle a kilo of heroin from Thailand (Pat has secretly arranged the trip under the guise of a reward for Ray and Gavin’s lackluster football club) Ray tries to welsh on the deal, fearing– wisely, as it turns out– that things could go seriously wrong. Gavin then lies that his own life is in danger, and forces Ray to ingest the full lot of heroin condoms instead of taking half himself as initially promised.

Ray almost makes it through customs despite being bathed in flop sweat and semi-incoherent in answering the customs officials back in Australia, but a silly lie (and a teammates inability to be helpful at a key moment) land him in the predicament we see in all the film’s trailers and posters. Detectives Croft (Hugo Weaving) and Paris (Ewen Leslie) then arrive to escort Ray into “protective custody” (a seedy airport hotel room) until he confesses, produces the heroin (or submits to an X-Ray which will reveal its presence) or goes 7 days without producing it. Ray, still fearing for his friend’s life and family’s well-being, decides to hold out as long as he can. From there, Ray endures mockery and abuse from the cops, threats from Pat and his lackeys (including Gavin) and mostly-ineffectual assistance from his lawyer (Georgina Haig) who is more interested in showing up the leering Croft and beating “the system” than in Ray’s guilt or innocence.  Ray must thus figure his own way out of danger and try to outwit his captors, the criminals who want their drugs, and his well-meaning but unhelpful family members.

Pretty much everyone in the cast does a marvelous job inhabiting their characters, none of whom are particularly virtuous but all compellingly human. If anything, I wish more time could have been spent with the supporting cast– I would’ve liked to know more about the dynamic of Croft and Paris’s relationship before this particular event, given how it is tested later. I don’t fault what’s in the film, I just wish it were a bit longer. I guess I’ve been spoiled by some of the better US and UK series in recent years, which have the luxury of devoting ample time developing even peripheral characters. In the Mule, some characters (particularly Jasmine, and Pat’s crew) are barely sketched out. I fully understand that the logic in trimming this sort of film to 90 minutes, but I would’ve loved more “character moments” which don’t necessarily advance the plot, but give us greater understanding of the participants. I would argue with some critics that the backstory involving Ray and Gavin’s trip to Thailand is indeed necessary to the plot, because we need to understand how Ray’s misguided but genuine friendship with Gavin plays into his decision to endure so much misery– which in turn leads to a key, humanizing moment for Gavin which galvanizes what happens through the film’s final scenes.

Angus Sampson is amazing and empathetic as Ray, who is not stupid so much as infuriatingly passive, and has a poor judgment in friends (which he seems to have inherited from his mother (Noni Hazelhurst), given her pathetic excuse for a second husband.) Leigh Whannell’s Gavin is the worst sort of weasel, but not entirely without human compassion. The scene where he has to decide whether or not he’s going to kill his best friend is one of the film’s most poignant. The fact that both men are ultimately willing to sacrifice so much for each other makes this more than an extended bodily function joke. And Sampson makes you feel every stomach cramp and indignity along with Ray. You’re never not on his side.

Hugo Weaving is exactly as great as everyone says he is– Tom Croft is completely appalling on one level, but Weaving adds profoundly human, endearing little nuances from the beginning which suggest a man of deep insecurities underneath the brutish swagger. Jasmine’s barbed retorts to his constant, sexist patter come off as juvenile “I know you are, but what am I?” playground insults, but Croft at times seems genuinely hurt by them, and lost in the changing, more equitable power dynamic the era (the early 80s, in this cases) is ushering in. In this way he’s a lot like the Gene Hunt character on the UK series Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes– particularly the latter, in which Gene has to cope with a new female coworker who’s not taking any of his bullshit. Croft is very much a man of his time, but that time is nearly up, and he seems to know it.

Ewen Leslie’s Paris is initially more poised, concerned and polite, playing the “good cop” role effectively, but he also has another side to him, and his own set of prejudices and entitlements which could make him more dangerous than Croft. This is the sort of role Hugo often played early in his career, and Leslie does an excellent job, combining the right amount of subtlety and menace.  Again, I’d have loved more scenes of just Croft and Paris, if only to know how much the former is on the latter. Does Paris revere Croft an act out of a mistaken sense of rule-bending camaraderie, or does he regard Croft as a laughable relic whose bluster takes the heat off Paris’s less obvious machinations? I’ll look for hints in subsequent viewings of the film, but I do hope there are a few deleted scenes featuring those two.

Most of the plot is grounded– very convincingly– in a grungy period realism. There’s no “Hey look! It’s the 80s!” exaggeration in the settings or costumes, no too-on-the-nose K-Tel soundtrack featuring Men at Work or Duran Duran. Croft tellingly looks like a holdover from the 70s with his hair, porn-star ‘stache and wardrobe choices, and most characters effectively convey a working class desperation. I found Ray’s eventual means of finding a way out convincing, exhilarating and cleverly hinted at in a few early scenes in the film. There are a few lapses which a longer run-time might have eased– for example, a major character is killed off a little more than midway through the film, then never referenced again, despite being central before that moment. the womens’ roles are a bit too rote and reactionary, despite fine work from Haig and Hazelhurst. My mother is dying to know what happened to Ziggy. I suspect he’s holed up in the same safe-house as Huell from Breaking Bad. 😉 But the fact we keep wondering about what would be peripheral characters or minor details in a lesser film demonstrates how fully-realized The Mule is.

You’ll notice I haven’t yet said a word about what most critics and viewers can’t seem to stop talking about, ie “that scene” and the “brown comedy” upon which the plot hinges. Make no mistake, this isn’t a film for the squeamish. But I wan’t nearly as bothered by the whole thing as I thought I might be. The idea of what Ray has to do at one point is more disgusting than what actually appears onscreen as he does so, and the film’s few fleeting glimpses of the contents of Ray’s bowels are dimly-lit and look suspiciously like chocolate. This isn’t Human Centipede-style extremity for the sake of extremity– it’s no worse than the toilet-diving hijinks in Danny Boyle’s films Trainspotting, even Slumdog Millionaire. (A best picture winner, need I remind you.) Mature viewers should be able to handle it, and immature ones will probably be disappointed it didn’t go further. Oh, and my mother was laughing hysterically during “that scene” and the laxative scene.

