Tag Archives: Last Ride

STC Macbeth Preview Photos, Hugo Weaving Interviews, More From Pre-Season Lunch

First off, my apologies for the delay in getting a new entry out. My schedule has been a bit more punishing of late.

STC’s Macbeth

Sydney Theatre Company’s innovative new production of Macbeth, featuring Hugo Weaving in the title role, continues to generate a lot of positive buzz as the actors enter their third week of rehearsals.   The first publicity photos and interview published since STC’s late 2013 season announcement have finally appeared, and are more than worth the wait. I also have an additional pic from the STC pre-season luncheon for Macbeth, which featured a Q&A session with the cast and director, as well as a transcript of Hugo’s comments from the event. (it would be lovely if STC opted to share video or audio of the event if it exists, but so far all they’ve shared is a pic on Facebook and a brief quote from Hugo, though more will surely appear once the opening date approaches.)

Sydney photographer Daniel Boud, who took some wonderfully insightful portraits of Hugo back in early 2010 (you can see those here) was commissioned for a publicity shoot for STC’s Macbeth by Time Out Sydney, who interviewed Hugo about the production. Boud’s dramatic new portraits (and comments about the brisk but agreeable shoot) and that interview both appeared online yesterday; I’ll embed both below. (Note to WordPress readers: to see largest versions of photos, right-click, then click on “open in a new tab/window”.)

Hugo Weaving, June 2014 at Sydney’s Wharf Theatre. All photos by Daniel Boud, via Boudist

All comments below photos are Boud’s, from his piece 11 Minutes With Hugo Weaving

“I had the pleasure of being tasked with shooting a portrait of Hugo Weaving for a Time Out feature recently.

I love him as an actor, always full of charisma and spark, whether playing a flamboyant drag queen or a menacing villain. I’m not often that nervous before a portrait shoot, but this one I was somewhat anxious about.

This feature was about his coming role as Macbeth for Sydney Theatre Company – so menace was the mood required.

As usual with these things, time is limited, so I arrived early to set up and do some tests.

I had a rehearsal room to play with, so set up a few lights in a way that I thought could convey the darkness of the play. Macbeth is full of murder and bloodletting, so I also experimented with a red gel for some frames.”

“I moved on from the lit set-up to a nearby window for a different feel.”

“Then we wrapped up with a final set-up in a stairwell, lit with my Canon speedlites.”

“Looking back at the timestamp on the photos I see it was just 11 minutes from first to last frame. It was a very efficient shoot, and like a lot of the high-profile people i’ve shot I felt a general “we all know i’m not enjoying this but i’ll suck it up and give you what you need” attitude from Hugo Weaving. Which is just fine with me, it’s refreshing to shoot someone who just rolls with what you ask and nails the brief bang on.”

My thanks to Boud for sharing these generously large versions of his portraits; Time Out Sydney featured a handful of much smaller ones.  I’m impressed with the directness and simplicity of these images; too many photographers get fussy with filters, color distortion and complicated setups, but he (and his subject) are confident enough to get memorable results with subtle use of light and existing space, which is more challenging than any amount of technological tweaking, but works, in my opinion, to much greater effect. (I’m not sure if the empty-theatre staging of STC’s production– where a small audience will be confined to the stage as he characters perform in the vast space around them– is also being referenced deliberately, or if that thematic tie is just a handy coincidence. But these are some of the best portraits of Hugo I’ve seen in a long time.

Here’s the full text of Time Out Sydney’s interview, which was relatively brief and focused solely on the play, then in the first week of rehearsals. (And also confirming Hugo was taking a well-earned break in Sicily last month.) 😉 I am trying to obtain a physical copy of the magazine, as print media often has a few added bonuses… it’s a constant source of frustration for me that, in this day and age, all magazines don’t publish a virtual version of their print issues. I’m more than happy to pay cover price for any issue, but costs of shipping from Sydney (and the wait, which can be a month or more) are a chore. That said, I am old-fashioned in that I will still seek out these print copies. I’ve had too many computers and hard drives die on me to not want the most reliable form of backup.  Also, there’s that “new magazine smell”. 😉

Hugo Weaving – Macbeth

Great Scot! Huges tackles the murderous Macbeth in a bold new production that puts the audience on the stage and the ensemble in the auditorium

Anyone who has seen Hugo Weaving on stage knows that he’s a bit of a livewire, all limbs and barely contained energy. Off stage, he’s far more laidback; yes, there’s the height and the penetrating blue eyes – and the sneaking suspicion he’d make a convincing homicidal Scottish warlord. That said, he’s still relatively unassuming.

In fact, he’s downright relaxed (and jet-lagged) when Time Out catches him at the Wharf on a chilly June morning. He’s just back from holidays in Sicily; he’s a few days into rehearsals for ‘the Scottish play’, and so only at the read-through stage; and with the gruelling experience of Godot months behind him (besides his Sicily stint, he’s also filmed Strangerland with Nicole Kidman in the time since), he can look down the barrel of a ten-week season at Sydney Theatre with relative nonchalance. “I’ll lose lots of weight,” he laughs. “I’ll sweat a lot and get fit.”

Weaving’s first Macbeth was a 1982 production directed by Richard Wherrett. “I was just out of drama school – I was 22,” he says. John Bell was the star, Robyn Nevin was Lady Mac, and Colin Friels, Peter Carroll and Heather Mitchell were in supporting roles. Weaving was Seyton, Macbeth’s lieutenant.

“I dunno that it was the greatest production in the world,” he demurs, “but it’s such an extraordinary play. It’s a play I’ve always been fascinated and horrified by – and drawn to. It’s moody, atmospheric… it’s incredible; how much of it takes place at night, how much of it takes place in a claustrophobic, whispered world; how much of it is about fear and apprehension and hallucination. It’s a very shifty world. It’s a nightmarish world – I think that’s what grabs me. It’s almost like a horror film.”

No surprise, then, that it was Roman Polanski’s Shakespeare of choice when it came to screen adaptations. But as Weaving points out, Macbeth is also one of, if not the most modern of Shakespeare’s plays, well suited to a contemporary temperament by dint of being lean and linear. “It moves at such a pace – bam bam bam,” he clicks his fingers.

Macbeth, Weaving says, is “pretty much” his favourite play – which he shares in common with Andrew Upton, who offered him the role. “We were talking about what we wanted to do in 2014. He said, what about Macbeth? I was like, ‘Yip,’” Weaving laughs. Since then, the play has been bubbling away in his mental cauldron. “I’ve read it over the years anyway, but as soon as I get a role or a script that excites me – even if it’s a couple of years away, or even if the film hasn’t got its money – I’ll be reading it or thinking about it.”

Macbeth will be directed by young STC resident director (and Upton protégé) Kip Williams, and co-star Melita Jurisic, John Gaden and Robert Menzies. “The exciting thing about this production is that we’re putting the audience on the stage and the actors in the auditorium,” says Weaving. “And there’s only eight of us. Everyone’s doubling or tripling roles except for me, so I think there’s the sense of an ensemble of actors or people telling a story and then increasingly inhabiting this story – and using the language to create this world.”


A lot of curiosity arose as to who would play Lady Macbeth opposite Hugo once it became clear Cate Blanchett wasn’t planning a surprise involvement. (I personally never thought she’d resort to that sort of stunt…) Veteran Australian actress Melita Jurisic (of the television series The Flying Doctors, Blue Heelers, Bordertown– costarring a young Hugo Weaving in 1995– and the forthcoming Mad Max sequel) has stepped into the breach and gave this insightful interview to Best Weekend.  Though it’s only appeared in print versions of the publication, here’s my scan:


More From STC’s Macbeth Preseason Lunch

Thanks to our Sydney correspondent Yvette, and to STC’s Facebook page, we have another photo of the Macbeth pre-season lunch event, which included a half-hour Q&A session with the production’s cast and director.

Overhead shot vis STC’s Facebook Page; larger version here

Here’s STC’s account of the event: “It was a full house at our Pier Group Luncheon at The Wharf yesterday… Andrew Upton and creatives from our upcoming production of the Scottish play were onstage having a casual chat over lunch.

