Tag Archives: Harry Greenwood

Hugo Weaving Promotes The Dressmaker in Sydney, Melbourne, Incl Video, Audio Interviews

Hugo Weaving at the Sydney premiere of The Dressmaker, 20 October  Photo: Don Arnold/WireImage

There’s a wealth of new material already from both Dressmaker premieres in Australia, as well as Hugo’s many press interviews between 18 October (the date of the Melbourne premiere) and today. Hugo will soon have to depart for Western Australia to begin work on Jasper Jones, but has certainly done his bit to promote The Dressmaker, which opens 29 October in Australia and 11 November in the UK. (No US release date has yet been announced, but various European locations have; just check the film’s IMDB page.)

At any rate I’ll dive into things without further ado, starting with the video interviews, red carpet footage and behind the scenes footage, then I’ll move on to the abundant new photos from both premieres and other promotion.

Here’s a Behind the Scenes look at The Dressmaker, first shared via the film’s Facebook page:

via The Dressmaker Facebook

Here’s Universal Pictures’ footage of the Melbourne premiere on 18 October, featuring interviews with Hugo, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook and Jocelyn Moorhouse:

via Universal Pictures Australia/Twitter & YouTube

Here’s Screen Australia’s footage of the same event, featuring Hugo, Sue Maslin, Sarah Snook, Sacha Horler, Jocelyn Moorhouse and Liam Hemsworth :

via Screen Australia/Twitter & YouTube

Here’s Sky News’s footage, same event:

Sky News, via Sun Herald

Hugo has given several interviews to various media outlets over the past week; a few were live radio/Q&A events that haven’t been officially reshared. I’ll start off with those that HAVE been and see if the others become available soon. (I was able to tape some of these, but ALWAYS prefer to share material from official sources which have made them publicly available, if only because viewing or listening to live feeds from the other side of the world is always tricky, involving various quality control lapses and, in the case of radio, superfluous material.)

Here’s Hugo’s interview with 3AWRadio’s Denis Walter from 18 October. Always love it when radio sources record video and share to easily-embedable sites like YouTube. 😉

Via 3AWRadio/YouTube… this looks like part of a longer interview, so I’ll keep checking. 😉 But appreciate what’s here very much. Includes a few minor plot spoilers.

Hugo gave Australian Women’s Weekly a charming interview focusing on his Dressmaker costars, wardrobe and what sort of chick he’d be if born female 😉

via Australian Women’s Weekly

Hugo’s in-studio interview on Today featured the usual career retrospective plus details on making The Dressmaker… and what a sequel to Priscilla might look like 😉

via Today/9jumpin.com.au

Hugo gave a wonderful, in-depth 15 minute interview to Michael Smyth for AB Adelaide; here’s the Soundcloud embed:

And finally, today Hugo sat down with ABC News’s One on One for an extended interview which will air today; here’s their preview excerpt. I’ll try to share the whole thing once it’s available for streaming. I’m personally glad Hugo DIDN’T play Mr Darcey, though he easily could have. He could’ve had Colin Firth’s type-casting instead of all the post-Smith villains, I guess, but I recall Firth lamenting in an interview after his Oscar win for The King’s Speech that he’d always wanted to play a drag queen and was never afforded the opportunity. 😉 Not slighting either actor, by the way; they’ve actually both chosen roles quite well (occasional Hollywood glitches aside). 😉

ABC News

Here’s an additional transcript from ABC’s website:

“As he strides into the interview room tall and smiling, Hugo Weaving sports a bushy beard and appears surprisingly relaxed as if he has all day to chat, which he does not.

As we wait for last-minute camera adjustments, he mentions that after four months off in his hometown Sydney, he is due to fly to Western Australia shortly to begin work on the much anticipated film Jasper Jones.

Since the 1980’s Hugo Weaving has carved out a successful career in theatre and film, mixing lower-budget Australian productions with huge international blockbusters including The Matrix series, V for Vendetta and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

For Weaving, there has never been a dilemma about whether to relocate to Hollywood or remain in Australia.

“I’m happy to work overseas,” he said on One Plus One, “but my focus is here”.

“This is a golden era of film-making in this country, we just don’t know that.

“I’ve been saying that for ages. I think our films are getting better and better, we [Australians] are just not going to see them.”

Weaving believes there are two reasons for this.

“The problem is not in the film-makers or the creative’s, the problem is somehow selling the idea of our own culture to ourselves,” he said.

“Or, we have an industry which is so slanted towards American films that it’s very, very hard for Australian films to get a look in.”

Weaving is clearly proud of the homegrown industry, despite deriving his reputation from high-grossing blockbusters.

His latest film borrows from both.

It is set in the fifties in a small, fictional Australian town named Dungatar.

The film opens with femme fatale Tilly Dunnage (played by Kate Winslet), returning to her home town from Europe.

She is a glamorous and gifted seamstress who travels with her portable Singer sewing machine, but she has a past. Years ago as a child, Tilly was sent away after being blamed for the death of a school mate.

The film features a who’s who of Australian performers including Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox, Shane Jacobson and Barry Otto.

Weaving — who plays Dungatar’s policeman Sergeant Horatio Farrat — said he was “immediately interested” in the script when it landed in front of him.

“He’s essentially a very nice man,” Weaving said.

However, “he does have a secret, he’s a cross-dresser. He also feels guilty because he’s done something to the heroine, Tilly”.

It’s got a dark centre, a dark underbelly to it,” he says in his deliberate, mellifluous voice.

Weaving was extremely happy to work with director Jocelyn Moorhouse again. It was Moorhouse who cast Weaving in her critically acclaimed 1991 film Proof.

They were both relative newcomers to the screen world. She recently returned to Australia after a stint in Hollywood with her husband, director and writer P. J. Hogan.

“Proof was the first film I had read … that I so wanted to be in,” Weaving recalled warmly.

“I jumped on it and I thought, ‘that’s my film’. I was tested for it and thank-god (Moorhouse) wanted me to be in it.”

Proof was released a decade after Weaving graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA).

He was born in Nigeria, arriving in Australia as a teenager, after an upbringing where the family relocated every few years.

He says he did not have grand dreams when he first entered NIDA.

“I never think too far ahead,” he said.

(Photo: Tom Hancock/ABC)

Weaving does not like to put himself above anyone else. He seeks meaning through voracious reading, spending time with his friends and family (partner of 31 years Katrina Greenwood and his children Holly and Harry) and enjoying his farm in northern NSW.

“I have a pretty strong sense of myself as a not particularly special person,” he said.

He does, however, enjoy in-depth research and finding the redemptive qualities in the characters he plays. Those qualities are often to be found in how a character interacts with nature.

“I adore nature, without nature and without the natural world we have no perspective on ourselves … I think it’s really special and life-affirming and gives me a perspective on who I am,” Weaving said.

“I don’t have a grand notion of who human beings are because I don’t think they are any more special than a tree or a bird or a kangaroo.”

But he clearly values what it means to be human and strives to get to the heart of what makes an individual tick whether playing Mitzi Del Bra in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or the cross-dressing Sergeant Horatio Farrat in the Dressmaker.”


THIS JUST IN: Another new Hugo Weaving video interview courtesy NineMSN Mornings:

Nine MSN Mornings/9jumpin.com.au

You can read or view interviews with other Dressmaker cast members and creative team at the following sites:

Liam Hemsworth at The Project TV (Seven News video interview), Screen Australia, Vogue Australia (scans via LiamHemsworthFans on Twitter)

Rosalie Ham at Editing Everything, Niume.com

Jocelyn Moorhouse at ABC News

Judy Davis in The Sydney Morning Herald (and associated papers)

Sarah Snook at The Daily Mail

Sue Maslin at Flicks.co.nz

Plus there’s a story on the film’s set and production design at Desktop Magazine.