The film’s final few scenes are an exhilarating rush, and the final outcome positive if ambiguous. I’ve joked that I’d love to see a Better Call Saul-style TV spin-off featuring The Further Adventures of Tom Croft. 😉 And it’s up to the viewer to guess how Ray proceeds from here. I don’t see him becoming the new local drug kingpin, though there does seem to be an opening in that market. After this film and Mystery Road, I’m going to be mighty suspicious about what’s lurking in my old CRT-monitor TV every time it glitches up. 😉

More Mule Promotion, Reviews and Interviews

I know this entry is already too long, so I’ll try to be quick about this. There’sv a nice new Hugo Weaving interview– in which he discusses The Mule and why he prefers independent film– at The Quiet Earth. I’ll embed the text below. As I mentioned before, Hugo tends to drop plot spoilers about the film, so if you haven’t seen The Mule, be careful in reading his description of his favorite scene. (it is a corker, though. Hugo’s acting is a model of internet conflict, with his actions keeping up a front while his eyes betray anxiety)

Hugo Weaving Talks Indie Films & Crime Comedy THE MULE [Interview]

Hugo Weaving skyrocketed into Hollywood fame as Agent Smith in The Matrix films and over the last two decades, the actor has curated a fine balance of Hollywood films and smaller indie productions, both in the US and in his native Australia. The Mule is one of his most recent forays into indie films.

Written and directed by Tony Mahony and Angus Sampson, Sampson also stars as Ray, the “mule” of the title in a comedic retelling of a real life events surround the first drug mule to be caught by law enforcement.

I had a chance to speak with Hugo Weaving, one of the film’s stars (he plays one of the cops), about the bizarre story, his favourite scene in the film and his preference for working on smaller productions.

The Mule made its debut at SXSW earlier this year and is now playing in theatres and available on VOD.

How did you become part of this film? What attracted you to the role?

Very simply, really. I got sent the script. I read it. I loved it. I thought it was very funny, and very smart, and inventive, and I said yes the next day. So, it was really easy. I just responded to the script and the characters. I thought they were all very well drawn types. But they all had very specific needs and very individual… they seemed very like real individuals to me.

Once I was on board, and I found out some of the other actors came out, and I thought we had a really interesting project on our hands. Leigh and Angus seemed to be very smart actors and just really wanted to get into making films themselves and it seemed they’d had some success commercially, with Saw and Insidious. They had a very smart director friend Tony Mahoney who was directing. Very good eye. Lovely sense of balance, and proportion, and a lovely temperament. And some fantastic actors, who then joined the team as well. A great many. Hazelhurst, Geoff Morrell, Johnny Noble. Even Leslie and Georgina Haig are actually pretty well known in the states. Ewen’s done a lot of theatre in this country and Georgina’s quite new to the business, but it was great to be involved with all those experienced people.

And a fabulous art department as well. So, I sort of felt we were on to something. It was certainly a great project to work on. But primarily the reason I did it was just reading the script.

Disgust and humiliation are huge parts of this film but it’s not a gross out film. They never went too far. How did they create that balance? Were there still times when you guys left feeling like you needed a shower?

There were a couple of obvious days on set where we were dealing with shooting someone with shit all over them. And it’s very funny and serious, so well, how do you shoot a scene like this? How do you cover this? How do you reveal this? And what do you need to see and what don’t you see? You need to tell the story. But if you can tell the story, it’s like anything visually, tell the story visually in a smart way without shoving it in someone’s face is probably the way to go. So you need to tell the story, you need to make it clear to the audience what happened. But beyond that, the imagination of the audience is at work and also you’re engaging them.

So, yeah, there was sort of discussion about how to shoot something really interesting and what do we see and what you don’t. Suppose, okay, you’re on the bed, this is what happened. These people come in the room here. What then happens? Do we drag you off the bed? What happens? And so those sort of discussions were technically really interesting. and just the storytelling. How you tell a story visually. What you include, and what you don’t. So, it was kind of really interesting, very interesting discussion. And it was a very efficient set. We were all involved in the creation of each scene and each day it was a collaborative set.

I felt like your character was the most animated in the film, which created a balance with the other performances. Is there pressure when you’re playing a character who brings that energy to every scene?

I don’t know. It’s funny I didn’t… I suppose when I read it I loved the trajectory of that character. He presents in a certain way and then he’s revealed as actually, although he bends the rules, he’s revealed as being someone who probably upholds the rules more than almost anyone else in the film. I kind of liked that.I guess I never really thought of him as being more animated than anyone else. It didn’t come to blossom that way. That’s great, but I suppose I never thought about that. I sort of thought of him as being very much an old school cop who was possibly a little bit weary and a little bit probably thought he, through his experience, he was able to overcome any situation and probably, you know, particularly sees himself as the alpha male. So, I suppose the physicality of the character that the projecting alpha male signals to everyone else in the room would be something he would do without thinking about it.

I really enjoyed playing him honestly. He amused me to no end. And there was a huge license to be inventive with him. It was a very good script. There was great stuff in there for him to say and some great scenes for any actor playing that role in the script. And they were very happy for me to enjoy myself within that role, which I need. And we sort of set the time that they wanted them to shoot, really in day two, and didn’t look back. It was a lot of fun to do. I can honestly say it was a pretty enjoyable and seamless experience without any hiccups.

I know in the past you’ve discussed this a bit, but can you describe the difference of working on a larger studio film vs. working on a film like this, that is so collaborative?

Very simply, really, it often comes down to the amount of people that you’re working with, so just by and large, and to make a terrible generalization, but it does appear to be true more often than not, the more people you have working on a film, the harder it is for everyone to know what everyone else is doing. So, the communication tends to be a little poorer. And also individual responsibility tends to go out the window. So, the fewer people you have, the more people have to engage with a number of different factors and often the demarcation between jobs becomes a little more fluid. So, people are multitasking, people are being more responsible for themselves, and people are being included in the activity.

That’s why I like, generally, small budget films. I think communication, it’s to a human scale, it’s not to an industrial scale. People are being treated like human beings and not like robots. People are not being, there aren’t assumptions being made about people. Just generally, that would be my political view in life. There are a lot of people in this world who are not treated well, and there are people who have power who don’t think about other people, and what actually it means to be on the end of the food chain. So, basically, by and large, working on a small budget film mean people treat each other better, talk to each other in a better way, and it’s more enjoyable, and therefore, the work you come up with tends to have a greater benefit on humanity.