Pier Group Luncheons are a great way to hear all the gory details from behind the scenes… This is Hugo Weaving’s (Macbeth) all time favourite play. It’s John Gaden’s fourth Macbeth, but his first time as Duncan. Melita Jurisic (Lady Macbeth) has played the title role herself before. Andrew Upton (artistic director) and Kip Williams (director) were both in productions as schoolboys.”

According to Yvette, Hugo personally fielded three questions, which I’ll provide the transcript for below. In a few cases the question being answered is a rough gist, not what was specifically asked. It’s very challenging to take detailed notes at  crowded, noisy event, but Hugo’s answers to seem typical of him, and have been echoed in other recent interviews. Director Kip Wilson fielded most of the technical and interpretive questions, Melita Jurisic discussed the psychology of portraying Lady Macbeth, and most cast members (there will be only eight total– all but Hugo playing multiple roles)  discussed their previous experiences with The Scottish Play, often in high school or amateur productions; Jurisic even played Macbeth in an experimental production years ago.Even though he plays the title character, Hugo often delegated to others, as fans will remember he often does in group interviews of this sort. But here are his three answers, putting quality before quantity. 😉

Q: [Asked about the ghosts in Macbeth, and how that might be staged]

Hugo:  Hugo: It feels like, when you’re looking out at the audience, they’ll be the ghosts of all the audiences past, staring at you. [laughs]

Q:  What is it about Shakespeare specifically that attracts you so much as an actor. A lot of his plays are so deeply embedded in [our] consciousness… how do you find a new approach to Shakespeare? What is it that attracts you so much to Macbeth?

Hugo: I think what attracts me to Shakespeare is the sort of impossibility, maybe, of entirely fathoming the piece, and therefore it’s eternally something you’re going to be investigating. Maybe. It always feels slightly out of your reach. I think that means it’s always challenging. There’s always something to rethink or to revisit. There’s always something you’re missing. There’s always something that’s not quite right, you haven’t quite understood, and I think that’s a bit like life really [laughs]. So Shakespeare seems to– for me– embody everything that’s contained in life. And yet he does it in such extraordinary different ways, you have scenes which seem so intense as to be contemporary, so brilliantly observed. The psychology of the characters seem to [have] such veracity to them. And yet there are other scenes which are kind of knockabout… you know “OK, we’ve got over THAT, let’s throw this on the stage and let’s make the audience laugh, and let them get over something that’s just happened. ” So he’s got this amazing ability to incorporate all sorts of worlds, and to allow you, allow your imagination to work, as an audience and as an actor.  You’ve got to take people on a journey of the words, you’ve got to allow the language to spark other peoples’ imaginations. And that’s the essence of storytelling.  And I think that’s why Shakespeare’s so wonderful.  This particular play is probably my favorite play in the world. [Audience applause] And I’m not entirely sure why, but I think it has something to do with all of that, but also it’s so… it has always affected me in a… I kind of think it’s so awful what happens to these people, what they become, what they’re trying to deny to themselves, and then what’s exposed by what they do… what is exposed within themselves is so hideous that they can’t actually function as they used to. So it’s a horrible kind of awakening. But the thing that’s always excited me is this dark hidden world in which most of this story takes place, and it’s a world in which the sands seems to be shifting all the time, and nothing is quite what it seems to be. Nothing is very well defined. Everything has an opposite and its opposite seems to be present. And that’s what excites me about this particular play.

Q: An audience member asked a lengthy question about whether Shakespeare “in the original version” was still accessible, literally and figuratively, to modern audiences given the language barriers, costs of theatre tickets, perceptions of elitism and political incorrectness, etc. Director Williams gave a definite affirmative, saying even young audiences respond to the experience of seeing Shakespeare performed as written, and that theatres often work to address other barriers. Hugo then added:

Hugo:  There’s a film version of Shakespeare you may have seen, by an Australian director [possibly Geoffrey Wright’s modern-day adaptation of Macbeth, 2006] with a fantastic cast. And I think Shakespeare lends himself, and this play lends itself so well to film, actually we haven’t even really started to investigate where we can go with Shakespeare, and I think we’re increasingly better at investigating Shakespeare than I think we were when I left drama school. I remember seeing really museum-y productions of Shakespeare a lot– course there are still poor productions of all sorts of plays over the world– but I think we’re just a little more open, a little freer with how we how we approach the man’s work. And I also think young people these days, people who are studying drama at schools, are much more switched-on, are much more theatre-literate, and personally, I think that your question seemed to imply that people were sort of more and more deprived of the ability to see theatre– good theatre– and Shakespeare, and I somehow feel maybe that’s not the case. I feel a bit more hopeful, actually.

While I agree that costs for quality productions of Shakespeare can be very expensive, particularly in New York and Sydney, the notion that somehow Shakespeare is “inaccessible” to modern audiences is laughable. Even if the words on the page seem hard to follow or archaic to a beginning reader, a good staging inevitably draws the viewer in. I’ve taken very reluctant friends and family members (who think the language will be impenetrable) to Shakespeare productions and inevitably they all wondered why they’d put up such a fuss. So I get tired of these questions about modern audiences being attention-deficit cases who can’t handle challenging work or relate to anything from earlier eras. I think Hugo is right about this: younger audiences are increasingly more open to Shakespeare, to older films and to earlier cultural eras, because they have greater access to informational resources… and because a lot of very trendy actors are now doing Shakespeare, and their audiences are more than willing to explore new horizons. 😉

So again, my thanks to Yvette for her account of the STC luncheon (if you haven’t seen her lovely photos of the event, they’re in the previous entry, and more than worth a look.) STC is also promising more promotional material as the opening date nears, so I’ll pass on whatever I find out. Unfortunately, the production is completely sold out, and STC’s final batch of set-aside tickets were gone within hours when they went on sale June 23. There’s always a chance of box-office returned tickets (though I doubt anyone would skip this production unless they had a fatal illness), so keep checking STC’s website. You can also try your luck with eBay and the like; I have gotten some good last-minute seats to New York STC productions last-minute when original ticket-holders were unable to go, and many patrons are interested in switching dates they attend. But you have to flexible, have some money saved, and be ready to run a lot of message board/social media searches.

We’ll probably see an increase in Macbeth news and publicity in the weeks leasing up to the official 27 July opening… and I’ll do my best to update more efficiently as this become available. Do keep an eye on my Twitter feed for breaking news, as I post new links to firsthand sources daily whenever possible.


In Other Hugo Weaving News

Some great news for Hugo’s North American, Middle Eastern and Asian fans: Healing has been picked up for what looks like the most decent, widespread distribution for one of Hugo’s Australian films in a LONG time, according to Screen Daily: “[At the recent Cannes Film Festival], Craig Monahan’s drama Healing with Hugo Weaving and Xavier Samuel has gone to Anchor Bay/Starz for North America, Eagle Films for the Middle East, Ster Kinekor for South Africa and Astro for Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.”

The prospects for decent US distribution are for once very promising, as Anchor Bay has a proven record obtaining cinema distribution, and the Starz/Encore cable channels tend to give generous replays of their films over a long period. (They still air Peaches and Oranges and Sunshine periodically). Contrast this with Last Ride, which played only a handful of US theaters and VOD and has never had a cable airing, or Mystery Road, which Well Go USA is STILL not distributing despite having locked up the rights, and it’s hard to to feel relief.

Still no word on European distribution for Healing, but that’s sure to follow given Weaving and Xavier Samuel’s international followings.There’s also an interesting article  at Secrets Magazine about several filming locations for recent Australian features, including Kathy Mexted’s house, which doubled for Hugo Weaving’s character’s residence in Healing.

Tim Winton’s The Turning has been nominated for Best Drama Feature at the WA Screen Awards, which will be presented 14 July at the State Theatre Center of West Australia (tickets on sale here.) More details about the event at Cinema Australia, Inside Film and FITI.org.

The Mule will have four screenings at The New Zealand International Film Festival this month: July 19, 23, 25 and 29 to be more specific. You can read more details here, and buy tickets to specific screenings here. And, glory be, we finally have a new screencap which doesn’t feature Angus Sampson’s naked posterior. 😉

There’s a positive review of Mystery Road (posted after its recent Chicago Critics Film Festival screening) at Horror 101 With Dr AC. The film also recently returned “home” to shooting location Winton for the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival.