You can read positive reviews and well-written mixed reviews for The Dressmaker at Sunshine Coast Daily, Cocktail Revolution, Impulse Gamer, and Fashion Weekly

Sydney Premiere 20 Oct Photos

“Let the fun begin. Sydney premier of the dressmaker @marieclaireau @UniversalPics: Jackie Frank via Twitter

“See #HugoWeaving & #SarahSnook star in #TheDressmaker” Hoyts Australia via Twitter m(plus next one)

“The stars have arrived at #TheDressmaker Sydney Premiere! #HugoWeaving #SarahSnook @UniversalPicsAU” Hoyts Australia via Twitter

“Guests of honour of the evening at the @marieclaireau screening of @dressmakermovie #Sydney #premiere” Karishma Sarkari via Twitter/Instagram

“Sydney #dressmakerpremier with @jackie_frank @nickybriger @sarah_snook #HugoWeaving” Marie Claire via Instagram

“@sarah_snook & #HugoWeaving at the @marieclaireau red carpet screening of #TheDressmaker” EventCinema via Instagram

“Hugo Weaving is effortlessly cool on the red carpet at the #DressmakerPremiere in Sydney tonight.” The Dressmaker via Twitter

“The gang’s here- Hugo, Sue, Jocelyn and Sarah reunited on the red carpet at the #DressmakerPremiere in Sydney.” The Dressmaker via Twitter

“#TheDressmaker team assemble at the exclusive @marieclaireau red carpet screening in Sydney” Universal Pictures Australia via Twitter (plus next one)

(L to R: Presenter Jackie Frank, Producer Sue Maslin, Director Jocelyn Moorhouse, Nicky Briger, Hugo Weaving and Sarah Snook)

My screencaps of Hugo Weaving, from the live feed of the Sydney premiere Q&A. Hugo accidentally broke a wooden footrest from the bottom of his chair but recovered nicely. 😉

Judy Davis sits to Hugo’d left

Note: I can’t find an official copy of this footage online but was able to screen-record the Q&A in two parts. Will share Hugo’s section if the person who shot it doesn’t re-post

“Cast and Crew arrive for exclusive @marieclaireau red carpet screening of @dressmakermovie in #Sydney” Media Services AP via Twitter

“So lovely seeing you again this evening @NickyBriger!! (albeit briefly) x #TheDressmaker #marieclaire #screening” Karishma Sarkari via Twitter (plus next pic)

“Cast/creators of The Dressmaker at the Syd premiere w publisher @Jackie_frank & editor @NickyBriger @UniversalPicsAU” Marie Claire via Twitter

Hugo Weaving at the 20 Oct Sydney premiere of The Dressmaker. Photo (plus next three) Brandom Voight/Splash News

“Fantastic girls night out #thedressmaker #sydney premiere. Q&A #hugoweaving #judydavis #sarahsnook” Julia via Instagram

“#thedressmaker #ourcoolevent @universalpicsau @marieclaireau #sarahsnook #hugoweaving” Events Department ia Instagram

Photo (plus next three): Don Arnold/WireImage

Photo (Plus next one): El Pics/Getty Images

Photo: The Dressmaker Facebook (plus next three)

Sydney Premiere Q&A with Sarah Snook, Judy Davis and Hugo Weaving

Photo: Richard Milns/Demotix (plus next two)

Photo (plus next five)  MediaServices AP

Sydney Hayden Orpheum Screening Q&A Featuring Hugo Weaving and Jocelyn Moorhouse

Hugo and director Jocelyn Moorhouse also attended a preview screening of The Dressmaker at Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum on 21 October; here are some fan photos of that event.

“Some photos of Hugo Weaving tonight at “The Dressmaker” Q&A. He’s stunning and witty. Movie is great!” Siena W via Twitter (plus next three)

“oh Hugo you #hugoweaving #haydenorpheum #thedressmaker #film #cinema #theatre” amyohisson via Instagram

“#TheDressmaker. Amazing piece of Australian cinema. Hugo thanks for bringing good beard game. ” Brittany Vigee via Twitter

Melbourne Premiere 18 Oct New Photos

Hugo Weaving at the Melbourne premiere of The Dressmaker. Photo: Mal Fairclough/AAP

Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook and Liam Hemsworth in Melbourne   Photo: Mal Fairclough/AAP

“Bit of a selfie at my first red carpet #thedressmaker”  (Incl Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook)” Sage Barreda/Instagram

“Hugo and the surprisingly large lighter” Sage Barreda/Instagram

“#HugoWeaving, #SarahSnook & @liamhemsworth at the Melbourne Premiere of #TheDressmaker.” MovieJuiceTV via Instagram

This photo plus next one: Universal Pictures Australia via Twitter

Photo: L’Officiel Australia (plus next one)

Dressmaker Promotional Photos and Appearances

Hugo Weaving at a Dressmaker promo interview   Photo: Corporate Cameras via Twitter

Hugo with ABC Radio Melbourne’s Raf Epstein  Photo: ABC Radio Melbourne via Twitter

“Hugo Weaving – what a charming man & a pleasure to interview for #movie  #TheDessmaker @UniversalPicsAU @2GB” Janette Lakiss vua Twitter

“This is me, LITERALLY standing in the shadow of the acting giant that is #HugoWeaving @UniversalPicsAU #TheBeard” Yahoo7’s Jess Clark via Twitter

“He plays a cross-dressing cop in @DressmakerMovie Would Hugo Weaving ever play Mr Darcy? #OnePlusOne 10am @ABCTV”  ABC’s Jane Hutcheon via Twitter

Seven lovely promo portraits of Hugo Weaving and Sarah Snook by David Crosling/AAP; there are five more of Hugo solo here that I hope to share soon.

David Crosling/AAP (plus next six)

Note: I do have additional photos, particularly of the Melbourne premiere, that I’m still sorting and working on (in some cases cleaning up) for optimal presentation here and on my Twitter feed. So stay tuned; for more frequent updates and earliest posting of new material, check out my Twitter feed.

Hugo Cast In Hacksaw Ridge

Some would accuse me of burying the lead by noting this story at the end of my post, and certainly the mainstream media outside of Australia talks far more about this project than The Dressmaker or any of Hugo’s other recent projects. But frankly I’m lukewarm at best about this film, mostly because I’ve never respected Mel Gibson as a director OR as a human being, and am leery of Hugo and so many other talented actors being used to burnish or rehab his image. Hugo’s son Harry Greenwood was cast in the film about a month ago; I retweeted news about it then but didn’t dwell on the subject.

To back up a bit, Hacksaw Ridge is a World War II drama about a conscientious objector (to be played by Andrew Garfield) who refuses to carry a gun but nontheless enlists as a medic and is later awarded the Medal of Honor after heroics at the Battle of Okinawa. Though the material might be worthy in another director’s hands, I’m leery of Gibson somehow turning it into another right-wing pro-war apologia with the sort of creepy religious overtones that have marked his most famous efforts as a director. Though Gibson’s anti-Semitic and sexist rants haven’t made the news in several years, I don’t recall Gibson formally apologizing for them apart from excusing one incident as a side-effect of alcoholism. Even if he has shown contrition over these episodes and no longer holds the fundamentalist views he did in the past, his efforts as a director were heavy-handed exercises in battlefield torture-porn which also had racist and anti-gay overtones at times. Gibson didn’t write the screenplay for this film, but it still sounds like yet another jingoistic Hollywood WWII movie at best. So it’s not something I’d even consider seeing if Hugo wasn’t involved, and he’s going to really have to sell me on this before I consider paying money to see it in a theatre. I’ll cover it here when Hugo is specifically involved in updates, but am skeptical at this point. I don’t know why Hugo signed on, though he seemed more eager to talk about Harry’s participation than his own role (see the Today interview, above), so it might be the opportunity to be on the same project as his son, though Hugo says they aren’t sharing any scenes, There also might be a better-than-expectef script, or Hugo might want to support the local industry by working on an Australian-made large-scale “prestige” film sure to garner international attention.   (The lead characters are American.)

At any rate, Hugo plays the father of Andrew Garfield’s lead character, Desmond T Doss. The film is already in production, but Hugo will be working on Jasper Jones before reporting to the set of this one. For additional details on the film, see Inside Film, Deadline, The Wrap and Variety… most sources repeat essentially the same information. Props to most sites for at least using a somewhat recent photo of Hugo this time. 😉  Again, if anyone can sell me on this, it would be Hugo, so I’m trying not to assume the worst, but I have avoided some of his films in the past and reserve the right to do so again… I would think he’d appreciate thoughtful fans who think for themselves over fawners who treat every project with equal reverence and have no objectivity.  Hugo himself freely calls some of his past films “rubbish”.  Including a few I personally happen to like. 😉

The Mule’s Trailer Finally Drops (sorry…); Hugo Weaving to Attend Promotional Screenings

Only about a month before its official wide-release in the US and Australia (mainly through home release formats… more on that shortly), we’re finally getting a look at The Mule’s official trailer. NineMSN’s Movie Fix got the “exclusive” bragging rights, though nothing is ever exclusive on the internet for more than 30 seconds or so. I’m going to try a straight embed here and hope it works, because the video won’t stream on all browsers at the site of origin…  Google Chrome and Firefox in particular have issues, though it will play via IE and RealPlayer.