[Laughs] It’s a massive generalization. And of course I’ve worked on big films, large budget films, where the generosity and spirit on set has been fantastic. Where communication has been good. But by and large, I enjoy small crews and smaller films for that reason. Because I just tend to feel more engaged and more alive, and I think that’s a good thing.

Tell me about your favorite scene in the film.

You don’t get see the entire scene of the film, but you see the guts of it. It’s a scene where Croft and Ray are talking by the window, and it’s the scene just after, when Paris, the other detective, has killed Leigh Whannell’s character, and Ray’s character has seen his friend been killed, and he’s had a run in with Paris, and it’s the scene where Croft comes in and Ray tells Croft that his friend has been killed by Croft’s partner and I love that scene because it puts Croft in an impossible position.

You see him receive the news that his partner’s bent, you see him receive the news that his partner has killed someone. You see his disbelief in that. You see him thinking that Ray’s lying to him. You then see him realizing that he’s not lying to him. You then see him having to defend his partner, even though he doesn’t want to. And you then see his anger at the situation he’s been put in, which comes out as violence against the man who’s actually told him something which is a benefit to him.

So, you got all these incredibly complex reactions and to a very complex situation, and I love that scene because it illicit such a really complex response from both characters, particularly from Croft. I enjoyed that scene a lot because it just revealed a lot and yet… You shouldn’t reveal anything as that character and yet you need to reveal a lot and you need to go through a lot in order to sort of reveal to an audience what’s going on so it was kind of great, and challenging, and enjoyable to do. And technically challenging too just smashing Angus’ head against a window. How do we do that? How hard—[laughs], you know, we want to do it, we need to do it in sound sync but we also need to protect Angus’ head.

By Stephanie O [Celluloid 11.25.14]

Here are embeds and links to a few other interviews that have appeared since the previous entry.

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson gave joint audio interviews to 702 ABC Radio Sydney (also featuring CJ Jonson’s review– also available as an iTunes podcast) and 2SER 107.3 FM Brisbane. Unfortunately, neither features embed code, but both are still up and available worldwide, and may be readily downloaded.

There are brief video interviews with Sampson and Weaving at ; some of these sites unfortunately feature international content restrictions. I’ll embed YouTube versions where they exist and thank sites who do so in advance for being so helpful. If you find any of this content unavailable, let me know. I’ve saved copies of everything and can provide a copy or transcript.

Sampson and Weaving video interviews (all taped during the Nov 18-20 media blitz, in a marathon session given the similar setting of each) were featured on ABC Arts The Mix, SkyNews  and SBS2’s The Feed. Fortunately the latter posted a YouTube version:

SBS2 via YouTube (contains naughty language… even from the interviewer) 😉

I’m sorry I couldn’t find embeds for the other two… I’m thinking of taking matters into my own hands on that front… but everything is still in place on sites or origin and all but the In The Mix segment (only a few minutes long) are available to all viewers. I might post caps and a transcript of the In The Mix segment when I have more time.

The film’s Twitter feed recently shared another preview featurette (with behind the scenes interviews) called Ticking Time Bomb:

eOne ANZ via YouTube

And Sunrise on 7 were kind enough to re-post their interview to YouTube, so I can embed it on BOTH my blogs. 😉

Jabba’s Movies via YouTube

You can read the latest reviews of the film (all enthusuastic) at ArtsHub, Salty Popcorn, Pop Culture-y, IGN, Hopscotch Friday, Variety, Reel News Daily, ABC At The Movies (featuring film trailer and two preview scene clips),

And here’s Glitch’s video review;

Glitch Media via YouTube

Angus Sampson was interviewed by Nuke the Fridge, Starlog, The Saturday Paper and Shockya.com. Leigh Whannell also talked to Shockya.com, as well as The Cairns Post. Both appeared on The Crave Online Movie Podcast. Georgina Haig was interviewed by Collider.com about The Mule and her suddenly-burgeoning film and TV career.

I don’t usually give any one DVD/Blu-Ray outlet preferential treatment, and I’ll still encourage fans to shop around for the best price, but I will note that JB HiFI in Australia often has the best prices for DVDs, will ship internationally, and that they have exclusive rights to a special edition of The Mule (out on DVD 3 Dec) featuring bonus content not available elsewhere. Amazon is taking pre-orders for the US version (out 20 Jan), but no info is yet available on bonus features for that edition.

The Mule’s direct-to-VOD marketing strategy has been wildly successful so far, with the film debuting at #1 on iTunes’ independent film charts in both the US and Australia. More on this and how this gamble might save the Australian film industry, at Inside Film, The Australian, The Guardian, AdNews Australia and Reuters.


Hugo Weaving’s much different, earlier 2014 film had its TV debut in Australian on ABC this past Sunday. It remains available for streaming (Australia only) on ABC iView. International viewers may take solace in the DVD release (today) and eventual US distribution promised for next year. Meanwhile here are two featurettes ABC re-posted on the making of the film, featuring Hugo Weaving and Don Hany (and a rambunctious eagle.)

Don Hany behind the scenes with bird-wrangler Andrew Payne. Video: ABC TV via YouTube

Hugo Weaving behind the scenes on Healing Video: ABC TV via YouTube

I know I’m leaving out another raftload of Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies TV spots, but I’ll save those for next time, as none feature any previously-unseen Hugo/Elrond footage. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Hugo will be available for the film’s London premiere or promotion, though I’d love to be wrong about that.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my US readers. And a plain ol’ Thank You, Guys to everyone else.  I now this entry is something of a mess and is too long and over-enthusiastic. I’ve been working on it all afternoon and evening (it’s now 3am here) but couldn’t make it any less ungainly. Thanks to all those who stayed with it anyhow. 😉

Strangerland Teaser Debuts; Way Too Much Mule Coverage, New Hugo Weaving Interviews

The Mule: Now Available on iTunes, On Demand and VOD in Australia, NZ, The US!