An entertaining review of the classic 1984 miniseries Bodyline (Hugo Weaving’s first prominent role) at A Hot Cup of Pleasure suggests it’s not just English cricket fans and Huo Weaving fans who are coming around to Douglas Jardine’s point of view. 😉

Australian Screen has posted a beautiful tribute to one of Hugo Weaving’s best (and most unsung) films Last Ride in honor of its fifth anniversary. The showcase features three quintessential clips from the film with commentary.  Includes the skinny-dipping scene, but that is NOT the only reason you should watch. 😉

And The Australian confirms that Hugo Weaving was indeed “among the buyers” at the June 14 Art of Music fundraiser, which netted $275,000 in charitable contributions overall for Nordoff-Robbins. In case you missed ’em in my update to the last entry, here are Art of Music’s event photos featuring Hugo. No word on which painting he purchased. 😉

Hugo Weaving and Katrina Greenwood   Photo: Bob King, via Art of Music Facebook

Photo: Isaac Leung, via Art of Music Facebook

Photo: Isaac Leung, via Art of Music Facebook

Final Round of Sydney Film Festival Pics, Hugo Weaving And Glendyn Ivin Plan Second Project

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.

It’s been a fun week following the Sydney Film Festival remotely, but all good things must end. The festival closed today on a somewhat controversial note, with a film that divided the jury getting the top prize. Images from the awards ceremony are just starting to roll in, and ideally we’ll have some video footage too at some point. The competition field was full of worthy contenders, but I’m afraid I’d have to agree with Sydney Morning Herald critic Garry Maddox’s assertion that the winner “wasn’t in my top 11  of the 12 films in the competition”. 😉 (Technically I can’t say Only God Forgives was the worst of the twelve, as several competition films haven’t yet been released over here, but given how amateurishly pretentious Nicolas Winding Refn’s previous films have been, it’s a good guess.)

However, Hugo shouldn’t take full credit or blame for the winner– he himself acknowledged that the winning film “will polarise opinion as it polarised ours”.* He also conceded that it took much longer than expected (six and a half hours) for the jury to reach consensus: “I’m not very good at cracking the whip, so we kind of went over by about two and a half hours…[This was a a group of] very diverse and strong films. It was a very honest and free ranging debate with good humour and also a lot of passion. It probably wasn’t too difficult to cut the 12 down to six (but) we basically debated about a couple of films for quite some time.” (As quoted in The Australian.)

Critics and festivalgoers who loved– and who loathed– the winning film Only God Forgives are suggesting that since Hugo was the most famous jury member and the president/spokesman that his must have been the decisive vote, but I wouldn’t assume that. Hugo’s conciliatory nature is part of the reason he’s so beloved in the Australian film industry, and he does have a record of being talked into decisions… some good (he turned down The Matrix twice before reading the script and changing his mind) and some not-so-good (even Hugo can’t really explain why he did the Transformers voiceovers. He talks about the experience as if it was something that he accidentally stumbled into without fully understanding it.) More tellingly, director Rowan Woods (Little Fish) describes getting Hugo to change his vote on a previous awards panel where the two first met in this Australian Vogue interview. I found the wording of Hugo’s statement about the award-winning film interesting, but it’s impossible to say whether he was implying his own misgivings or acknowledging those of another jury member or members. (Some news sources say Hugo’s statement in giving the award was his own, others that he read something on behalf of the jury… so again, it’s unfair to be too definitive. The remarks about the decision process were definitely his.)

The Australian press has reflected the divided opinion about the winner, with some praising the choice as crowdpleasing, and others suggesting it was motivated by commercial rather than artistic interests. You can read more at International News/AAP, The Sun-Herald, The Australian, Inside Film, The Sydney Morning Herald, Urban Cinefile and Pedestrian TV. The winning film already has wide international distribution, so at least viewers can decide for themselves what they think, if this is the sort of film they’d see. Interestingly, the SFF’s judging criteria was “[Films that have] emotional power and resonance; are audacious, cutting-edge, courageous; and go beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter”.  Quality isn’t mentioned, and this list would tend to value theatrical, visceral and shocking films above quieter, subtle ones. I also think to some extent that it’s the job of film festivals to raise the profiles of films that might lack wide distribution and international attention rather than to foist more attention on films already destined to receive it, but most film festivals no longer do this, at least when it comes to distributing awards. But I did learn about some fascinating films I hadn’t previously discovered through covering SFF, so on the whole it did its job. I would like to see an individual polling of the jury members though. 😉

[* According to AAP, the full awards announcement Hugo read went as follows: “After 10 days of captivating and diverse film viewing and passionate conversations, the jury arrived at a majority decision. In the true spirit of the Competition criteria, we award a visually mesmerizing and disturbing film, which polarised our opinions. The winner of the Sydney Film Prize is Only God Forgives.”]

The official closing ceremony, which awards other festival prizes, is currently underway and Hugo is definitely on hand, so I’ll add any new images as they roll in. Let’s at least try to keep things chronological…

Forgot to say Hugo Weaving #SydFilmFest judge, kicked me out of my seat last night, alright his seat! #highlight” Erin M. McCuskey, via Twitter

The first 5 are from the Sydney Film Festival Facebook page:

Hugo Weaving, fellow juror Anand Gandhi and Festival Director Nashen Moodley at the premiere of Gandhi’s film Ship of Theseus, June 11 (It’s about a blind photographer, but is NOT an Indian remake of Proof.) 😉

Hugo Weaving and Amit Kumar at the premiere of Kumar’s film Monsoon Shootout, June 11

Pia Marais, Kath Shelper, Jan Ole Gerster, Hugo Weaving and Anand Gandhi at the SFF premiere of Gerster’s film Oh Boy, June 12

Some photos from the June 16 Festival Competition Awards Ceremony:

Jurors Paolo Bertolin, Pia Marais, Hugo Weaving, Kath Shelper and Anand Gandhi with Nick Hayes (center, next to Hugo) who accepted on behalf of absent director Nicolas Winding Refn   Photo: The AU Review via Twitter/Instagram

Hugo announces the winner  Photo: Ed Gibbs via Twitter

The SFF Jury, amid lengthy negotiations (and swag collection) 😉  Photo: Cardinal Spin, via Twitter

The SFF Jury and winner-surrogate pose before the Sydney Opera House  Photo: Richard Milnes/Demotix (plus next 11

More Shameless Swag Display 😉 (the watches are from a festival sponsor)

“I guess they don’t know that I never wear watches”. 😉

The award’s hypno-wheel look sorta goes with the awards criteria. 😉

Some initial photos of the Closing Ceremony:

Hugo is at the lectern, jury to left   Photo: Empire Australia via Twitter

Photo: Lina Mbirkou via Twitter

Photo: Luke Buckmaster, via Twitter

I’ll add more images as they appear; my thanks to everyone who posted photos. In spite of my misgivings about the main winner it looks to have been a wonderful film festival.

Here’s a new pic of Hugo and fellow SFF juror Pia Marais at the SFF closing film premiere, 20 Feet from Stardom

Photo: Richard Milnes/Demotix

On an even more wonderful note, I got some official confirmation that Hugo Weaving and Last Ride director Glendyn Ivin are planning another project together… from Ivin himself, no less.  I managed the gumption to ask if he and Hugo might work together again during a live-tweeting event yesterday to coincide with SBS TV’s airing of Last Ride. For the record, I didn’t try to tweet while watching the film, and don’t personally mix tweeting with other activities. To their eternal credit, Ivin and several viewers agreed the film–ANY good film– deserves one’s full attention. I do have two copies of the DVD and the film is also available via Netflix streaming. 😉 But the fact SBS added commercials (another element laudably mocked by those live-tweeting) gave people a chance to take a break and ask questions. I retweeted the full, two-hour exchange, which should appear on my personal LJ cross-post soon. (Unfortunately, LJ auto-posted right in the middle of the event, so the tweets are spread over two entries; part one is here, part two here. Or you can just scroll down my Twitter feed to yesterday.) There wasn’t a huge crowd “in attendance”, but all on hand were intelligent, witty and entertaining, and there was a refreshing lack of stupid questions/comments. Yes, on Twitter. 😉 Quasi-miraculous, but goes to show you what the right film can inspire.