I do have to say I’m relieved, and that it’s very hard not making juvenile puns involving the words “release”, “streaming” and “relief” with the content on hand… I doubt many media sites will be able to resist the obvious jokes either. Fortunately the film doesn’t look least-common-denominator at all, and the quease-making plot elements seem to be dealt with in a sly, more subtle manner than might be expected. I have no doubt the film will be more graphic in places, but I’ve always thought any film more effectively ratchets up the tension by showing less and implying more. (Nicely creepy sound effects, by the way.) One can already tell Hugo Weaving’s character will be a lot of fun to watch… I hope he isn’t the sort of cartoon-villain-who’ll-get-a-messy-and/or-humiliating-comeuppance that we’ve seen in The Tender Hook, Reckless Kelly or any of Hugo’s American films. I suspect that’s exactly what we’ll get, but one can still hope. 😉 But the film looks like it balances comedic and tense elements effectively and without being too broad. Not crazy about the cut-and-paste poster or the snarky use of Hugo in it (that’s very least-common-denominator) but marketing is often like that… even some great dramatic films have lousy posters. I’ll embed it below anyhow, so people can decide for themselves, followed by a selection of screencaps I took of Hugo’s best moments in the trailer. Already finding the balloon bit a highlight and expect Tumblr to be awash in animated GIFs of that shortly. 😉


No, this is NOT what it looks like. If  find out anyone has used these to illustrate slashfic… ;P

“I swear, all of these poo jokes are driving me to drink!”

As I mentioned earlier, The Mule’s makers and distributors have elected to focus on an immediate VOD release (including iTunes, not that that’s how I’ll be seeing it) with DVD/Blu-Ray to follow shortly thereafter. The film will likely be available for paid on-demand streaming via US cable a well. There will be cinema screenings in Sydney and Melbourne featuring Hugo Weaving with Leigh Whannell and Angus Samson (the co-writers, co-stars and in Sampson’s case co-director). Hugo has been very enthusiastic about the film (without giving away too much about it) in promoting his other work, and did a prominent photo session in a Mule t-shirt last fall. So it’ll be fun to see him participate in the promotion. No word yet on any US or other international cinema distribution… the filmmakers have been pretty blunt about not wanting to take the risk of a wide opening that loses money, which seems to be the fate of too many promising Australian films lately, even in their home country. US distributors have similarly resigned themselves to releasing most low-budget indie or foreign films direct to DVD/VOD/OnDemand. While this does make the films much more widely available than any arthouse release– and I think simultaneous releases across countries and formats is a great idea– I always want the option of seeing films in a cinema. I know not everyone would want to see someone in intestinal distress– and the attendant consequences of that distress- blown up on an IMAX screen, but this would be a great film to see in a crowded theatre, if only to hear the reactions of one’s fellow patrons. It might be a potential midnight movie option, though I sometimes get annoyed with the “stoner” reputation such films draw. (For the record, I saw 2001, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Big Lebowski and the complete oeuvre of David Lynch without needing any alcohol or other mind-altering substances, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. GOOD movies don’t need chemical assistance. Only bad ones.) 😉

Anyhow… you can read more details about The Mule’s projected distribution at Inside Film, Spotlight Report, Cinema Australia and The Sydney Morning Herald. Of course, the film’s Facebook and Twitter accounts remain your best sources. (They also have an Instagram account, which shared hilariously unrevealing images during the film’s production.) No official website yet, but they’ll probably have one up soon. I sort of like the delayed-gratification of waiting this long for the trailer, and knowing I’ll have the option of seeing the film before every single plot detail has been divulged by reviewers or online in every country that got distribution before mine did. Australians routinely complain about having to wait a month or more for prominent Hollywood films (like The Hobbit)… well, I hated waiting two years to see Last Ride and another year after THAT for it to get minuscule US distribution. Films should be available to anyone willing to pay to see them, anywhere. That’ll cut down on piracy and increase the bottom line. ideally, one should be able to see films in a cinema, but I know in this era where Marvel, Disney and supernatural tween romance films seem to have most American screens locked up, this is a tall order. [Insert shameless plug for supporting one’s local arthouse, college theater, library and whoever the hell else plays films the MallPlexes shun.] The Mule opens/begins explosive streaming (sorry again) 21 November in Australia with those special Q&A’s in Sydney and Melbourne beforehand… I’ll share specifics as soon as I know any. The Australian DVD follows in early December. The US release (probably mostly via streaming) is slated for 30 October.

You can read reviews of The Mule’s recent Fantasy Film Fest screenings (some in German) at Leinwandreporter.com, and BFI’s Festival page. The Mule screens at BFI next month, along with Tim Winton’s The Turning… though not at the same time. (Wouldn’t that be a double feature…) Tickets are still available for both films.

In Other Hugo Weaving News:

There’s an interview with Mystery Road‘s production designer Matt Putland at Junsui Films Limited. Yes, there was actually one aspect of that film’s production NOT undertaken by multihyphenate wonder Ivan Sen. 😉

Campaign Brief explores the Sydney Theatre Co’s marketing campaign and promotional brochure for their 2015 season, which will feature Hugo Weaving in Beckett’s Endgame, Roxburgh and Blanchett in Chekhov’s The Present (Platonov) and Geoffrey Rush as King Lear.  STC themselves have added a few new and vintage articles to their Endgame page.

Harry Greenwood adds another impressive credit to his resume by appearing as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at Bevoir this month. The production features Hugo Weaving’s frequent costar Pamela Rabe (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Much Ado About Nothing, God of Carnage) as Amanda and Luke Mullins (who’s had a career-breakthrough year on Sydney stage over the past year, including in STC’s Waiting For Godot) as Tom. For more, including Rabe’s impression on meeting Williams as a young actress, go to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Things have been pretty quiet on the Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies front since the release of their promo banner earlier this month. Stephen Fry (The Master of Laketown) noted that VO work/dubbing is ongoing on Twitter last week.

Archive Additions:

I’ve added a promotional brochure for Mystery Road (front/back, centerspread) over at Flickr, and a lovely promo postcard for the Australian release of Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus.

New Photobucket Hugonuts Archive Additions:

Nicholas Harding’s Drawing Godot, May 2014
The Wolfman, 2 February 2010 Moscow Premiere
The Wolfman,  9 February 2010 LA Premiere
The Mule Stills, Caps and Posters

Finally, a selection of new fan photos taken during the run of STC’s Macbeth, complete with original captions:

“#HugoWeaving ” Photo: JakeTGNTEL via Twitter, along with next photo)

“The man himself!!! Wow! #stc #macbeth #hugoweaving” Photo: Daniel Yaxley via Instagram

“I’ve never seen this girl so excited. just gave her the best bridesmaid gift ever. #hugoweaving #starstruck #speechless” Photo: mel_erin via Instagram

“nice to see u again#hugoweaving #macbeth see u next year:)if there is any possibility I will definitely go there to see u and Rox~love #waitingforgodot soooo much~”
Photo: Joyce Ruan via Instagram

“No words could describe my ecstasy right now. Thank you for the confirmation!!! See you next June! #holidaymode #HugoWeaving #Macbeth”
Photo: Our very own Sydney correspondent Yvette, via Instagram

The Turning, Mystery Road to Screen At MIFF: Hobbit Video 11; Hugo Weaving SFF Audio Interview

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

Through there hasn’t been any spectacular breaking news since the last entry, there are enough new tidbits on several of Hugo’s films (and, as far as the Melbourne International Film Fest is concerned, specifics) to warrant a full update.

The Turning

First up, Hugo’s next film to premiere will be Tim Winton’s The Turning, which will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival next month. The film’s world premiere will serve as MIFF’s Centerpiece Gala on 3 August at 7pm, with additional showings on 10 August at 10.30am and 11 August at 6.30pm. Tickets are selling quickly, so if you plan on attending, you’ll nee to act fast. You can buy tickets or read additional venue details here.  There will also be a Q&A session about the film held on 4 August at 1.30pm with author Tim Winton, producer Robert Connolly and several of the 17 directors who worked on the project in attendance. Details on that, and ticket sales, are here.  No word yet on whether Hugo Weaving will attend the premiere of this film or be on hand at MIFF in any capacity; Mystery Road will also be screened there on 26 July (more details on that below.) As I’ve mentioned previously, Hugo Weaving is featured in a segment entitled “Commission”, directed by his old friend and frequent past costar David Wenham. Hugo plays “Honest Bob” Lang in a story of about a father and son reuniting after years apart.

You can read more about The Turning at Junkee.com, 10 Magazine, ReFest Magazine, Madman Entertainment, Onya Magazine, Inside Film (an article about some of the film’s first-time directors, including Wenham and Mia Wasikowska), Yen Magazine, Geek of Oz, Pedestrian TV and Mumbrella.  You can read more about the Melbourne International Film Festival at Inside Film, Event Finder and, of course, at the MIFF website.