Apologies for the delay in getting some of this material posted, though I did my best to keep up on Twitter. We’ve had a sudden torrential outpouring of some of the best Hugo Weaving TV, radio and online/print interviews we’ve seen in a long time and it’s been challenging keeping up, and keeping everything straight. Unfortunately, most of the new interviews, while readily available worldwide at their sides of origin (and several are downloadable), most can’t be embedded to either blog. Since I really try hard not to provoke any sort of proprietary threats here, I’ll post links and caps for now (and the amazing behind-the-scenes images several media outlets have shared)… if you’re reading this several months after the fact and those interviews are no longer up (or for any reason you have trouble accessing them) do let me know. I have saved copies of the lot, and will send you one.

Some of these links were mentioned in previous entries, but I wanted to post the lot so that fans know what’s out there and i what order it appeared. Also, in a few cases media outlets have kindly added clips of Hugo’s interviews excerpted from the much-longer original shows/podcasts; in the case of the Simon Murado interview from Breakfast with Barr (taped 19 Nov) QuickFlix provided a longer version of that interview with previously-unheard material about Hugo’s collaboration with David Wenham on Tim Winton’s The Turning. Some interviews were Hugo solo, some with Angus Sampson.

Nov 18: Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson appeared at a Q&A event/preview screening of The Mule in Merlbourne and sat for the following interviews:

Triple M Hot Breakfast (Nine minute Hugo Weaving solo interview as excerpted from original broadcast; embedded to WordPress version of this post)

Weaving and Sampson also appeared in a nice 10-minute interview on ABC News Breakfast, which is excerpted here.

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson on ABC News Breakfast (my screencap; more here).

Nov 19: Weaving and Sampson appeared at a Q&A/screening in Sydney and sat for several additional interviews, including;

TripleM Radio Melbourne (Excerpted Hugo Weaving/Angus Sampson interview,  full podcast here)

Sydney Dendy Cinemas Mule preview screening featuring (L to R) Dendy’s presenter, Geoff Morrell, Angus Samson and Hugo Weaving
Photo: Adelle Drover via Twitter/Instagram

Breakfast with Barr,  Simon Murado interview with Hugo Weaving; here’s the Quickflix extended version. (Full version 15 min long)

Sydney Dendy Cinemas Mule preview screening featuring (L to R) Dendy’s presenter, Geoff Morrell, Angus Samson and Hugo Weaving

Both above photos: KB Comedy via Twiter/Instagram

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson sat for a brief video interview on NineMSN Mornings (wish I could remove that annoying background music); only about 4 min long

My screencap; Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson on NineMSN Mornings

The following interviews aired/appeared 20 Nov, some may have been taped earlier:

Triple J Mornings with Matt & Alex. Hugo Weaving interview 30 min into the podcast, includes one of the funniest stories I’ve heard Hugo tell, about losing his glasses. (Next time you make a silly mistake or lose an item, I promise this will make you feel better.)

Hugo Weaving with Triple J Mornings hosts Tim and Alex; Photo: Triple J Mornings via Twitter
“Such a pleasure to be joined by Hugo Weaving this morning too!…We tried to tease Agent Smith out of him, but he’s well and truly dead.”
CJ: At the end of the interview, they coax Hugo into reading the weather using the Smith voice: he tries to oblige but can’t summon it. 😉

The Grill on Triple M Radio (are also Aussie radio stations triple letters?) Angus Sampson and Hugo Weaving interview, starts 10 min into podcast (#1108). Interview is about 5 minutes long.

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson with The Grill’s team (Gus Worland,  Matty Johns and Mark Geyer)

Weaving and Sampson with The Grill’s Mark Geyer  Photo: Mark Geyer via Twitter/Instagram

Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson ran into members of The Wiggles (Anthony Field, Lachy Gillespie, Simon Pryce and Kim Watkins) during the media blitz
Photo: Angus Sampson via Twitter

Photo: Anthony Field via Twitter He’s the one in the blue shirt, for those who aren’t parents of young kids 😉

Photo: The Grill Team via Twitter

And Weaving and Sampson gave TheVine.com.au  a nice extended online interview, which I’ll post in its entirety below;

Ego, empathy, and holding it in: Hugo Weaving & Angus Sampson on ‘The Mule’

Anthony Morris, 20 November 2014

It’s been a rough year for Australian films at the multiplex, with even well-reviewed films struggling to drag audiences away from big budget blockbusters. So Australian crime comedy The Mule is trying something different: aside from a series of “spotlight” screenings with cast and crew members in attendance, it’s going direct to Video On Demand, being available to purchase and download on all major digital platforms from November 21st.

By skipping cinemas it avoids the mandatory three month delay between a cinema release and becoming available at home which, according to some, kills any buzz a film may have generated in cinemas. This way all the promotion is focused in one short period: now you’ve heard  about it you can watch it without having to try and find a cinema showing or waiting 90 days before you can check it out at home.

As for the film itself… well, the year is 1983, the America’s Cup is in full swing, and Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson, who also co-wrote and co-directed) is a shy, quiet guy forced into a life of crime. On an end-of-season footy trip to Thailand, Ray’s friends and family see the perfect opportunity for him to return home with a kilo of heroin stuck up his backside. When his return to Australia doesn’t go to plan, he ends up in a hotel room with detectives Croft (Hugo Weaving) and Paris (Ewen Leslie). Croft would rather pummel a confession out of him; Paris is inclined to sit back and wait. After all, they know where the drugs are: there’s only one way they’re leaving Ray, and they’ve got that exit guarded…

As for the film itself… well, the year is 1983, the America’s Cup is in full swing, and Ray Jenkins (Angus Sampson, who also co-wrote and co-directed) is a shy, quiet guy forced into a life of crime. On an end-of-season footy trip to Thailand, Ray’s friends and family see the perfect opportunity for him to return home with a kilo of heroin stuck up his backside. When his return to Australia doesn’t go to plan, he ends up in a hotel room with detectives Croft (Hugo Weaving) and Paris (Ewen Leslie). Croft would rather pummel a confession out of him; Paris is inclined to sit back and wait. After all, they know where the drugs are: there’s only one way they’re leaving Ray, and they’ve got that exit guarded…

TheVine: What drove you to make a movie about a guy holding in his shit for a week?