Since I get nervous in the presence (even the virtual-presence) of artists I admire, I waited a full hour to see if someone else would ask my question, but since no one did, I went ahead. Ivin answered within a few minutes, as he did almost all questions asked. The exchange went as follows:


Hugo Weaving called Last Ride 1 of his 2 best films he’s made in past 10 yrs. I agree. Any chance of reteaming?

Hugo Weaving and I have another film in the pipeline…! Can’t wait. Making Last Ride with him was a joy

You’ve just made me very, very happy. Also, you’ve made me a raging fan with Last Ride. And Paul Charlier too.

That Marcus guy was hilarious for the duration, but also noticed details in the film even the director hadn’t. The full live-tweet session is worth reading if you have time… it was great “company” to be in.   Since no official announcements have been made about what Ivin has in mind for his next project with Hugo, I can’t speculate further, but this is the best Hugo News I’ve had in ages. I know that the process of securing funding and getting projects greenlighted can be tortuous in Australia, so this one might take time (just ask Craig Monahan, who waited seven years between Healing’s announcement and its actual filming), but Ivin has won a devoted following and awards for Last Ride and his television work (Puberty Blues, Beaconsfield) … and I don’t think he’d let us in on plans if he didn’t have some notion of how to achieve them. Ivin is the only director of Hugo’s that I’ve actually met in the sense we exchanged words (though I attended premieres where the Wachowskis (Cloud Atlas) and Jim Loach (Oranges & Sunshine) were in attendance– crowds were too thick to approach them.)

I met Ivin at the 2011 MoMA screening/unofficial US premiere of Last Ride. He enthused about how much he enjoyed working with Hugo. Later that summer, I had Hugo sign my Last Ride DVD slipcase after a performance of Uncle Vanya at Kennedy Center, and he was similarly effusive. (“You’ve met Glendyn Ivin? Oh, he’s a lovely man.”) And I was absolutely sincere in saying Last Ride is one of Hugo’s best two performances of the past ten years. (I paraphrased Hugo slightly to fit a tweet: he actually said that Last Ride and Little Fish were his favorite experiences working on films in the past ten years, and the performances he worked hardest to achieve.) So the idea of them collaborating again on anything is the fulfillment of one of my fondest wishes. And it’ll be something to look forward to hearing more about as details become official. Meanwhile, Hugo has The Turning premiering in a month at the Melbourne International Film Festival, The Mule currently filming (though I assume Hugo hasn’t reported to the set, as, unlike his most famous character, he can’t actually be in two places at once), Mystery Road premiering in Australia in August and the US next year, the second Hobbit movie out in December (when Hugo will be costarring in Waiting for Godot with Richard Roxburgh for the STC)… and Healing debuting early next year. Exhausting just to read that off.

Anyhow, I’ll post this entry and amend with extra photos (and video if we’re lucky) as needed.

Vintage Hugo Weaving Photos From SFF Archive, More on Archibald Prizes

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.

First off, I find I need to repeat a request that people NOT randomly post material here, but submit links to me either via comments or personal message (here or on Twitter). I really want this to be an organized, properly-sourced resource, not a free-for-all. Posting images or other material without proper source credits can get us into trouble. If you can’t abide by this simple request, please leave the site alone. However, I have no issue with fans reposting material they found here so long as they include source credits for this site and the website of origin, original writer/photographer/etc. I am not trying to exercise ownership over any of this material, just control over what content happens to get posted here. If anyone wants to start their own fansite, and share material in any way that pleases them, they are free to do so. But please don’t try to take over this one. If anyone has genuinely rare or exclusive material they want shared here, I will do so with lavish thanks and proper credit. Most fans do in fact follow proper channels and submit material this way, and I am grateful. But I don’t need people to repost (without source credit) material they found online in a random, haphazard manner. In almost all cases I know about this material and am already working on the next entry, which will include it. I try to carefully compose entries which make ALL recent news and material available together rather than posting each new item on its own– that’s what Twitter is for. And I am scrupulous about context and proper source credits. Again, please respect this rule, or don’t use this site.

Sorry about that– I know 99.9999% of you didn’t need to hear it, and have always respected my wishes.

My previous entry detailed Del Kathryn Barton’s winning of the Archibald Prize with her lavish, visually striking and symbol-rich portrait of Hugo Weaving, simply entitled hugo.  I noted at the time that Hugo was unavailable to attend the ceremony, as he’s busy in Victoria filming Healing. But the Sydney-are arts blog The Social Shuttle noted that his partner Katrina and daughter Holly were on hand and posed with the portrait (see under cut– it’s a large photo). Katrina is quoted as mentioning that the prior portrait of Hugo in the running for the Archibalds– Nicholas Harding’s Hugo at Home— was recently purchased by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.  Which neatly counteracts a lot of the skepticism in the media about the Prizes’ impact. 😉

There was also an interesting letter to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, debunking one of the more snide appraisals of the portrait, from reader Anne Lennard:

The cat’s pyjamas

I have known Hugo Weaving for many years and I disagree with John McDonald. I find Del Kathryn Barton has captured the essence of the man.

There is a ‘special likeness’ and great ‘psychological insight’ in the portrait. The ‘strange animal’ looks very like his Abyssinian cat, not something ‘the special effects crew of The Matrix dreamt up’. (Hugo’s always been something of a cat whisperer – they adore him).
For me, the leaves represent his passion for the environment. He and his family have planted more than 2000 trees at their country home, replacing those logged in the past century. So, look again, John McDonald. I love the painting and its subject.

Anne Lennard has indeed known Hugo Weaving for many years. She ought to– she’s his mother. 😉 So the Barton portrait seems to have full familial endorsement in addition to Hugo’s participation in its creation, both through multiple sittings and thematic content.  I didn’t know Hugo and family currently have an Abyssinian cat, though I assumed he must have some sort of feline companionship. (Also, the “Deja Vu” cat in the Matrix was a simple black cat, not anything exotic or SFX-generated, heh heh.) Vintage interviews with Hugo were often held at his home, and mentioned a three-legged calico named Eve and a Siamese named Thisbe, but as Hugo became more famous, such homey details were harder to come by. But Hugo has often referenced loving cats and animals in general.

New footage of Del Katryn Barton discussing her portrait can be viewed at WA Today and Art Gallery of New South Wales.  And I’ll mention again that the full Archibald Prizes portrait exhibit remains on display at Art Gallery of NSW through 2 June for fans lucky enough to be in the Sydney area. (Our Special Correspondent Yvette has already visited. Lucky, lucky, lucky.) 😉

UPDATE: There’s a new, 24-minute interview with Del Kathryn Barton available for streaming or download at ABC Radio National’s Sunday Profile. Of course, she discusses her award-winning portrait, why she chose Hugo Weaving, and the symbolism and work process she used creating it. (Apparently both were under the influence of “a long, slow cup of tea” while discussing concepts!) 😉

As I mentioned, Hugo himself continues work on Healing… In addition to the Healesville Sanctuary photos posted previously, Victoria Greens Party politician Janet Rice visited the Healesville shoot and got to pose with Hugo:

Photo: Janet Rice via Twitter

Some fascinating vintage photos of Hugo at past Sydney Film Festivals recently surfaced as part of the vast, engrossing SFF Archive which went live earlier this week and continues to add new content– so the images below are probably just for starters. As longtime fans know, Hugo has served as a patron, judge and fan of the Sydney Film Festival for many years in addition to premiering several of his classic Australian films there over the years. He attends every year (unless work physically prevents him), whether in an official capacity or just to enjoy the wide variety of films showcased. The new archive features a wealth of vintage photos, program scans, videos, anecdotes and other material from 1954 to the present. If you’re a fan of Australian film, directors or actors (Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett, George Miller, Toni Collette, David Weham and Russell Crowe, among many others, are well-represented) do yourself a favor and reserve a few hours to look it over.

Some SFF Archive photos of Hugo:

Russell Crowe with Hugo Weaving, Opening Night Party SFF 1991 (Proof premiere)

Hugo Weaving (right) with partner Katrina, Opening Night Party SFF 1991 (Proof premiere)

Hugo Weaving (left) with partner Katrina, Proof producer Lynda House and director Jocelyn Moorhouse, Opening night party, SFF 1991 (Proof premiere)

Hugo Weaving at the 1994 SFF Opening Night Party

Hugo and partner Katrina at the 2002 SFF Opening Night Party

I’ll add additional relevant material from the SFF Archive as it becomes available.