Local Today featured MIFF artistic director Michelle Carey’s thoughts on the film, which she said varies in tone over the course of 17 linked stories, some of which are impressionistic and others more literal: “As a film experience it’s really unique, it’s something probably a bit more akin to theatre or dance…It is something completely unique certainly in Australian filmmaking.” No additional details and only a pair of official photos from “Commission” have been released, including this film still, and another brief glimpse seen in the film’s trailer:

From The Turning’s Facebook Page, which also features a great shot of Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh in Reunion.

Hugo’s character Bob Lang, as seen in the film’s trailer

The best sources for updates on The Turning remain the film’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. There is an official website too, but so far all it features is the film’s teaser trailer. The Turning will have its Australian cinema release 26 September; no word yet on international distribution, but with this cast I figure it’ll have to at least get VOD distribution, and ideally an arthouse release worldwide.

Mystery Road

As I mentioned, Ivan Sen’s widely lauded film Mystery Road, which had its world premiere at last month’s Sydney Film Festival, will also have a screening at MIFF, on 26 July at 6.15pm as part of MIFF’s Australian Showcase.  There will also be a talk featuring Ivan Sen and star Aaron Pedersen on 27 July at 4pm. Unfortunately Mystery Road’s Australian release has been pushed back from August to October; hopefully that won’t impact the projected early 2014 US/international release previously announced. I don’t know if Australia follows America’s tendency to use August as a dumping ground for mindless summer movies that don’t quite have the box office potential of the May – July “tentpole” releases, but if they do, the change to the more serious, artistically-intentioned fall release season makes sense.

Mystery Road received another boost in the form of a very positive review in Variety, which is considered influential in gauging how well a film will do in international release; unfortunately, the critic continued Variety’s tendency to spill far too many plot spoilers, so those not wanting character details or the aftermath of the film’s climactic gun battle revealed might want to skip the middle paragraphs; here’s a spoiler-free excerpt:

Eddie Cockrell, Variety: “Writer-director-lenser-editor-composer Ivan Sen’s “Mystery Road” is an impressively crafted, immensely satisfying contempo thriller that astutely grafts Western and film-noir elements onto the hot-button issue of tensions between indigenous and European Australians… Holding the narrative tightly together is Sen’s superb script — his fourth produced dramatic feature and first genre exercise. Rich in imaginative metaphor and brooding symbolism, the film incorporates such disparate elements as the growing threat of wild dogs in the region, the God’s-eye shots of Swan navigating the town’s roads and even the dusty red dirt that coats everything in the outback, creating an atmosphere of brooding menace and moral rot… [Aaron] Pedersen’s laconic delivery fronts a distinguished lineup of Aussie character talent.”

Sydney Film Festival 

Hugo Weaving at the SFF awards presentation ceremony, 16 June  Photo: ABC Arts

The controversial awarding of the SFF’s main prize to Only God Forgives continues to be debated online. Film critic and journalist Julie Rigg, who has interviewed Hugo many times over the course of his career, chatted with him and fellow SFF juror Paolo Bertolin after the awards presentation and shared both audio clips on ABC Arts.  She heard two very different responses to the film, which essentially confirm my suspicion that the jury was divided and that Hugo and another juror (probably Anand Gandhi) were talked into changing their votes by the three others. (Bertolin and the two female jurors, Kath Shelper and Pia Marais, have been vocal in their praise of the winning film while Weaving and Gandhi have been vocal only in not wanting to discuss it at all, 😉 though Hugo expressed warm feelings for all his fellow jurors and stressed that the decision caused no rancor among the group.) I’d love to hear which film Hugo actually preferred, as he does state the final choice, which took 6 and a half hours, was between two films. Even the awards statement, which Hugo read during the presentation, was “was carefully phrased and debated word by word” by the group, according to Rigg, and thus wasn’t Hugo’s personal statement, but one on behalf of and composed by the full group.

Though this was Hugo’s first time as a feature film juror at a prominent festival, he also served on the jury at the Byron Kennedy Awards judging short films… where fellow juror Rowan Woods (The Boys, Little Fish) said he also was talked into awarding a film that wasn’t his first choice. So he’s definitely a facilitator rather than a dictator or politician at these events. I would think people would ask Hugo (or any actor/director/etc) to serve in such a role in order to have a definitive role in the selection process, but Hugo would apparently rather cede to the majority and maintain equanimity, though he slightly subverts that process by saying he has nothing to say whatsoever about the winning film. Which, from Hugo, speaks volumes. 😉 I don’t think anyone would hold it against Hugo to just be honest and direct whether he loved a given film or hated it… I never hold back on strong opinions about films, or the arts, but I’m able to have enthusiastic debates with friends and family who hold equally strong but different opinions without anyone taking things personally. Hugo has always been more than willing to praise films he enjoyed (especially Australian films) but more circumspect in being critical. This is very endearing, but I would love it if someone asked him to dish on movies he hated for once. Other than Transformers, I mean. 😉

That said… I’d love to see video of the Julie Rigg interview, because clearly he gives her quite an expression when asked “what Nicholas Winding Refn was saying” with Only God Forgives, as she says, “Clearly you don’t want to go any further”, and they both laugh. Later he says, “You’ve got to learn to have your opinions chiseled a bit” on a festival jury, then later says “I think you shouldn’t talk to me too much about this film” when asked what about the winner he “hadn’t seen before”.  Reminds me a bit of the late, great Roger Ebert’s refusal to give The Human Centipede a rating. Maybe that is a bit colder (or more “chiseling”?) than just ranting about how bad it was, which some directors will cynically blurb to get attention.


A few new updates on Healing, which is in the final stages of post-production and might be ready in time for the fall festivals. The film’s Facebook page shared the news that editing has now been completed, and additional audio recording (of natural sounds, to highlight to therapy-raptor theme) was underway in late June. They also shared this photo of the cast and crew at Healesville Sanctuary on the final day of filming. Hugo is in the front row, to the right:

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

I wish I had more specific info about Hugo’s role in this film, but currently there are no new details about whether Elrond will appear in both remaining Hobbit films or what his scenes will involve. PJ has confirmed that the Battle of Five Armies was among the sequences being shot during this spring/summer’s “pick-ups” for the last film, There and Back Again. Hugo has not yet been involved in the current filming, but it will probably continue for at least a few more weeks. Hugo did confirm he shot scenes for “both films” when there were only two, and that, as of last fall (when he last spoke of The Hobbit), he hadn’t shot any Battle of Five Armies footage and hadn’t been given details as to whether or when he’d be needed for additional work on the trilogy.

Hugo also doesn’t appear in Peter Jackson’s latest Production Diary Video (#11 for those counting), but it’s so entertaining you’ll probably want to watch it (or watch it again) anyhow. I suspect that the second film focuses more on the Mirkwood Elves, including Legolas, Thranduil and the controversially non-canonical Tauriel. (For the record, I have no issues with Tauriel being added… even when I was a kid first reading The Hobbit, I thought it could use more female characters. Because it had absolutely none. PJ has promised that Tauriel isn’t just a Mary Sue construct (ie a love interest for Legolas who has no real role in the story or other justification for being there)… he’d better be telling the truth. But nothing I’ve seen so far gives me reason for concern.)  I still hope Elrond at least makes an appearance in the two remaining films, but we’ll have to wait awhile longer to know for certain. Til then you can look at scans from the Empire DOS issue at Comic Book Movie. And PJ also promises a second new Production Diary video covering the latter half of this summer’s pick-ups and reshoots before summer ends.

And there’s confirmation (via Empire and ComingSoon.net) of additional Rivendell footage in publicity for the forthcoming Expanded Edition of An Unexpected Journey, which will be out this fall in advance of the second film. (To be specific, we’re promised more Dwarf-on-Elf hostility in Rivendell footage; Elrond isn’t specifically mentioned, but frankly in spite of AUJ’s  widely criticized theatrical length, the Rivendell sequences felt too abrupt, particularly for scenes meant to convey how Bilbo’s lifelong love of Rivendell began in the first place. So I’m glad to learn more footage was shot.)

In Other Hugo Weaving News…

Hugo Weaving was spotted at Art of Music Live, a fundraising concert, on 26 June. He has supported the charity for several years, and donated $25K in a charity auction for the group in 2010.

The Mule has been filming in Bangkok, Thailand over the past couple of weeks, though no specifics about which cast members re on hand are available. The film’s Twitter feed continues to provide humorous but real-information-free posts and videos. I suspect Hugo Weaving plays a supporting rather than lead character at this point.