Hugo Weaving: [Looks at Angus] Well, you should answer that because you wrote it.

Angus Sampson: There’s a number of reasons, but first and foremost we were like ‘that’s a pretty unique premise’. I guess we were curious as to whether a) it had ever been done before and b) whether or not you could make a suspenseful film about whether someone was going to go to the bathroom or not.

I guess we walked that difficult route of ‘how do you set it up so that you empathise with someone who does something so morally… I don’t want to say reprehensible, but I guess it is. But we didn’t want to jump straight into ‘he’s muling and he’s been caught – now sympathise with him’, though that was certainly something on a creative level where we were going ‘I wonder if we could do that?’

But fundamentally there was just a perverse curiosity as to whether we could write a film where the human was the ticking timebomb and where the protagonist of the story had a very simple situation: had something lethal inside him where if he didn’t get them out, and if he did get them out, he’d be incarcerated.

HW:  There’s a great inbuilt tension in the film. It’s a great premise and a very simple idea – you’re wanting him to hold on, everyone else is waiting for it to come out, and there’s this fabulous ‘what’s going to happen?’ angle.

AS: Because you can’t stop your digestive system, as we found out.

How did you find the balance between the character moments and the bodily comedy. It does go pretty far in a few scenes, but you probably could have pushed it further…

HW: That would have been awful. We weren’t interested in that stuff, and it wasn’t what the script was – there was always that delicate balance between the two. Reading it, it was very funny, doing it was a lot of fun to do, but we all approached it as ‘this is what’s really happening, this is what’s going on’. I think finding that balance would have been hard if it was badly written, but it was very well written. Not crystal clear, because it can’t be, but it was always very delicate – it was just very clear tonally where we were. Establishing the tone in a film before shooting is very hard and I thought the tone in this script was just impeccably balanced.

Ego clip: eOne ANZ via YouTube

We spend a lot of time with Ray Jenkins before he gets busted at the airport; for a film with such a strong hook, was there ever any though about getting to the hotel room earlier?

AS: Absolutely – one version I edited in nine days and tested it in America and Australia just to see if people would watch a film where faeces was kind of… featured. And we did one version of the film that just started right away in Bangkok, but it’s difficult to find the line – I watch the film now and there’s bit’s of me that go ‘come on! Get to Hugo!’ Even watching it last night, I was like ‘how can we get to the action earlier?’ Like I said, there was one version where we just started in Bangkok, but we felt you needed to align yourself with the family and him. In short, the answer is yes.

HW: But I also think people align themselves with you pretty quickly as a character. That bit early on where the hapless Ray has to give a speech and is like [makes a strangled throat clearing sound] – what do you say? Hello? And then whoosh, titles come up – ‘The Mule’. [laughs]

AS: Hugo and Leslie come in around the 17-minute mark, which is maybe one fifth of the way into the film, and by that stage you’re already going ‘what is this film? Where is it going?’ Every scene, we wanted the audience to go ‘what is going to happen next?’ William Goldman, this great writer, says that is all you need: to have the audience go ‘what will happen next?’

We have this incredible ensemble of incredible humans. They’re interesting because they’re interested. And I don’t mean that on-screen, I mean that off-screen – they’re interested in things, so they’re interesting. And we very much approached this as a story that needs to be told by a community, we didn’t want to have professional extras, we didn’t want to say ‘this is the lead, and these are the satellite characters’. We didn’t want to have a hierarchy, I didn’t want to people to have 1,2,3,4,5 on the call sheet – but of course, it’s confusing if you don’t.

There’s a strong structure to the film, but it’s only visible in hindsight.

AS: I guess the thing that really thrills me is that when the police officers arrive, the audience at that point, we’ve got ‘em. I’ve sat in enough screenings now that they are never coming back after Croft walks in, slams the door – and it’s not even a slam – he just saunters in. There’s a shot where Croft is standing up and Detective Paris is sitting down and – I’m sorry, but I love this – there’s just this shot of Croft’s crotch. On a 40-foot screen there’s just this huge dick in frame and I love it so much, it makes me laugh so much. I guess when I watch the first act now I’m like ‘c’mon, get there’, but I wanted to over-compensate on justifying Ray’s actions than just by jumping straight in there.

It continually builds – constantly throwing new things into the mix, not sure where it’s going to go.

AS: There’s not a period where it’s just static, where we’re just going through the motions to hit an inciting incident. This is a film where information is constantly offered up-

HW: – and withheld. This is a movie where everybody’s got a secret. We talked about this before shooting – all these characters have secrets, they all think they can manage this situation according to their own rules of life, and everyone has something that they’re holding onto or sitting on. That’s a real key to the drama and the interaction between the characters. They’re quite densely human in that respect.

And yet the two characters you play are in some ways the most straightforward in the film.

HW: They’re both oddly admirable by the end. You come away thinking they’re morally bendy but they’re not as morally bankrupt as many of the other characters. It’s about getting caught up in something but then applying the brakes when you realise that you’re caught up, but you don’t really like what it’s doing to you. It’s sort of what happens to Ray, and it a way it happens to Crofty as well. They’re both going ‘what is this life that I’m leading, what the hell am I doing?’ I, Hugo, I feel like that a lot in this life, we’re all caught up in this thing ‘why are we living like that, what’s going on?’

Does that tie in to why you set in back in 1983? Did you see it as a more innocent time in a way?

AS: It certainly presented a lot more opportunities plot-wise in the narrative where things couldn’t be solved with a quick phone call – or legislation even. There’s a great scene with Croft and Paris where Paris says “Well well well, never had a mule refuse to shit before.” And Crofty says, “Well, how long can the bastard last?” There’s a justification there for just having the characters sit around and wait. It’s fascinating watching people not knowing what they’re doing, and as a young parent that happens to me every day. What are we doing? A situation is presented to us and somehow we navigate through it.

HW: As a parent you’re just minders, aren’t you, you’re navigating and minding this thing that is growing – just like Crofty and Paris are waiting for this… baby to be born. [laughs] What can you do while you’re waiting? Just play golf.