In Other Hugo Weaving News:
The sneak preview material for The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in the Hobbit trilogy, debuted online on March 24. Total Film provided some details; other websites have attempted to share the footage itself, but usually get blocked or threatened by Warner Bros within hours… ideally this material will be made available to everyone soon. (Some fans have reported in frustration that those who missed the initial webcast could not view the footage later at the site, despite having purchased An Unexpected Journey on DVD/BluRay and having the necessary access code; I have no idea if this was a problem across the board.) Elrond wasn’t specifically mentioned in any online reports about the new footage (nor was Smaug unveiled), but there were first glimpses of Luke Evans’ Bard the Bowman, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, and Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel.

Speaking of The Hobbit, the first installment recently picked up Empire Awards for Best SciFi/Fantasy Film and Best Actor (Martin Freeman). Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman were on hand to collect; you can view pics and footage here.

Geraldine Hakewill, who costarred with Hugo Weaving in Les Liaisons Dangereuses last year and will costar with Harry Greenwood in Fury for The Sydney Theatre Company next month, gave the Sydney Morning Herald an interview. She said this of Liaisons’ salacious sex scenes: ”I trusted Hugo from day one; it never felt strange or awkward. ‘Sex scenes are always difficult, but it’s often about the girl saying, ‘What you’re doing is fine with me.’ It’s actually the guys who feel more uncomfortable. Once everything is OK, you do it and try to have fun…[Hugo Weaving is] He was such a joy to work with. ‘He’s a beautiful human being, and such a talented actor, with no ego. He’s become a dear friend. I’d love to work with him again. We’re so lucky to have him.”

There’s a lengthy, enthusiastic review of Hugo’s 2009 film Last Ride at Geeks of Doom. Last Ride is currently available for streaming on Netflix (US).

And there’s a great behind-the-scenes shot of Hugo Weaving and Keanu Reeves filming The Matrix’s climactic fight scene included in Bored Panda’s30 Awesome Behind The Scenes Shots From Famous Movies.”

That’s all for now, but I hope to be back on April 4 with some special material in celebration of Hugo’s birthday.

Cloud Atlas Promotion Reaches Frenzied Peak Before Opening Tonight; New Hugo Weaving Interviews

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’ve been meaning to taker screencaps of some of the recent interview and behind the scenes videos, but every time I sign on, there are dozens more new Cloud Atlas interviews, reviews and other articles to sift through and post, so I just haven’t had time. Maybe once the film comes out on Friday I’ll be able to go back and do that. But right now there are two great, in-depth Hugo Weaving interviews to post (one with Susan Sarandon, one solo) plus tons of other Cloud Atlas material. I’m trying very hard not to duplicate anything previously posted or linked to here, but that’s a challenge because there’s just so much stuff, and a lot of it has been cross-posted in slightly different forms in different places. For example, you’ll see the Multitude of Drops making-of featurette again today, but now there are five additional minutes of interview footage tagged on at the end. And there is some repeated content in most of the behind the scenes promos.

One think you won’t have to worry about is my cross-posting any of what I call the “New York culture snob” press’s reaction to the film. I knew exactly what these sniffy pseudointellectuals would say before their reviews were posted, and they’ve proved themselves as predictable as ever. Cloud Atlas has too many genre and populist elements for them to be pleased by it. It unabashedly appeals to a viewer’s emotions and it’s larger themes are obvious. Culture snobs only enjoy films they can brag about getting through and aridly opine about with their other culture snob friends. (Hence the mad rush to outdo one another in overpraising PT Anderson’s The Master, though not a one could really tell you what, if anything, it meant. Or why its obvious artifices and overindulgence of certain actors might be preferable to those same flaws in Cloud Atlas.) These people sound proud in their cynicism… I didn’t respond to every aspect of Cloud Atlas as whole-heartedly as some fans have, but this detachment made me question myself, not arrogantly insult everyone who found the film moving or profound. These sorts of critics are Exhibit A in why the academic left alienates so many people, and why charges of elitism are leveled at liberalism in general. I’m sure if Cloud Atlas had been made for $20,000 in Bulgaria, had its transformation elements clumsily imparted through chunks of opaque dialogue and ended in a mass suicide, these folks would’ve fallen all over themselves praising it. 😉

Sorry… didn’t want to go off on a tangent quite so early. But I had to slog through a bunch of those pretentious reviews far too early in the morning and I still have the headache they induced. I’ll get on with posting some new videos. I’ll build a bit of suspense before we get to the new Hugo material… which is more than worth the wait.

Here’s another new Making-Of, this time from Time:

MTV, with its typical, short attention span, tried to make a game of asking the cast to describe the movie in one sentence:

Which you can’t… you can recite blurbs from the poster or trailers, but these Grand Thematic Statements aren’t what made the film satisfying to me. No great film fits easily in a sentence (or a tweet). MTV also quoted some further comments from actors, including Hugo, who aren’t in the video, and discussed themes without playing the game:

…Tom Hanks had several ideas for one-sentence summaries.

‘It is one story about six people who through their choices between cruelty and kindness affect the world for generations to come,’he said before adding another tagline. ‘How about, it’s a cranial plate shift of a film. How about that?’ 


Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon added a few more details into the mix to explain the film’s title and its sweeping, metaphysical message.
‘Why is it called ”Cloud Atlas?” ‘ Weaving said. ‘The clouds being like souls and the breadth of humanity, all of the souls that are constantly shifting and changing through time,’ he explained. ‘Clouds shift their color and size and shape and come back.’


‘And the idea that our lives are not our own and every act out kindness out crime births your future,’ added Sarandon. ‘I think it’s partially that because it’s in the trailer,’ she said with a laugh.

I hope MTV eventually shares the full cast interviews they’ve obviously taped.

HitFix taped interviews with several cast members (probably using the now-accustomed pairings we’ve seen for most of the online promotion)… so far they’ve only shared their Hanks and Berry piece, but HitFix has been one of the more enthusiastic supporters of  this film, so they probably have a lot more where this came from. Also: more incisive questions than most.

Sympatico has a third Cloud Atlas video up, this one featuring Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy.  (Sorry, no embedding. Don’t know why some sites are so backward on that issue…)

Lana Wachowski appeared as the guest of honor at The Human Rights Campaign’s annual fundraising dinner in San Francisco last right; The Hollywood Reporter has posted footage of her moving speech about learning to accept her transgendered nature and gradually going public with her transition.  There’s a full transcript here, and additional interview here.

You can listed to the full score at The Film Stage (my guess this is the film’s best shot at an Oscar; even detractors have mostly praised it.) They also feature the Multitude of Drops featurette and the Time making-of embedded above (now called “Bringing Cloud Atlas To Life”, and available on YouTube.)

You can read part two of /Film’s interview with the Wachowskis here. There’s a lengthy Tom Hanks/Halle Berry interview at Screen Crave, The Calgary Herald features quotes from the full cast about the full, most of which seem to have come from the TIFF press conference on September 9.

Clevver (sic) News has yet another Hanks/Berry video interview; while the actors do their standard, professional job discussing the film, this hands-down wins my award for Most Vapid Press Treatment Of Cloud Atlas (apart from those sites involved in blowing up Transformers-Gate, of course.) .

There’s a French-language interview with Susan Sarandon at lapresse.ca. There’s video of Tom Hanks’s promotional appearance on Jimmy Fallon last night, though unfortunately most of the running time is spent on an unfunny shaggy dog story about Bruce Springsteen. (!?) The actor’s guest spot on Letterman earlier in the week was more on-point, and even the ever-cranky host expressed some enthusiasm for the film, and said it’s three-hour runtime went by in a flash. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Letterman. And I am often cranky myself.) 😉 I’m still trying to find the full video of that, but you can watch the episode at CBS Online.

The Cloud Atlas costume designers and makeup artists finally get their own interview at Static.com.  There’s an extended interview with Korean actress Bae Doona, who plays the film’s central heroine Sonmi-451, at Movieline. AMC has just added a new interview featuring Bae and Jim Sturgess on YouTube. And the film’s full production notes can now be read at SciFi Talk.  Film Review Online features dual interviews with Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy, and with Hanks and Berry.  (AMC now has all of their Cloud Atlas cast interviews posted here, all are more in-depth than many media sources and well worth a look.)