The Gift, a short film starring Hugo’s son Harry Greenwood, has been picked up by several prominent international festivals, including MIFF, The Palm Springs Short Film Festival and “two others in LA”,  according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Mule Begins Principal Photography, SFF/Mystery Road Coming Soon, Cloud Atlas Tops DVD Charts

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

I know it’s been a long time between entries; Hugo Weaving has been busy preparing for his next role in The Mule (and for Sydney Film Festival jury duty), so there’s been little in the way of breaking news of late, but that should change very soon.

In the past 24 hours, several Australian websites (Time Out Melbourne, Moviehole.net and Picha.com.au) carried a press release announcing the beginning of principal photography on The Mule is officially underway and will continue on locations in Melbourne and Bangkok, Thailand for the next several weeks. None of the articles specifically confirms that Hugo Weaving is playing Ray Jenkins, the title role. Picha and IMDb list only Weaving and John Noble in the cast… but a careful look at Angus Sampson’s rather florid (heh heh) statement about working with both actors implies that he and Leigh Whannell are acting in addition to writing the project:

” [Hugo Weaving] is one of the world’s finest actors; every syllable he utters quenches one’s aural thirst and to have the compelling John Noble alongside him is truly humbling. Tony Mahony’s taste and visual design is resonant and remarkable. Leigh and I are thrilled to be collaborating with such esteemed filmmakers both in front of and behind the lens.”

Yes, it’s frustratingly ambiguous. We know John Noble plays a businessman with a secret line in drug sales, so it’s his first unambiguous villain role, and he’ll probably relish it the way Hugh Grant did his Cloud Atlas villains. Hugo, on the other hand, keeps being cast in such roles (see also The Tender Hook, The Key Man, possibly Mystery Road, in addition to the obvious ones) so it’d be refreshing to see him play a complicated, if flawed, protagonist rather than the villain/obstacle in a  supporting role who gets the best lines but little character development. 😉

In addition to Whannell and Sampson, the project involves several past collaborators with Hugo Weaving or his favorite directors: co-producer Jane Liscombe has worked extensively with Glendyn Ivin (Last Ride), costume designer Cappi Ireland won an AFI for The Tender Hook and also worked on Oranges and Sunshine, director of photography Stefan Duscio worked on The Turning, and production designer Paddy Reardon worked on Hugo Weaving’s breakthrough film Proof. This is director Mahony’s first feature film, and I usually cringe when I hear a director is best known for music videos (Spike Jonze aside)… but Mahony has made videos for Nick Cave and Paul Kelly. So he automatically becomes the most interesting member of the crew. 😉

The film already has a Twitter/Instagram account and promises photos and videos from the set soon… nothing yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

A few Hugo-themed print articles narrowly missed by previous post, so I’ll add them here… the first originally appeared in the Hobart Mercury on 11 May and features Hugo Weaving’s SFF press conference comments on what he knows so far about Mystery Road and why he’s looking forward to the SFF. The second piece is the Sunday Telegraph’s great April 21 interview with Harry Greenwood on the occasion of his STC debut in Fury. He also discusses his famous (middle) name and is refreshingly honest about the influence of his parents on his career.

Hobart Mercury, 11 May

Sunday Telegraph 21 April 2013

Note: I’ve recently begun posting my snapshots of classic Hugo Weaving digital articles to my personal LJ as I back them up at Flickr. Since I post links/content from the originals here when they’re new, I’m not reposting that material here to avoid redundancy… but if you missed anything the first time around or just want to revisit old favorites feel free to check it out. You don’t need to “friend” or “like” me or anything. 😉 I’ll post links to new content at Twitter whenever I add anything.

Cloud Atlas Home Release

Cloud Atlas was released on DVD/Blu-Ray on May 14 in the US, and quickly ascended to the top of the sales chart (more detail at The Hollywood Reporter and Contact Music). You can read well-written new reviews of the film and its home release features at I Am Rogue, PopMatters, Daily Motion, The Nerdist, Aisle Seat, Cinema Blend, Yahoo Movies, Movie Fanatic, Rotten Tomatoes, Gazettes.com, Rev. Ron’s Movie Blog, HamptonRoads.com, My San Antonio, Daily News, Scorecard Review, White Buffalo, Flick Filosopher, Forrest Hartman, JoBlo.com, WorldNews.me, Movie City News, The Video Station, Depressed Press, Foster on Film, Age of Uncertainty, Subtle Water, Boston Bibliophile and I’ve Seen Films. Great to see this film finally earning some respect, though I wish more US viewers had come to see it in theaters. If anything deserves big-screen study, it’s this film.

You can also hear some exclusive soundtrack excerpts not included on the official release (and read an interview with co-scorer Reinhold Heil) at Tracksounds.

The Hobbit

Peter Jackson announced that “pick ups” for the third Hobbit film (and possibly reshoots for Smaug) were about to commence on . Though he promised an update “soon” (and shared a cheeky pic of himself and Gandalf/Sir Ian) there are no details or specifics on which actors/scenes will be filmed… yet. But watch this space and TheOneRing.net… and of course PJ’s Facebook page. I Am Rogue and Nuke the Fridge, among others, speculate on what might be filmed in the next few weeks, with the Battle of 5 Armies topping everyone’s Wish List. But nothing is yet confirmed, nor do we know if Hugo will be required on set, or if he’ll appear in all three films. Hugo repeatedly confirmed involvement in the first two films before a third was announced, but since then hasn’t been able to tell us more. He has so far spent only “about three weeks” filming scenes for the first two films (in April 2011), plus visits to NZ for some ADR … he hasn’t been reported on set recently, and is obviously busy on at least two other projects at the moment. But if I know Peter Jackson, these “few weeks of pick-ups” might well carry on through the summer. So we’ll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, you can peruse some elegant fanart featuring Elrond and other characters (Thorin, Smaug, etc) at Flicks and Bits.

SFF/Mystery Road

As previously announced, Hugo Weaving will serve as president of the Jury at next month’s Sydney Film Festival, which will also see the world premiere of his film Mystery Road, directed by Ivan Sen. While we await a trailer and more details about Mystery Road, you can catch a few glimpses of the film (though not Hugo– you can see Ryan Kwanten and Aaron Pedersen) in the new SFF Trailer. The SFF website has been updated to include Hugo’s bio and those of his fellow jurors Paolo Bertolin, Pia Marais, Anand Ghandi, and Kath Shelper. More news about the SFF jury and the festival in general at FilmInk and The Australian. There are brief previews of Mystery Road at Vibe Australia and ArtsHub. There’s an interview with festival director Nasheen Moodley at Trespass. As of May 28, tickets remain available to the Mystery Road premiere. (My coverage of the first round of SFF/Mystery Road press, including new Hugo Weaving interviews,  can be read here.)

Mystery Road’s Facebook page has been down in recent days, and the film doesn’t yet have an official website, but several Australian film industry Facebook pages, including Screen Australia, posted this publicity pic featuring Hugo Weaving and Aaron Pederen… and possibly director Ivan Sen, but there’s no caption. 😉

Very atmospheric, innit? 😉

FASHION ALERT! Brigalow Country has posted a nice new still from Mystery Road featuring Hugo and Aaron Pedersen. Apparently they supplied the belts. I’m not usually one to go in for product tie-ins, but until official stills are released, I’ll add whatever images from the film I can find. They also have a pic of Ryan Kwanen with Pedersen.

That’s all for now, but news on The Mule (or The Hobbit… or Mystery Road) might appear at any moment, so stay tuned.

Some amusing introductory tweets on The Mule:

Rehearsals for The Mule going well. You know its going to be a great production when the quality of biscuits is this good.

It’s what’s inside that counts.

That second one…ouch. 😉 But it confirms we’re dealing with a black comedy. And who knows what’s in those biscuits….

Hugo Weaving Reportedly Cast in Aussie Crime Drama The Mule, Mystery Road Approaches Release

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

So far there are very few details available about this story, so I’ll share what I have found and follow up as needed. Deadline Hollywood* ran a one-paragraph item stating that Hugo has been cast in a film called The Mule, which “chronicles a drug mule who is nabbed by the police and the fallout from that capture.” No information is yet available about whether Hugo might play the title character (which would be intriguing but, I fear, unlikely), a police officer, a drug lord or some character that can’t yet be conjectured based on the minimal info we now have. (Deadline is notorious for running with “scoops” so they can claim an “exclusive” rather than waiting for press releases or corroborating details.)  The project is set to film in Australia later this year and is financed by Screen Australia, which financed many of Hugo’s prior Australian projects.