AS: That was a great thing that Hugo came up with, he said to me ‘so how are they spending their days while they’re waiting – what are they doing?’ Because it wasn’t in the script, in development I had all these things like they were taking bets on how long he’d last but it’s hard to film that. There’s this great scene that was completely Hugo’s suggestion of the guys playing chess against one another, and a silent one at that.

HW: It was nice where you put that as well, you’re developing the intrigue between those two characters.

AS: And he says “best of seven”, which is the same as the America’s Cup. We were originally going to set it in ‘82 but then we read about the America’s Cup and suddenly all these things made sense.

HW: There was this whole thing at the time about the hidden intentions of the Australians and these different sides playing off against each other and all this flag waving nationalism leading into who we are as a nation. Which ties in perfectly here.

AS: And then the Australians hid the design of their keel to get ahead! We were fascinated by the way Alan Bond was lauded as some kind of underdog yet it was the fourth time he’d tried, he was this multi-multi-millionaire and lo and behold, it later turned out he was a criminal. So when you see Crofty arrive and the door opens you can hear the commentary saying that America has just won race one, and every time America wins, Crofty and co get closer to their man. We just thought it was a really nice plot device that helped us write and navigate our way through. And the more we read the better it was, stuff like the commentator saying “Liberty has lost”-

HW: The great Bob Hawke line about any boss who won’t give their workers the day off is a bum take on a whole new connotation in this film.

HW: There’s a reason why we keep coming back to it, because in some way it expresses who we are very well I think. We understand it – since this country was settled by Europeans we understand that kind of inbuilt corruption and game playing very well. That kind of cops and robbers part of the culture is quite large, and there’s a very specific tone to it here that’s a point of difference between us and the States or anywhere else.

AS: We loved Chopper, we loved Animal Kingdom, there’s so many great Australian films that we loved. And there’s so many foreign films that we loved. But you know, we just set out to write a really entertaining piece with a lot of charismatic characters played by a lot of even more charismatic actors. I can’t tell you how encouraging Screen Australia were for us to make this film, how encouraging they were for us to bypass cinema – contractually I’m obliged to put it on in the cinemas through eOne, but Screen Australia have always been like ‘yep, we can see that working’. We’ve got the pick of the litter with our cast I reckon, to have Noni Halzehurst and Geoff Morell, two foxes at the top of their game – suddenly you’re making this dish with all these incredible ingredients and all I did was just say, “you jump in the dish together.”

The Mule is available on all major digital platforms from November 21st.

I’ve posted all of the promotional images/screencaps/fan photos etc from this past week of Mule promotional events and interviews to the Hugonuts Photo Archive.    And don’t forget Hugo’s wonderful FilmInk interview; I posted the full text in the previous entry, but here it is again in case anyone missed it.

Bloody Disgusting showcased an exclusive brief clip from the film which shows Angus Sampson’s character reluctantly downing the illicit cargo which gets him into so much trouble. (No embeds, alas)…

But here’s yet another new clip featuring John Noble and Leigh Whannell:

Film Festivals and Indie Films via YouTube

Other interviews: You can hear Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell and Georgina Haig discuss the film on the Australians in Film podcast. Angus Samson was interviewed by Leader Newspapers, Spook Magazine, Radio National (audio interview), Subculture Media and a neatened-up version of his Reddit chat has been posted here. Leigh Whannell gave interviews to Nuke The Fridge, JoBlo.com and The Examiner. And there’s a Georgina Haig video interview at IGN.

You can read the latest batch of reviews at Geek Nation, News.com.au (Leigh Paatsch), Film Journal (reprint of The Hollywood Reporter’s review), The Dissolve, ACMI, Contact Music, The Guardian, The Film Stage, JoBlo.com, Film Racket, The Iris (The AUReview), Examiner.com, The Herald Sun, Seven Inches Of Your Time, ComingSoon.net, Reel Good, Time Out Sydney and The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. THEY LIKED IT. ;P  And famed cult director Stuart Gordon posted his rave review to The Talkhouse… he loved Hugo’s performance but I could’ve done without the spoilers. (Well, Hugo’s let a few slip, too.) 😉

And don’t forget the 7 December live-tweet event, which will begin at 3pm AEDT, 9pm PDT. Angus Sampson discusses what to expect at The Age;  no specifics on whether Hugo Weaving will be part of this yet.

You can buy/stream the VOD version of The Mule on iTunes, Cable On Demand (incl XFinity, Cox, Time Warner) You can see the film at Arena Screen in Los Angeles through the end of the month. And I hope some of you are able to join me at the Fangoria screening this Monday in New York City at 7pm. Much like Angus Sampson’s character in the film, I’m having a hard time holding out until then, but I want my first viewing of this film to be in a proper cinema.

If all that wasn’t enough, Weaving and Sampson also did an interview for Sunrise on Seven; the haven’t posted it online but I’ll share links as soon as they do. They have shared videos before, so I’m trying to be optimistic.

UPDATE: Here’s the Sunrise on 7 interview video:

I also hope that as I have more free time and all the hubbub dies down a bit, I’ll have time to work up transcripts (or at least a few quotes) from some of Hugo’s recent audio/video interviews.

Finally, some amazing new promotional portraits from Dan Himbrechts, via AAP:

Al seven images: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


If all that wasn’t overwhelming enough, the first teaser trailer for Hugo Weaving’s next film, Strangerland– costarring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes– debuted online earlier today. You can read first impressions from various media outlets and the official synopsis at IndieWire, The Film Stage, /Film MovieWeb. The trailer already hints of paranoia, a family at odds with itself and the local community (which seems divided along racial lines as well) and breathtaking cinematography. I’m hoping Hugo’s character isn’t too similar to Johnno in Mystery Road; Hugo has insisted all of his recent cop roles are different, so that’s good enough for me. Kim Farrant is a talented director and fans have been waiting for this film for a long time. (Hugo fans for nearly a decade.) The trailer reminds me a bit of James Nesbitt’s cable series Missing, which I recommend (no Bofur knockabout comedy there, just heart-in-your-throat suspense) and Aussie classics like Picnic at Hanging Rock (though hopefully without the dated mysticism.) Others are comparing it to the US series True Detective, though it probably won’t get all occult-y the way that show did. (But who knows?) Some sites feel a need to dredge up Nicole Kidman’s  recent bad luck at the box office, with a string of well-regarded films either delayed or released to disappointing revenue. Only one– Grace of Monaco– has been poorly reviewed, though; the others have gotten minimal marketing. Strangerland has no US distributor, but this film really should be seen in cinemas with that scope, the impressive talent involved and the emphasis on the harsh beauty of the landscape.