OK, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here, in full, are the two new Hugo Weaving interviews posted in the past 24 hours. The first appeared on Movie Fanatic, the second one (featuring Susan Sarandon) at MoviesOnline.ca. I applaud both interviewers for staying on-topic, printing the full text of what the actors said, and providing interesing questions rather than scoop-mongering (or contriving controversy) about unrelated franchises. (Hugo does discuss The Hobbit in the first piece, but as that’s an ongoing project, and the first film is being released next month, that’s fair game.)

[Note: My apologies– LJ says the post was too large with the full text of both pieces. So go ahead and click on the links- I’ll post both of those pieces (along with two new Hugo interviews) in the next entry, ASAP]

New Reviews:

Sean Burns, Philadelphia Weekly: “The first 40 minutes or so of Cloud Atlas’ nearly three hours is such rough sailing, at times I found myself wishing for a cheat sheet or some sort of graph just so I could keep all these characters and storylines straight…

And then something odd happens: The movie settles into a groove… There is some extraordinary filmmaking here, cutting on similar camera movements and matching character placement within the frame for seamless transitions between eras. Everything is always hurtling forward simultaneously, whether it’s Berry and Keith David in a scrappy blaxploitation-inspired shoot-out or Bae’s hyperkinetic escapes in a future dystopia that play out like the Matrix sequels we all wish the Wachowskis had made instead.
It also can be awfully tacky….Yet the kitsch factor is weirdly in keeping with the picture’s ardent, disarming sincerity. There’s not a cynical moment in these three hours, and the actors throw themselves into their roles with wild, foolhardy abandon. The multiple performances aren’t just a gimmick, as the Wachowskis and Tykwer desperately want us to see similar conflicts writ large and small over the enormity of human history, resolved only by bravery, compassion and reaching out to other, similarly marginalized people we were foolishly taught to fear…. Unlike most cold, mega-budget spectacles, Cloud Atlas feels deeply personal, almost hand-crafted. There’s an obvious corollary here between co-director Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski’s recent gender reassignment and the movie’s mutable approach to identity. Even at its most risible, this oddball picture has a groovy, inclusive spirit that seems downright revolutionary in this sterile, blockbuster age.”

Aaron Neuwirth, The Code Is Zeek: “Some flaws aside, I found Cloud Atlas to be incredibly well structured, given the complex nature of the story being told, and a wonderful work of art, after discounting the awkwardness of putting familiar actors in odd makeup.  It will surely be divisive, but I was really into what co-directors Andy & Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer challenged themselves to make…[W]hile the film does have some missteps in the way it treats itself quite seriously in some instances (despite some purposeful humor), … the fact is that these filmmakers really care about this story and did the best with what they had to make it an engaging experience.  As opposed to being a throwaway piece of experimental filmmaking, it seems clear that the effort was put forward to make a compelling and unique experience…. The benefit of a film like Cloud Atlas is that I think it is the kind of film that will provoke a lot of discussion, regardless of whether people like it or not.  There is so much going on in it and it has so much to offer, that it succeeds on being at least a debatable watercooler topic.  In writing about the film and thinking about it more, I would be happy to see it again at this point, as I would maybe be able to focus less on certain awkward aspects and more on how these characters are all interconnected. ”

Eric Kuiper, Reel Spirituality: “My understanding going into the film is that it was about transmigrating souls moving from one generation or epoch to another. And, on some level, this is true. It is a film about the interconnectedness of humanity over time. But to limit the film to this is a great mistake and horrible reduction. This is a film about the clash between those who believe resolutely that the reality of survival of the fittest means it is everyone for themselves and those who believe we are to live a life where we are willing to sacrifice and strive for equality… This battle is not brought to the viewers in a non-partisan manner. This is a film with a point of view, a bias, a hope, and a dream…  Cloud Atlas is impossible to take in all at once. It will likely repay the viewer who is willing to return to it. But where it at times feels more a like a fogged map that is hard to follow, it also is reaching for something worth reaching for, even if it can’t quite grab it. It declares the importance of telling the counter-story to the one that is eating up and spitting out so many, in hopes that someday soon, it will be realized on earth. Cloud Atlas invites us all to live a story that we believe is true, even if it is not the dominant story being told around us. Cloud Atlas is an invitation to live what we believe will be, but at the moment is not yet. Whether it is a well-articulated, clear or meaningful invitation – there’s probably two ways to see that.”

Marty Day, Blast-O-Rama: “On paper, a nearly three-hour drama which takes the audience through six separate timelines while attempting to reveal the universal truths of humanity isn’t the easiest pill to swallow. Yet from the first glimpse of the film, in its beautiful six-minute trailer, you got the feeling that the directorial team of Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix) and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) had truly touched upon something special…. It’s clear that the filmmakers were more enamored with certain timelines than others (the Neo Seoul sequence in 2144 clearly had the Wachowski’s creative juices flowing), but no story feels cheapened. Somehow, every story has a clear three act structure, and usage of creative juxtaposition clarifies the meaning of certain stories by the sequences that came before or follow from other stories.  The uniting theme of the connective fiber of life itself becomes abundantly clear, and while every story seems unique, each story illuminates the next in brilliant, unforeseen ways…. Much has been spoken of the creative use of a central cast throughout the film, using extensive makeup techniques to allow the actors to morph into different roles depending on the timeline they appear in. Sometimes the makeup does a fantastic job of hiding the actors (you’re going to have a lot of fun with the IMDB page when you get home), while in others, the makeup is jarring and bizarre (notably with any instance of changing an actor’s race or sex).  Still, the acting is the heart of the project…  If [Jim Broadbent] isn’t at the least nominated for an Oscar as best supporting actor for his work here, something has gone terribly wrong.  Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that if you’ve ever longed to see what Hugo Weaving would look like if he were Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, this is the film that finally delivers…. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer had the audacity to create something truly brilliant and original, in a movie making marketplace which may completely refuse to accept it. Cloud Atlas is a film which I look forward to dissecting and discussing for years to come – and that may truly be the highest compliment you can pay a true work of art.  Is the movie for you? I cannot really say. But I know that it was for me, and I look forward to revisiting it again and again.”

Maitland McDonagh, Film Journal: “the film’s title suggests that each character is engaged in a journey that’s both poetic and scientific, attempting to quantify the elusive and mysterious. The conceit of history-changing moments is handled more subtly than it sounds: No story ends with a decisive, earthshaking victory against blind conformity, comfortable ignorance or tyranny that will literally change the world. But each is a tile in a vast mosaic of events whose cumulative effect will. And though its big ideas can be reduced to well-worn phrases like ‘No man is an island,’  ‘All you need is love,’ ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ and ‘We’re all connected,’ Cloud Atlas attempts to strip each one of the layers of familiarity that make them seem like greeting-card platitudes rather than genuinely provocative notions….Having the same core group of actors play different roles in various stories helps tie them together, even if it sometimes so strains credulity that it pulls the viewer out of the story…  But on the whole, Cloud Atlas is consistently entertaining and surprisingly effective, as well as the shortest three hours most moviegoers will ever spend in a theatre…and that’s no small recommendation. ”

John Armstrong, Dr Mathochist: “I admit it: I love ambitious movies — big, complicated, literary juggernauts with myriad moving parts all arranged just so in perfect harmony. I like feeling like I’m doing some real work, uncovering a deeper structure that makes everything on the surface tick. Cloud Atlas is just the sort of film that, if done well, is made for me to love. And, as far as I’m concerned, Tom Tykwer and Lana and Andy Wachowski have succeeded. This is a grand, breathtaking spectacle of filmmaking and a tribute to the skills of all three as adapters and directors. The fatal flaw is that they may well have made their film abstruse beyond the reach or interest of much of their audience, and confounding to those seeking a proper blockbuster…. It’s almost surprising that the film comes in at a mere 164 minutes in the American cut, allowing only 25 minutes or so for each section. Each one manages to expand beyond its bounds, though, by spilling over into the others. The directors rhyme one scene in one story with another scene in another, sometimes in great stacks…. The cast — and thus on some level the characters — aren’t the only things that continue from one story to another. All sorts of references, places, and objects great and small cross-link the narratives. A blue-green button here; rings there. San Francisco, California; King’s College, Cambridge; the Pacific Ocean. A sliced throat; a gunshot; a gout of blood. Slavery; love; transcendence. And threaded through it all is the hauntingly beautiful and bittersweet Cloud Atlas Sextet, which shows up in pieces in the phenomenal score by Tykwer and his collaborators Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil….  For those ready to work, though, it’s a marvelous and fascinating puzzle indeed. In watching and studying the stories told by these shifting, nebulous images across one, unchanging background, we can start to tease out underlying patterns that reveal to us the secrets of the weather that shapes our human existence. Will this Cloud Atlas reveal its secrets to all who watch? is it even possible to achieve such a lofty goal? of course not. But as I said, I love it just for trying. It may be impossible to touch the sky, but those who aim for it fly higher than those who do not dare to dream.”