Though the participation of writer Leigh Whannell, who’s best known for the Saw sequels and slightly tonier recent horror films (Insidious) doesn’t sound promising, the second screenwriter (Angus Sampson) and director (Tony Mahony) are relative newcomers; this will be Mahony’s feature debut and the first major writing project for Sampson, who’s primarily worked as an actor to this point, though he’s written a few short films. (All of this comes from IMDb.) Hugo has a long history of working for first-time directors, and, of course, for supporting the Australian film industry and preferring to work close to home.  Interesting trivia item: Whannel, Sampson and Weaving all did voice roles for Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole a few years ago. I doubt this is how they met up, but I’ve heard stranger stories. 😉

Ain’t It Cool News has just posted an enthusiastic item on the project that is wholly based on the Deadline report; this writer interprets Deadline’s language as implying Hugo has the title role, but I’m not so sure. Variety fills in a few more details: they label The Mule a “black comedy” and note that Whannell will “co-produce, co-write and star in the pic”…I’m already suspecting he’s given himself the title role. (Whannell does have a long resume as an actor; perhaps he thought other producers and directors weren’t giving him interesting-enough roles, so he decided to get proactive.) In general I am impressed when any actor or director tries to break away from established patterns or typecasting, and Hugo generally chooses roles based on the quality of the script, though there have been notable exceptions to this (Hellooooo Transformers!) At this point I’m cautiously optimistic, though already worried Hugo’s been handed another routine villain/obstacle role.  According to Mumbrella, the film’s promotional tagline is “Ray Jenkins, an unlikely drug mule from Sunshine, Victoria, takes on all the authority figures in his life using the only option within his control – holding on!”  Which is what we fans will have to do until more information is officially released. 😉 But let’s hope this one is intelligent fun. Hugo might have wanted a change of pace after starring in three serious dramas (Mystery Road, The Turning, Healing) in a row.

*As usual, LJ is not allowing me to post direct links to Deadline, for reasons I can’t fathom. To read the original article, go to
www[dot] deadline [dot] com[slash]2013[slash]04[slash]hugo-weaving-set-for-aussie-crime-drama-the-mule

Which brings me to a much more uncomfortable subject I’ve also been trying to uncover factual reporting about: Hugo’s alleged participation in a pair of advertisements which bring back his Smith character from The Matrix. I know that just about everyone on the planet is taking these ads at face value, and if any other actor or celebrity were involved, I would too. But Hugo has a long (30 year), honorable history of not involving himself in product advertising, even for product tie-ins connected with the Matrix and Lord of the Rings films. In a 2003 Matrix Reloaded promo interview, he was asked about a series of PowerAde ads by a reporter for About.com; he replied, “[The producers] showed what they were going to do [with the ads]. They wanted me to do them, but I didn’t really want to go there.”  (Actors playing the “upgrade” Agents appeared in some ads, an actor resembling Joe Pesci doing a bad Smith impersonation appeared in another.)

Hugo has done several PSAs for various charities, including Voiceless.org and Earthshare, and, of course, he’s appeared in trailers for his films, but that’s it. He’s also consistently, though unobtrusively, voiced progressive political opinions over the years and shared a general disinterest in “the business side” of filmmaking. The notion that Hugo would turn his most famous character into a cuddly, corporate mascot for a notorious mega-corporation with a long record of malfeasance is so out of character that my first response was to question it, assuming the ads were a Yes Men style hoax/parody or that the character had been recreated with CG without Hugo’s direct involvement. GE’s press releases contain no mention of Hugo, no quotes from him, and no detailed information about when or where the ads were created. A GE spokesperson was quoted as saying the Wachowskis licensed the character and Matrix references, but contrary to some reports, they did not write or direct the ad; they’re currently busy filming Jupiter Ascending in the UK.

A lot of other things about this mess don’t add up: Hugo has been photographed with a heavy beard steadily since the end of 2011; his last clean-shaven role was, of course, Cloud Atlas, which wrapped in December of that year. He starred in Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Mystery Road, The Turning and Healing and sat over a period of several months for artist Del Kathryn Barton’s Archibald-winning portrait.  It’s doubtful a company would film footage in 2011 then sit on it for over a year. Hugo hasn’t been photographed since the end of March, on the Healing set, but he definitely still had the beard then. If he did participate in these ads, it would have to have been very recently, and they must have been filmed in Australia. None of the “reports” on the ads (most of which are fawning descriptions of its contents with a few lines from GE press releases) feature any real reporting. Usually when a celebrity does this sort of thing, some information about the shoot, circumstances and fees are released (Brad Pitt’s unintentionally hilarious Chanel ad being a case in point.) On the other hand, it’s doubtful that Hugo’s image could be used in this way without his permission. If it is really him, it’s the most stilted, embarrassing performance he’s given, and is a betrayal of many of his previously oft-stated principals. It’s also the worst possible misappropriation of a character and films I genuinely love.

Hugo will have to answer direct questioning about all of this at some point; it’s a pity that these sorts of questions might overshadow the promotion for Mystery Road, which is nearing completion and already has strong buzz. A lot of people who know little about Hugo beyond Smith and Elrond (and, maybe, V and Red Skull) are saying a lot of incredibly stupid things about these ads, to the point it’s been depressing to participate in the online fandom at all. I’ve put off making any sort of statement about these ads because I loathe them and also wanted to wait until there was real information to be had including anything Hugo himself might have to say. Of course, when he does discuss this, I’ll pass that along. It’s disappointing how many people think fandom should be uncritical fawning over every element of an artist’s output, usually emphasizing least-common-denominator minor pop culture projects over serious output. It pains me to think that those stupid commercials will be retweeted and reblogged with much more frequency than Hugo’s next three indie projects combined, though obviously Hugo put a lot more work and personal commitment into Mystery Road, The Turning and Healing, all of which could be termed “passion projects” which reteam him with costars and directors he’s often said he treasures working with.

In 2010, while promoting The Wolfman, Hugo said he considered the Smith character “dead” and that there were no plans for Matrix sequels. (“But there won’t be any other Matrix films! Agent Smith is gone, you can rest assured about that.”: as quoted by AMC).  Though I’ve always enjoyed some of the fan interpretations/parodies of the character, he should remain immune from any sort of corporate appropriation, as should all beloved (if that’s the right word) 😉 fictional characters. GE was already on my shit list for their obnoxious previous ads which misused robots, cyborgs and other “machine” characters pilfered from the history of film and television… and of course for their business practices. I’m aware that all of us have to live with a certain amount of compromise to make a living at all in the world these days, and that there are degrees of “selling out”.  I know that all major big-budget films include a certain number of product tie-ins, many of which are ridiculous. But I can share info on The Hobbit without feeling a need to pass on word of ghastly-sounding “culinary” tie-ins from a certain greasy-spoon breakfast chain best known as a haunt for late-night stoners. And I can giggle at the irony of a certain electronics company using product placement in V for Vendetta which makes it look like The Media Choice For Tyrannical Regimes Everywhere in context. I can easily forgive struggling young actors or musicians who appear in commercials to make ends meet, or license their songs to reach a wider audience. But once you reach a certain degree of fame, you are indeed staking your reputation and using your name in service of an advertiser if you go down this road. There’s also a difference between having your unknown song innocuously featured as background music and actually changing the lyrics of your big hit song to paean the virtues of a product. The latter is more egregious, and it utterly ruins the song– at least as long as the ad campaign runs .

But, to my mind, this is the worst possible way of selling out. These ads, lacking any sort of creativity or viable narrative of their own, steal the creative work of others and utterly change and degrade the context and meaning of this work and these characters in hopes of making a few bucks (or increasing “brand visibility” ). Whether the corporation is trying to exploit viewer nostalgia or attract younger viewers who think they’re so self-aware and ironic that they require self-aware, ironic ads (I suspect both motives are at work here) the ads are an obvious violation of the spirit of the Matrix films and the Smith character in the most basic sense. The idea that the Wachowskis or Hugo might have been okay with any of this is incredibly depressing. (As recently as Cloud Atlas promotion, the Wachowskis claimed they had no interest in doing additional Matrix films… apparently selling off the integrity of the existing ones to the highest bidder wasn’t a problem.)

As a fan who has championed these directors and of course this actor, and has devoted thousands of hours of time (and quite a bit of hard-earned income) promoting the Matrix films, V for Vendetta and Cloud Atlas, I can’t help but feeling mystified and a little betrayed. I can’t make sense of this choice from filmmakers whose most recent film was a gutsy, unironic film they spent years toiling on, which they financed with a good deal of their own money, and which featured a major subplot (An Orison of Sonmi-451) whose major theme was the ruination of society by greedy corporations and a tiny, oligarchic elite who considered the majority of humanity either consumers to be manipulated or fabricated, disposable beings created to serve those consumers. In David Mitchell’s novel, the anti-corporate theme is much more pronounced and tragic, but it certainly exists in the film. The film is also one of the most open-hearted, sincere-to-the-point-it-risks-parody opuses to human endurance in the face of tyranny and moral compromise.  Why would these filmmakers and this actor chose to sell out now, and to this company? GE is unlikely to make machines smarter… they might make your hospital bills even more astronomical or your private medical information a lot less private.