According to some Italian Nicole Kidman fansites, Strangerland will either premiere at next February’s Sundance Film Festival or is under consideration for a screening there. I’ll post additional details or confirmation as soon as I know more, but I hope it’s true.

Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman in Strangerland

I’ll try to work up some trailer caps soon. It’s been insanely busy here all day betwee my jobs, NY prep and all the new material.  Here’s the official synopsis:

” Catherine (Nicole Kidman) and Matt Parker are trying to adjust to their new life in the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari. They are pleasant but keep to themselves, unwilling to get close to anyone. On the eve of a massive dust storm, their lives are rocked when their two teenage children, Lily and Tom disappear into the desert. With Nathgari now eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the locals join the search lead by local cop, David Rae (Hugo Weaving). It soon becomes apparent that something terrible may have happened to them. Suspicion is cast, rumors spread and ancient Aboriginal stories are told in whispers as the locals begin to turn against the couple. With temperatures rising and the chances of survival plummeting with each passing day, Catherine and Matthew find themselves pushed to the brink, as they struggle to survive the uncertainty of their children’s fate.”

First Contact

The program has finished its initial airing on SBS but Australians can stream it here. The Age has posted another detailed analysis of the show and other programs addressing Australia’s indigenous population.

More Mule Promotion in Melbourne & Sydney, New Photos, New Hugo Weaving Interviews

A lot of great new material. has surfaced in the hours since my previous post and I’m scrambling a bit to catch up. Included is that ABC News Breakfast interview featuring Angus Sampson and Hugo Weaving. Hugo has been letting his director/costar dominate most of these conversations, something fans are used to seeing whenever Hugo does any sort of group interview. Some of his comments about piracy have already been wildly misconstrued by internet trolls, so let me clarify here: Hugo is not saying that he doesn’t care about piracy or that he has a laissez-faire attitude about it, just that he personally doesn’t know what the solution might be.

He’s always expressed disinterest in the commercial side of filmmaking, and in fact has taken a lot of flack in certain quarters for NOT wanting to spend his career playing Hollywood franchise villains, so the notion he doesn’t care if the indie filmmakers he refers to work with get ripped off is nonsensical. But this is a long-term problem in the industry with no ideal solutions. Sampson and co are trying the direct-to-VOD approach to democratize distribution, but certain people have become used to movies, music and even books now being “free”… I do hope The Mule is successful and provides a new platform for viable, widespread release of Australian films to international audiences, but I don’t think it’s going to end piracy, because people who habitually steal this sort of material without any thought for the cost to filmmakers and artists– especially those working with minimal resources in the first place– will probably not grow a conscience over one film.

I do find it interesting that Hugo isn’t really saying much about the final Hobbit film in these interviews, though interviewers– particularly ABC’s– are clearly prodding him in that direction. Of course, most of Hugo’s work on The Hobbit was done in 2011, so he has every right to interpret the question to mean things he’s working on NOW. I as actually hoping for more intel on Bird Eclipse (Anand Gandhi’s next project) or even One Foot Wrong (his possible next film with Last Ride director Glendyn Ivin)… but those probably haven’t gotten a formal green-lighting yet, so he might not be allowed to talk about them. Or might not know much about them.

Anyhow, enough from me… I’ll try to embed both interviews below:

[Unfortunately, there is no embed code attached to the ABC News Breakfast video, which is about ten minutes long. Please do head over to ABC to watch it; there are no broadcast restrictions to Australia or anything. I’ll embed it if they post it to their YouTube channel. I’ve also had no luck finding the Hugo Weaving/Angus Sampson interview that aired on Triple R Radio this morning at Triple R’s website; they also have programs archived through Nov 17 at present, but this suggests the interview should be up at this page soon. Again, once they post it I’ll try to embed it here if possible. I was lucky enough to catch and, yes, tape the whole thing live… I would prefer to use an embed or link the station has provided, but if none appears, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. The interview was about 15 minutes long (starting at 8.45 AEDT) and Angus Sampson did most of the talking. I’ll also work up a transcript of Hugo’s comments when I have more time.]

And here are two brief scene clips from the film that debuted today. The first features our first look at John Noble’s drug lord Pat, seen shaking down Geoff Morrell, who play’s Ray’s hapless father. The second features Georgina Haig and Ray (Angus Sampson) discussing their defense strategy. (And demonstrates her willingness to go cuss-for-cuss with the guys.) 😉

Badass Digest via YouTube

MoviesDotCom via YouTube

You can hear Haig promoting the film, along with Sampson and Leigh Whannell on the Another Aussie In LA Podcast. There are additional new Angus Sampson interviews up at Icons of Fright and In My Community as well.

Here are some more pics from last night’s preview screening in Melbourne, along with photographer/sharers’ captions:

Angus Sampson and Hugo Weaving at Cinema Nova: “Good times at last night’s #TheMuleMovie Melbourne screening and Q&A with Hugo, Noni & @AngusSampson”

Above two photos: The Mule Movie via Twitter

“Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson dropped past last night for a special event screening of THE MULE. Our favourite part was when Hugo called his movie snack of choice (Malteasers) “Muleteasers” Cinema Nova’s Facebook page

“Starry starry night yesterday @CinemaNova with Angus Sampson, Noni Hazelhurst and Hugo Weaving.  #themulemovie” Film Victoria via Twitter

Also, don’t forget the December 7 “hashtag event”/Live Tweet-a-than #TheMuleLive.  Inside Film has a new article featuring Angus Sampson’s plans for the virtual meet-up, which gives international viewers a couple of weeks to see the film via their venue/streaming outlet of choice. (Well, my local arthouse won’t cooperate… and I’m still waiting to hear if I’m in at the NYC Fangoria  event. But I WILL have seen the film by Dec 7, mark my words.) 😉 I am veering a bit from the proscribed notion in the press releases that one should tweet WHILE watching the film… that’s fine, but IMO one should have already seen the film and actually paid attention to it rather than one’s computer screen/portable device/etc. People who  tweet or text through something they’re watching for the first time aren’t really paying attention to the film (concert/etc). And I’ve been tempted to pour soda on them in cinemas, frankly. Especially that dude at the Mystery Road screening at the Hampton’s Film Festival who said he was a film critic but kept his miserable little device on through the whole damn movie.