Bryan Kluger, Boomstick Comics: “‘Cloud Atlas’ is not just a movie you view, it’s a full experience…. The performances from all of the actors are flawless as they can switch from the villain to the hero, or from strong to cowardly, and from funny and charming to obnoxious and mean.  I’v never seen anything quite like it.  Broadbent was one of my favorite characters in the film, as he just makes every scene a little bit brighter… ‘Cloud Atlas’ is perfectly edited.  Weaving each of these six stories, time periods, and characters together was something unlike I’ve never seen before.  Not only was it perfectly edited, but each scene reflects and adds to the previous scene before it.  Kind of like an opera as it builds and builds on each scene.”

Joe The Movie Man: “Both The Wachowskis and Tykwer have excelled in the past with creating brave new worlds of information within their films and Cloud Atlas is no exception.  There’s so much to observe in the details and small hints that a second viewing of the movie is pretty much required.  As it ponders the origins of our humanity and our growing reliance on technology, the movie begins to rail against the trappings of just being a statement about oppression and distance.  It’s a melting-pot of themes…and I don’t say that to indicate that it can’t decide on what kind of movie it is.  The Wachowskis and Tykwer know exactly what film they were crafting and that all the pieces have the same cinematic voice show a unity in design…. For their cast, the directors have assembled an international group of actors that are called upon to play a variety of different ages, genders, races, etc.  It’s almost like repertory theatre as you pick out who is playing who in each different story.  It’s mostly easy to see the stars (just watch the variety of fake noses on display) but what I found more interesting was trying to pick out some of the secondary characters that pop up from piece to piece…. Hanks and Berry play major roles in most of the pieces, but in a few they are in blink and you miss ‘em cameos.  Berry has had a rocky road after winning her Oscar for Monster’s Ball in 2002…   In Cloud Atlas, she finally shines again in what can be seen as a pseudo-comeback performance.  She’s the center of the story for the 1970’s sequence and fills out every vessel of her character, shaping her into someone we have a vested interest in…. I’ve decided over the course of writing this review that another screening of Cloud Atlas is going to be on the top of my list once I’ve had time to full process this first viewing.  There are so many hints about how the stories weave together and an abundance of shared themes that it just can’t all be taken in with one viewing.  I can understand how this movie won’t be for everyone and can see that it will divide a large section of its audience.  I started off very unsure of the film and wary of its narrative style but gradually was so enveloped in its ingenuity and brave storytelling that I never looked back.  ”

Finally, in non-Cloud Atlas Hugo Weaving news, there’s a great new review of Last Ride (now available on US DVD) at Scene Stealers, which endears me further by pairing it with the DVD issue of Moonrise Kingdom. 😉 There’s a reprint of Hugo’s recent Fresno Bee Last Ride interview at Macon.com,  In Hobbit News, there has been some buzz that news satirist (and unabashed Tolkien geek) Stephen Colbert might have a cameo in the forthcoming trilogy. Since this is coming from The Hollywood Reporter, I’ll believe it when I see it, but if any of the Dwarves has an abnormal fear of Beorn and a SuperPAC, we’ll know he made the cut. 😉 Allegedly Colbert is in the second or third film, not the first, and his cameo was filmed during a set visit last November. So he probably isn’t playing an Elf, at least not a Rivendell Elf, as their scenes were shot in April and May 2011 with some extra voice work this past summer.

Then there’s yet more left-field Hobbit merchandising:

NOTE: More new Cloud Atlas material is already up, including the belated on-topic portion of Collider’s interview (I’ll add the full text next post… which I’ll start working on shortly.) I’m still frustrated at their lack of willingness to put Hugo’s remarks in full context, as their chopped-up selection of quotes has caused such undue outrage in certain quarters. They admit here that they’ve compiled Hugo’s interview from two separate interviews, and have undoubtedly edited down from those. I know Elissa Blake’s transcript from earlier this year– possibly the best Hugo Weaving interview, ever–  and many in-depth print, audio and video interviews from the Australian media have spoiled me to some extent, but Hugo doesn’t talk in sound bites, and his tone can be altered significantly when his words are pared down or decontextualized by a journalist seeking them.

Collider has done a much better job in the past (including in the handling of Hugo’s Last Ride interview this past summer) and this part of the interview sounds more like him, but given the trouble this interview has caused, is it really too much to ask that they post it in unedited form?  I don’t accuse them of changing any of his words, just the nuance and context. The comments about The Two Franchises probably didn’t sound inflammatory when spoken, but were too easily misinterpreted when posted as they were. Granted, some fanboys (and the hacks who make movies for them) will never be happy, but Hugo wasn’t trying to insult them or their disposable entertainment, nor, I’m sure, did he adopt a jaded tone.   Also, Screen Crave printed their lengthy chat with Sarandon and Weaving… I’ll post that here as well, but you can grab a sneak peek at the source now.

Cloud Atlas: Seven New Banners, Enhanced E-Book, More Reviews, Pics

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.

New promotional material for Cloud Atlas continues to appear on a near-daily basis; yesterday seven (!) new promotional banners debuted on thew film’s Facebook page and were quickly picked up by pretty much every movie site out there and reposted at varying sizes; I’ve included the largest versions I could find (under the cut) and will post them in chronological order. Hugo Weaving appears in those for the Luisa Rey and Timothy Cavendish storylines as the villainous Bill Smoke and Nurse Noakes, respectively.

Note : The Adam Ewing storyline doesn’t yet have a banner: it features Jim Sturgess as Adam Ewing, Tom Hanks as Henry Goose, David Gyasi as Autua, Bae Doona as Tilda, Hugo Weaving as Rev. Horrox (some who’ve seen the film have confirmed my suspicion that Reverends D’Arnoq and Horrox have been combined into one character), and Jim Broadbent as Capt. Mollyneaux, and is set in the 1850s. And I should give a Slight Spoiler Warning on my banner notes in case anyone wants to go in knowing as little as possible about who plays who… in a way, I envy anyone coming to the film with an innocent eye. Once you get in the “professional fan” business that almost never happens… but our favorite actors nonetheless reward us by still managing to surprise and beguile us in spite of our over-preparation. 😉

Letters From Zedelghem starring Ben Whishaw as Robert Frobisher and James D’Arcy as Rufus Sixsmith. Set in 1931 Belgium, the story also features Jim Broadbent as Vyvyan Ayrs, Halle Berry as Jocasta, Tom Hanks as the Hotel Clerk and Gotz Otto as Withers the Butler.

Half Lives: the First Luisa Rey Mystery stars Halle Berry as Luisa Rey, Keith David as Joe Napier and Hugo Weaving as Bill Smoke. The 1970s-set China Syndrome-ish nuclear espionage thriller also stars Tom Hanks as Isaac Sachs, James D’Arcy as the older Sixsmith (the only character to physically feature in two stories, though there are meta-references galore between plots) Hugh Grant as Grimaldi, Zhu Zhu as Meagan Sixsmith, Ben Whishaw as the record store clerk, David Gyasi as Lester Rey and Bae Doona as a Mexican woman who assists Luisa.

The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish is set in the present day and stars Jim Broadbent as the title character and Hugo Weaving as Nurse Noakes. Also featured but not pictured: Hugh Grant as Denholme Cavendish, Tom Hanks as Dermott “Duster” Hoggins, Susan Sarandon as Cavendish’s “lost love” (called “Ursula” in some cast lists, though if this is the case, she’s a very different character from the novel’s Ursula), Ben Whishaw as another of the nursing home denizens, and Alistair Petrie as Felix Finch.