I know a lot of people are probably thinking ads are nothing to worry about, or try to accommodate their inescapable presence in our daily lives by finding them amusing or harmless. I find most advertising at best an annoying intrusion and at worst a form of deceit. Of course I buy products and participate in a capitalist economy, but I can’t recall ever buying any product based on advertising… I can recall avoiding certain products/services because the ads were so gratingly annoying, or misused songs and fictional characters I once cared about. The current generation thinks itself all-knowing, completely self-aware and hip to all advertisers’ tricks… I say the joke is on them. If you’re enthusing about an ad, you’re doing exactly what the corporation wants you to do. The current generation of ads is consequently based on smug irony, self-aware humor and a sense that no context is inappropriate. Product placement on reality shows or late-night talk shows often has this sort of blase self-mockery to it… I find this even more annoying than the old-school, “sincere” advertisements. There are a depressing number of magazines and websites wholly devoted to worshipful appraisals of advertising as an “art form”. Which makes me think we’re a lot closer to Sonmi-451’s reality than we’d all like to believe.

Some fans think that the only proper expression of fandom is non-judgmental joy at everything a given artist produces, or at least objective sharing of all details about an artist’s projects in a way which implies they’re all equal and deserve equal respect. Over the years I’ve generated a certain degree of controversy by not being that sort of fan, and by having strong opinions. As I see it, you become a fan for a reason. Some reasons are shallow and fleeting, based on physical attraction or an affinity for a specific role; these fandoms tend to be short-lived. Other fandoms grow into a more grounded, mature appreciation of the full variety of work an artist accomplishes–by how they continue to surprise you as much as how well they do exactly the sort of thing you’d expect. I’ve been active in the online Hugo Weaving fandom since 2003, and have been writing Hugonuts since 2005. I didn’t plan this to be my primary online hobby, and have never actively participated in a fandom to this degree, though I have several others, including some which are decades old. You learn to draw certain boundaries as you mature into certain roles in these sometimes-questionable endeavors. You learn to tone down the hormonal aspects, and to make sure everything you pass along is properly fact-checked, and all sources properly credited. Particularly if you’ve been lucky enough to meet the artist in question, you learn to respect their privacy, and the fact that, while they value your enthusiasm for their work, that their personal lives must remain off-limits, as must their personal time. Paparazzi photos and autograph hounding when the artist is off the clock become unacceptable.

I have no official ties to Hugo Weaving, nor do any other fansites, though some, like Random Scribblings, are valuable, comprehensive resources. Hugo has said he rarely uses the internet, and has no official online presence.  Twitter and Facebook accounts using his name are either outright frauds or “tribute” sites run by fans. Running Hugonuts or any fansite isn’t a job, but something you do for love. That sort of love must always be, by nature, unrequited and a bit problematic, particularly for actors like Hugo who claim to be uncomfortable with celebrity and with trying to serve the perceived needs of any given audience demographic. Fandom is by definition unobjective to begin with. I’m always more likely to give a Hugo Weaving project the benefit of the doubt, but on the other hand, I also hold him to a higher standard. 95% of the time, he’s rather astonishingly lived up to expectations, and I’ve discovered a lot of great, unsung films, TV movies/miniseries, short films and other projects I never would have heard about. People who only know about or value Hugo’s “nerd movies” (their term) are missing out on the bulk of an extraordinary– and varied– career. But all artists have at least a few bad projects scattered among the good ones– actors in particular are limited in how much they can mitigate a dreadful script or misguided direction, or a studio losing faith in a film and either messing it up or burying it for fiscal reasons. Even in most of these cases, Hugo’s delivered highly watchable work that often elevates the film. His stage roles have also been generally challenging and beyond reproach, and I only wish more had been preserved on film so I could see them.

But Hugo has also made a handful of choices that baffled me, and that I couldn’t bring myself to support. Transformers would be #1 on that list (until now, anyhow). Even Hugo has never really given a reason for his participation in those films, and has said he hasn’t watched them. He drew a lot of flak last summer for saying he personally found them “meaningless” and didn’t understand the scripts. People have misconstrued a lot of Hugo’s remarks about this and another trivial, one-note role (Red Skull in Captain America) because these remarks were quoted out of context all over the web. Fanboys have whined that Hugo said he thought such roles were “beneath him”, which, of course, he never said. They’ve suggested he did them for the money, though he never said that either, and one would think that if money was his sole objective, he wouldn’t be so refreshingly honest about not wanting to do more of these movies. Hugo actually said that he did the Red Skull role, despite initial misgivings, because he thought it might be fun and because he’d enjoyed working for Joe Johnston and the film crew from The Wolfman, many of whom also worked on Captain America. Beyond that, he said in an MTV video interview, “It’s just a job, really.” So there might be some financial incentive in a few cases, but even the briefest look at his larger resume would reveal that many if not most of his choices are not greed-driven. (Fanboys should be less possessive and myopic as a general rule… even Robert Downey Jr has made noises to the effect that consigning the rest of his career to franchise sequels might not be the most fulfilling option.)

Again, if Hugo wanted to fully sell out, he’d be re-upping on an endless stream of Marvel fare and Smith variants in bad American movies rather than doing four independent films in a row (well, interrupted by a stage play– again, not the big money choice.) Maybe Hugo feels he has to make a few mercenary choices here and there to finance the artistic ones; maybe he’s afraid to say “no” too often (a condition among character actors that I call “Walken’s disease”, though even ol’ Chris has become much more picky in recent years). Maybe he’s too easily swayed by directors he admires or, like many of us, can get star-struck or succumb to easy flattery under the right circumstances.  Maybe he’s capable of a degree of cognitive dissonance that I’m not, and thinks he can get away with believing that his playing of a character doesn’t necessarily mean he endorses the full scope of a corporation’s activities. (He said, in the AMC Wolfman interview, “I don’t normally associate [ my most famous characters] with myself — I enjoyed Agent Smith enormously, but he’s the brainchild of Larry and Andy Wachowski. And Elrond, that was very much Peter Jackson’s baby. They’re the ones who made the impact, not me.” Perhaps if the Wachowskis felt as perversely enthusiastic about the ads the corporate spokesperson insisted, Hugo felt obligated to perform the character in whatever context they saw fit.)

But then maybe he’s so sick of being asked about the Smith character that he thought he’d destroy the character once and for all via he most crass, witless re-contextualization imaginable. 😉 If so, that calculation backfired, because far too many people are happy to see their favorite characters misused this way. I can understand why any actor might be tempted to revisit their most famous role years after the fact, but, as the relatively unsung Matrix character Switch might have put it, “Not like this. Not like this!” Context is everything. Smith should have been left well enough alone: he was the only aspect of all three films that even sequel-detractors loved. I hope these ads disappear quickly and don’t damage that legacy.  As another famous antihero, Tony Soprano, once put it: ” ‘Remember when…’ is the lowest form of conversation”.  (I sincerely hope he isn’t repurposed in advertising anytime soon, though the actor who played Paulie Walnuts was in enough advertising to suggest that many companies wouldn’t find that inappropriate.)    The Matrix films aren’t a distant source of cheap, fuzzy nostalgia for me. They actually meant something to me beyond whiz-bang SFX and aerial kung fu. I had hoped they meant something to their creators as well.