Where was I? Sorry… Not saying you shouldn’t have the film rolling so you can chat along with Sampson and “cast, crew, friends and audience members” the IF article hints will be along for the ride. Just watch it once– or, hell, a few times– before then.  😉 There’ll probably be spoilers if my previous experience with these sorts of things is any guide. (Loved Glendyn Ivin and Rob Connolly’s TV-airing related live tweets, but I’m awfully glad I saw the films in question first, because endings were described in great detail.) No specifics on whether or not Hugo will be along for the ride. Obviously, he’s not a Twitter regular, which is probably just as well. But he might guest on someone else’s account. I’ll participate regardless unless I have an unbreakable work commitment. No specific time has been announced… and trying to find an ideal time for both US and Australian audiences won’t be easy. 😉

A staff member at MX Melbourne kindly sent me PDFs of the Mule preview article, which features two versions of Andrew Tauber’s  photo of Hugo and Angus Sampson, as well as a brief interview with Sampson. I’m trying not to get too excited about the nudity comment, as I’m pretty sure Sampson is just kidding (re Hugo’s bum being onscreen) though that’d be one more incentive to see the film. And it’s not like we haven’t seen both of their bums quite a lot already. 😉

THIS JUST IN: A lovely solo Hugo Weaving interview courtesy Film Ink, touching on The Mule, Hugo’s interesting, diverse run of cop roles in his recent projects, and his longstanding preference to work close to home. Here’s the full text. As usual, Hugo drops a few spoilery  hints about his character’s complexity… I love his lack of coy misleading in this department, but some viewers who hate knowing anything at all about a film’s twists in advance might want to read the paragraph AFTER seeing the film. (Only two days to go!).

Cop It Sweet

by |

In the darkly humorous and wholly original THE MULE, Aussie legend, HUGO WEAVING, delivers a brilliant, slyly comic performance as a slightly bent cop sweating on a drug mule to expel the pricey cargo in his guts.

Tom Croft seems like a lot of fun to play. He’s a bad guy who could be a good guy; he’s got a moustache; he’s a cop…

“It was enormously fun. It was a very laidback shoot. The great script really appealed to me. All the characters are pretty grey, and they all harbour secrets…they’re all full of bullshit! They’re all posturing in their own way. That’s what I liked about it: it’s a film about bullshit! But in the end, Tom Croft is one of those old school cops in the sense that he’ll draw a line in the sand and he won’t cross it. So he actually ends up having a greater sense of morality than most of the other characters, which is what I liked about him. He embodies both the larrikin, selfish side of the Australian male ego, but on the other hand, when it comes down to it, he won’t cross that line, and he won’t end up doing someone a disservice.”

You get nearly all of the film’s best lines…

“The script is very funny, but it retains its tension, and there are twists and turns. Narratively, everyone needs something desperately, and the reason why those lines work is because they’re juxtaposed against that tension. They’re a release valve. But what I really liked was the balance between dark threat and humour which is essential to the character.”

Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell are old friends and regular collaborators who have known each other for years. Does that give the set a different kind of feel?

“Leigh was there, but he was off set watching things on the monitor. He was really sweet and quiet. [Co-director] Tony Mahony is very much the director on the set; he’s the quietest director that I’ve ever been on set with, and I loved that. He’s thoughtful, and has a great eye. Angus – as co-producer, co-writer, co-director, and star – was very much on the day concentrating on what he was doing, and on his character and on his acting. They negotiated their way through a potentially hazardous shoot. It felt calm. There were a lot of experienced actors, a great script, and a strong sense of what the tone was, even though it’s highly complex.”

You’ve had a nice run of Aussie films lately, with Mystery Road, The Turning, Healing and now The Mule. Has that been a plus?

“The weird thing is that they’re all cops. I just played another cop in Strangerland, and I’m playing a cop at the moment too. I’m in Melbourne doing The Dressmaker with Jocelyn Moorhouse, who directed me in Proof many, many years ago. This one in The Dressmaker is a cross dressing cop from the fifties! They’re totally different films, and totally different cops too. I have enjoyed working here, it’s been great. I’ve been mixing that up with a lot of theatre too with The Sydney Theatre Company, where I’ve done Uncle Vanya, Waiting For Godot and Macbeth. It’s been great working with young, innovative, creative filmmakers, and I’ve enjoyed working on all of those films. I’ve always preferred to work here, and I see my trips overseas to do films as being something to broaden my horizons. I like to mix it up, but my heart is really with making films in this country, and working with interesting filmmakers here.”

The Mule is available digitally from November 21 [worldwide], and is then out on DVD and Blu-ray from December 4 [January 20 in the US].

You can read the latest reviews of The Mule (still 100% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, astonishingly) at Film Mafia, Graffiti With Punctuation, JB Spins, Concrete Playground, Pop Insomniacs and Flavorpill.

In Other Hugo Weaving News:

Healing will air on Australian TV (ABC One, to be precise) at 9.20p on 23 November. You can read a preview at The Age. The film will also be screened at the Australian Film Festival Delft on the same day.

There’s a new review of Mystery Road at Sex, Leins & Videotape.

The Dressmaker has a new Pinterest board featuring sub-boards on their cast (including Hugo’s head shot from 2003, heh heh), locations/sets and design inspirations.

Still waiting for the first pics from tonight’s Sydney/Dendy Cinemas screening of The Mule, which will feature Geoff Morrell in addition to Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson. I’ll probably begin the NEXT entry with those, as this one’s already getting long. 😉

Finally, I’m not sure what I think of Hugo’s pencil-thin John Waters mustache, though it certainly goes with the not-unfamiliar-to-John-Waters themes of scatology and cross-dressing Hugo’s dealt with in his current films.  😉 But I’m always fine with him changing up his look periodically– this change is almost certainly for The Dressmaker. Less happy that he’s apparently shaved his chest for the same role. 😉