An Orison of Sonmi-451 is set in a futuristic, corporate oligarchic Korea (called Nea So Copros in the novel and Neo Seoul in the film)  and stars Bae Doona as Sonmi- 451– she features in all three banners highlighting this storyline. Jim Sturgess, who plays Hae-Joo Chang (an apparent synthesis of the Chang and Hae-Joo Im characters in the novel) is seen in two banners, and the gluttonous overseer (called Seer Rhee in the novel and played by Hugh Grant in the film) is in the first one. Also featured but not pictured: James D’Arcy as The Archivist, Zhou Xun as Yoona- 939, Zhu Zhu as another Papa Song waitress, Keith David as An Kor Apis, Hugo Weaving as Control, Tom Hanks as the Film Cavendish and Susan Sarandon as Ma Arak Na and Halle Berry as a “male Korean doctor”.

Finally, Sloosha’s Crossin’ An’ Everythin’ After is set about 100 years after the events of the Sonmi storyline and unfolds in a post-apocalyptic, tribal-warfare striven Hawaii. Pictured as Tom Hanks as Zachry and Halle Berry as Meronym. Not pictured: Zhou Xun as Zachry’s wife Rose, Hugo Weaving as Old Georgie, Hugh Grant as the lead cannibal, Susan Sarandon as the Abbess, Jim Sturgess as Zachry’s father Adam, and David Gyasi as “a presidential figure” (possibly Meronym’s contact Duophysite).

Note: some of my casting notes are guesses based on the novel, early reviews and actor interviews as well as the promotional material now available. The film version has substantially changed some characters (including their names and basic physical characteristics) and omitted or synthesized others. For example, Keith David plays a character named “Kupaka Apis” who appears nowhere in the novel but is apparently related to An Kor Apis, a mysterious figure David plays in the Sonmi storyline.  He could be an ancestor of An Kor Apis in just about any storyline (The Adam Ewing plot would be my best guess)– or a descendant in Sloosha’s Crossin’. Neither IMDb nor Wikipedia has a completely correct cast list because both are crowd-sourced and have some omissions or inaccuracies. Ironically, casting notes on the smaller roles at these sites are more likely to be accurate, because they’re posted by the actors or their representation personally.

I understand several of my guesses might be wrong… I’m not trying to be definitive before I’ve seen the film. As many viewers who HAVE seen the film have confirmed, part of the fun is guessing who’s who, and how the novel adheres to or changes the novel.

By the way, the film’s Facebook Page just added an enlarged version of the Toronto Cast Party from September 8:

L to R: Zhu Zhu, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Susan Sarandon and Bae Doona in front of Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, David Gyasi, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Andy Wachowski (behind), James D’Arcy, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant and Alistair Petrie.

And thanks again to the James D’Arcy fans for calling this new premiere photo of Hugo to my attention:

Photo: MTime; they have a gallery featuring several other actors from the film as well. This one’s slightly overexposed, but I like it anyhow. 😉

If you still haven’t read the novel, or want to read it again before you see the film (or after) there’s now an Enhanced E-Book “movie tie-in edition” available for pre-order (it’s officially released October 9) featuring heretofore unseen film footage and interviews with the actors, “including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving and James D’Arcy”.  It’s in Kindle format, but you can download free Kindle software from Amazon for computer viewing if you have a rival e-reader or, like me, bought the old school Dead Tree Format. (I’ll probably buy the enhanced version too, but am eternally grateful the paperback was on hand last October during the 12-day power outage…  and it’ll be equally handy if, like some Cloud Atlas characters, we eventually find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic, post-technological state.) 😉

If you want to do something nice for your fellow fans (and people who, like the James D’Arcy faithful, have provided invaluable research assistance in following this film’s progress) you can buy the Kindle Enhanced edition via Jim Sturgess Online for the regular (and very reasonable) Amazon price. The Orison Edition is not yet available, though it may be bundled with the inevitable Blu-Ray. 😉 And speaking of Jim Sturgess, he gave an interesting interview to Vulture (as Hugo Weaving did earlier this month) discussing the challenges of playing six characters in Cloud Atlas. He also (one hopes) provides the final word on the cross-racial casting controversy: if Bae Doona’s mother was OK with Stugess (or other actors, including Hugo Weaving, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon) playing Asian characters, you should be too.

New review excerpts:

Tom Clift, Moviedex: “Cloud Atlas is a big, bold, beautiful work of staggering ambition and artistry… The casts’ work is excellent bar none, although quite frankly, so unrecognisable does the makeup sometimes render them that the end credit revelation as to who played who in what segment is more jaw-dropping than the actual performances… Astoundingly, out of six stories over vastly different scale and tone, not one feels unnecessary or boring. Indeed, masterful editing – along with a beautiful score that’s as multifaceted as the movie it’s accompanying – provides the film with a wonderful ebb and flow… Yet no matter the profundity, the best thing about Cloud Atlas is that it always maintains a sense of intimacy…. To try and write conclusively on Cloud Atlas after just one viewing feels like something of a fruitless endeavour. This is an important film; a film that will deservedly be watched, rewatched, discussed and studied for many generations to come. It is stained glass cinema: shards of disparate splendour made breathtakingly whole.”

Moira Romano, Myetvmedia: “Visually the movie is superb employing a number of cinematic techniques to transport the viewer across time. The story requires the full attention of the viewer. There are no simple plot lines. Each character is on a quest and has a mission. How they accomplish this will have impacts that will influence generations to come…. The story illustrates the significance of keeping a record of our human journeys and the passing down of knowledge that we as a civilization can learn from. The contribution of each character is very powerful as the tale is variously narrated, portrayed through dream sequences, played out in the present, seen through flashbacks and in futuristic worlds….Cloud Atlas is an extraordinary movie with an inspiring, thoughtful message that will stay with the viewer well after you leave the theatre. ”

Myetvmedia also posted a new YouTube clip featuring footage of the directors and cast intro from the Cloud Atlas premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, filmed from a viewpoint slightly closer to the stage than the official version:

In non-Cloud Atlas Hugo Weaving news, Last Ride will finally debut on US DVD next month (October 16 to be precise) and is currently available for pre-order; alas, no US Blu-Ray has yet been announced. (There is a German version, the only Blu-Ray currently available, but I have no idea how enhanced it is, or what its extra features might be; since there’s no Australian Blu-Ray and director Glendyn Ivins hasn’t mentioned that version, I suspect it’s the Australian DVD edition reformatted.) If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you might have noticed it’s moved from your Saved Queue to your active queue.  I recently found another glowing review in The New Republic for the film’s US release this past summer… here’s an excerpt:

Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic: “The Australian outback, the setting for most of Last Ride, an extraordinary film for which the locale is a quiet, almost secret catalyst. Directed by Glendyn Ivin, with a screenplay derived by Mac Gudgeon from a novel by Denise Young, it needs only two major characters to create a picture that begins as a bare-knuckled adventure and becomes a folk tale. At the last we are almost gratifyingly ashamed for not having seen from the first the quasi-myth that it becomes….Kev is a man in his thirties, a rough character not untouched by the law, who has a ten-year-old son named Chook. The bulk of the film is Kev’s flight from the law and to a possible new life accompanied by his son… But an almost lofty effect in Ivin’s view of the proceedings, plus his sense of the awesome environment as a silent character, alerts us for surprise….This deepened view extends backward to touch everything we have seen before. And that view is enriched by the very end of the picture. Last Ride is then seen as an attempt to render with words and pictures the sad lyricism of a country ballad. Ivin, with his loving direction, lets this gradually come through to us. Hugo Weaving, a leading Australian actor, makes Kev exceptionally sound along every shade of his register. And once again a breathtaking performance by a child. Tom Russell is Chook most endearingly.”

I bet Hugo would be thrilled to hear that the reviewer perceives Kev, not one of his more manicured characters, to be “in his thirties”. 😉

‘I promise not to try and drown you this time, son” 😉
Hugo Weaving and Tom Russell in Last Ride

Breaking News: There’s apparently been a surprise preview screening of Cloud Atlas at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX with the directors in attendance. More news on this as it becomes available.