Hugo isn’t objective about his past roles, so why should I be? As I see it, films like Captain America and Transformers don’t need me. They’re inescapable, particularly online. Hugo didn’t do much to promote those films either, apart from a brief Comic Con appearance for the former. He did no press junkets or interviews when the films were released. In contrast, he went all-out in promoting Cloud Atlas (and all other Wachowski collaborations) and indie films like Last Ride and Oranges and Sunshine. There might be contractual obligations involved, but Hugo’s enthusiasm for those projects seemed absolutely sincere, and made me understand why he chose to work on them, what they meant to him. In contrast, he seems uncomfortable when asked about Transformers or Captain America when he’s promoting other projects. (He splits the difference with The Hobbit– he attended one premiere out of four and did a few brief interviews. He also gave decent reasons for reprising Elrond– it’s drawn from JRR Tolkien’s existing mythology rather than being merely an opportunistic rehash, and it gave him a chance to portray a lighter, more spirited side of the character. That said, I understand why some people feel The Hobbit will never live up to the standards set by LOTR, and wish in general that creative people knew when to walk away from their finest hour. Hugo himself modestly noted, “For a number of reasons,  [the filmmakers] decided that there are three films in there.  I hope there are.  I don’t know.  I was truly there for four or five weeks and enjoyed myself, and went home again.  My knowledge of the workings of Middle Earth, at the moment, are very minimal.” (Collider, October 2012). )

Nothing Hugo might say about the commercials presently under discussion is going to make me approve of them, but I do want to know what he thinks, to what extent he was involved, and what his motives might have been. I still have to hope that there are some extenuating circumstances or things we aren’t being told, though I know that makes me sound like the conspiracy nuts I tend to mock. 😉 But until Hugo does make a public statement about the ads, I’m not going to give them any additional publicity, nor am I going to embed or link to them here. As I said before, I’d rather focus on projects that do need fan word of mouth, and that Hugo Weaving actually spent more than a few cynical hours working on. GE has ensured that their pernicious, soul-destroying little promos have been translated into every language on earth and spread to all corners of the globe. (My Chinese friends said it’s even been translated into their language– though almost none of Hugo’s Australian indie films have been. Another cause for depression…) In the time since they appeared, I’ve yet to see one tweet about Mystery Road, The Turning or Healing except the few that Elisa at RS and myself posted, though Mystery Road in particular has been in the news recently in the Australian media. As fans, we all choose what our priorities are going to be. These are mine. I hope everyone understands. If you feel differently, you’re welcome to share whatever you like on your own website or blog, or through your favorite social networking sites.

I’m sorry to have gone on this long… I thought that if I waited long enough, I could formulate something a bit more succinct and pithy, but obviously emotions still run high. I’m still angry. Certainly I’m able to forgive, and I don’t plan on leaving the fandom over this, though if Hugo suddenly goes the Shatner route and makes a habit of this sort of thing, I might reconsider. I’m now going to try to focus on Hugo’s serious film and stage work, and hope that his big-budget larks in the future are less craven. He did a great job of balancing the right big-budget projects and indies and plays until 2007. Since then it’s harder to find “event” films up The Matrix and LOTR’s standards, maybe. I’m no elitist. I had a great deal of fun with The Wolfman and Happy Feet 2, which no one would claim are masterpieces. I do admire Hugo’s need to remain elusive, and to some degree inscrutable to fans and the pop culture in general. He has said doesn’t use the internet and doesn’t watch TV– that there isn’t even a television hookup at his Hunter Valley property. Maybe, in a perverse way, he’s trying to get his serious fans to unplug a bit more by deliberately driving them away from TV and the internet with these ads. (Wishful thinking, probably, as is my hope he was CG’d in without permission.)

But I will restate my frustration that Hugo’s least-significant work will continue to get widespread attention and shallow approval while the films he has always said he most values don’t get a fraction of that attention.

George Carlin once said that “The decay and disintegration of this culture is astonishingly amusing if you are emotionally detached from it. I have always viewed it from a safe distance, knowing I don’t belong; it doesn’t include me, and it never has…I view my species with a combination of wonder and pity, and root for its destruction.”   Though I miss Carlin and agree with him on many fronts (particularly the areas of politics, religion and the deterioration of the English language), I can’t quite embrace this notion. Yes, most of what’s out there in the culture (highbrow and low), media and the arts is highly disposable and meaningless, meant for fleeting distraction and amusement. But occasionally, someone makes art that means something, that makes all of the other frivolous bullshit worth enduring, and the hardships life and political chicanery of people in power easier to tolerate. And if you’ve given up on religion and politics, art is the last refuge you have left. More often than most, Hugo Weaving’s work is still meaningful and thought provoking for me. The longer I stay on this planet, the shorter the list of artists who consistently produce such work  gets, but I need to believe in that work, and its meaning, that it shouldn’t be frivolously commodified, that its most artistic aspects– rather than only its most commercial– need to be celebrated.

In my own clumsy way, that’s what I’m trying to do here. I’m not trying to form any sort of official connection with Hugo Weaving– that’s not my place, nor should he be soliciting fans or opinion polls about his career. The less he knows about the online fandom, or the way he’s usually misconceived in the pop culture, the saner he’ll remain. I’m in this to spread the word about films and plays I’ve genuinely loved. I’ve made friends all over the world through the fandom; it’s broadened my horizons tremendously, in ways I could never have imagined. I hope this continues. Just as Hugo’s choices are, in the end, none of our business and his own to make, so our our choices of how to receive that work and what to emphasize.  I would think he’d prefer that his admirers think for themselves and act independently (and,of course, live fully-realized lives outside the fandom) rather than forming a cultish, uniform entity that rubber-stamps everything he does with equal fervor.

Finally, as far as I’m concerned, that isn’t Agent Smith in the ads at all, but the Oracle, having some post-Revolutions “shell” issues. The candy reference is a dead giveaway. 😉 Poor, deluded dear was always trying to change the system from within.

Again, sorry that took so long. I hope no one is offended, but I have to be true to myself, or, as V for Vendetta’s Valerie Page might have put it, to not give up “that last inch” of myself and act against my conscience.

On to happier, though much less widely-covered, subjects. As I mentioned before, director Ivan Sen is approaching completion on his film Mystery Road, which stars Aaron Pedersen as detective Jay Swan, an aboriginal detective investigating the murder of a young girl, and features Hugo as Johnno, a policeman “with questionable motives”. The confirmation of Hugo’s character’s name comes ABC.com.au report mentioning a charity auction to be held in Winton (where the project was filmed last year), which was to include a hat worn by Hugo’s character among the items up for bids. This article quoted one of the film’s producers, David Jowsey, as saying he hoped to hold the world premiere for Mystery Road in Winton “later this year”. ABC News Landline later ran an update which featured video footage of the area (though none from the film itself) and stated that the film’s Winton premiere might be held “in a few weeks”, though no specifics were provided. According to The Australian, early word on the film has been “very strong” and that “Mystery Road is a hot tip for selection” in the upcoming Cannes Film Festival, either in the main competition or Un Certain Regard category. So far nothing definite has been confirmed in that area, but it would be wonderful news. Hugo hasn’t attended the Cannes festival since The Matrix Reloaded had a gala premiere (out of competition) in 2003; before then, he’d attended back to back Cannes Film Fests with director Stephan Elliott, promoting Frauds in 1993 and, to much greater acclaim, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994. [UPDATE: alas, the film isn’t listed in among the initial Cannes competition roster. One hopes it might still play the festival, unless Sen has decided to target it for completion later, in time for the Toronto International Film Festival; see following paragraph for more speculation in that direction.] You can also read Winton natives Geoff Potter and Richard Searle’s accounts of their experiences as extras on the set of Mystery Road in Queensland Country Life.

Hugo Weaving on the set of Mystery Road Photo: Claudia Baxter, Fraser Coast Chronicle

SBS creates further anticipation by noting that a ten-minute preview of the film screened at a recent function at the Australian Film Television and Radio School “…caused a palpable buzz among the audience, not least for Sen’s stunning cinematography in and around the outback towns of Moree and Winton.” No hitherto-unknown plot or character details were provided, but producer Jowsey “told SBS Film the film is still in post and he hasn’t set a launch date yet. He envisions a release of 15-30 screens. The $2 million film was financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland and the ABC. Gary Hamilton’s Arclight Films has world sales rights outside Australia, and an international premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September is on the cards.”  So Hugo might conceivably make another TIFF appearance following last year’s world premiere of Cloud Atlas if all goes well.

Aaron Pedersen in Mystery Road. Photo: Matt Putland

Finally, a young actor named Harry Greenwood made his Sydney Theatre Company debut in an incendiary new production titled Fury, written by Joanna Murray-Smith and costarring Sarah Peirse, Geraldine Hakewill and Robert Menzies. STC Artistic Director Andrew Upton directed. Though the production has received mixed reviews, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian— rival publications that rarely agree on anything– singled out Greenwood for praise. (The play has been compared to Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage, which Hugo Weaving costarred in for Melbourne Theatre Company back in 2009.) Andrew Upton talks about the play in more detail here. Though I dislike nepotism as a rule, it will only get any actor so far, and such a prominent debut in a controversial project probably makes critics more…well… hypercritical when one has a famous pedigree and there might be suggestions of getting a leg up. The Aussie press is notoriously fond of cutting down “tall poppies”, or anyone who gets too famous for their own good. So this is impressive by any standard.

Geraldine Hakewill and Harry Greenwood in Fury; Photo: Lisa Tomasetti, the Sydney Morning Herald