Tag Archives: The Mule

New Photos of Hugo Weaving at Sundance; HuffPost Live transcript; Plus a Romantic Gesture ;)

It’s been a slow couple of weeks for breaking news since Sundance ended. I assume Hugo Weaving has been taking a well-earned break, possibly gearing up for Endgame rehearsals at Sydney Theatre Co. (The play, which teams Hugo with Bruce Spence for his second go-round with Samuel Beckett in the past few years, begins performances March 31.) Hugo was also spotted in the audience at last night’s STC premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, starring his former director and costar Robyn Nevin. His son Harry Greenwood– now making waves on Australian TV in Gallipoli— was also on hand. No, no pictures as of yet: Hugo is often adept at dodging press photo ops when he’s attending plays as a viewer, but sometimes indulges us. We’ll have to wait and see.

More previously-unseen photos of Hugo from January’s Sundance press junket for Strangerland continue to surface, though, so I’ll share all I’ve found since the last entry. I’ve also given up on HuffPost Live sharing their Hugo Weaving/Joseph Fiennes interview (which was webcast live on January 24 but hasn’t been re-posted) in anything resembling a timely manner. So I’ve transcribed the whole thing and will post it here (from my audio recording) along with photos taken at the taping. HuffPost might be waiting until the film’s formal release, whenever that might be, though all of the other media outlets who taped Strangerland cast interviews shared their material the same week.

I still hope HuffPost eventually shares their footage of the interview, which would be far superior to this. But for now, I’ll do what I can. I’d share the audio too if I wasn’t afraid of lawsuit threats. I’ve long since stopped trying to guess what might or might not make content providers needlessly pissy, but it’s always a good idea to err on the side of caution. That said, this material is too good to merely live-broadcast then sit on for weeks. The actors were there expressly to promote their film, and I’ll do what I can to faciltate that, given how disrespected this film was by the largely-snide hipster press at the festival. Warning: the following does contain a few plot spoilers and overuse of the word ‘process’. 😉

Transcript: HuffPostLive interview with Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes at Sundance, promoting Strangerland, 24 Jan 2015

Interviewed by Ricky Camilleri at the ChefDance & HuffPost Live Media Lounge
Interview photos: Tiffany Rose/Getty Images
RC: I’m joined by Hugo Weaving and Joseph Fiennes who star in the film Strangerland with Nicole Kidman. I saw the movie last night, I was gushing over it with you guys just a minute ago. Thank you so much for joining me. Incredible performances. Incredible performances. When you read the script, were you nervous at all? We you worried about taking on these roles?


HW: No…I don’t… I think… Whenever I read a script, I just read the script rather than think about ‘the doing’ of it. I’m just reading the script for what it is. I don’t know about you, Joe, but–

 RC: Sort of read it as a fan first, almost?


HW: Not as a ‘fan’, just to read it as a story, and to understand what it is, and just to read the minute detail within it–

RC: Right–

HW: How the humans interact. Just read it as a story. And THEN you go, ‘Well, that’s something I want to do.” And then you think–

RC: Can I do it? How could I do it?

HW: Yeah. If the offer’s there, THEN you start thinking about all those things. So the initial thing is just the story itself.

JF: Also, Kim is– our director, Kim Farrant– her process with the actors is kind of not common, it’s unusual… her dedication to the rehearsal period [the] sort of mining and sort of emotional exploration. And so, just reading the script and talking to her on the phone and gauging, ‘Ah, this is the kind of laboratory we’re going to be involved in’ was really exciting.

RC: How exactly is her process different, working with actors, considering what you’re used to, you said?


JF: She’s been an actress, so she understands that, and she… rather like Nicole and Hugo, for me… create a very, very safe and protected environment in which to explore, and to fail and to examine. And so that conversation, and the time to have that conversation– although, as you know [in] the independent world of making movies, you never have [too much] time– But you really did feel that she made every effort, so she was there weekends, days off, mornings, nights, really excavating, mining, and that’s rare.

RC: People always say that actors–FOR actors– make the best directors. Right? At the end of the day, sometimes actors have projects that they direct [which don’t come out as good, but actors on set make the best directors. Why is that? What about knowing the process of the actor really helps?

HW: Well, maybe it’s an understanding that all actors are different, as all human beings are different. So every actor’s “process” is different. Maybe just that in itself is a help for an actor/director because they understand that each individual has a very different process, a different way of approaching something, whereas… but I think there are directors who understand that very very well too, so I wouldn’t say ALL actors would make great directors. A lot of them would be awful. So I think it depends of the individual, really.


RC: We should summarize the film, give an idea as to what is about. We’re getting deep into the process here, and we’re not talking about what the movie’s about [laughs]. It’s an incredible story. You [Joseph] and Nicole Kidman play a husband and wife– kind of having trouble, kind of on the rocks– and your two children go missing, and you’re [Hugo] the cop who’s sent to investigate it. Do you guys want to open up more about some of the–


 JF: There’s a history [between my and Nicole’s characters] which brings them to a strange land, and that is that their daughter had an affair with teacher at school, so they’ve moved from one location to another.


HW: So when we first meet them, they’ve just arrived in this new town. He’s go the job as the local pharmacist, and… they’re very much [just] settling in, and unsettled by this past experience in this other town.


RC: Pharmacist is such a perfect occupation for your character–


 HW: Yeah, it is, isn’t it?


 RC: There’s something about pharmacists that I’ve always found to be, like, stiff and rigid–


HW: [Laughs]


 JF: [Laughs] There’s– yes, clinical, but there’s also– what I love is that he is the carer for the community, so he wears a public face– a mask, if you like– which is all about dedication and attention to the community. But the one place where he’s missing the contact and the care is right at the home, because he feels such a shame of what’s [happened] in the episode before. So he really becomes so involved in his work as a way of deadening having to deal with that. I don’t think he’s got the facility or the dialogue to explore that theme. I think he feels such rage and shame. That he’s caring for the community and then that community kind of lets him down, because it could be any one of those [people] that has taken his daughter. So it’s an interesting place.


RC: And we also get that great foreshadow at the top of the movie where he says, ‘I will not have my business strewn out in front of the people of this town like last time.’ And as a viewer I was like, ‘Oh, yes you will.’ [Laughs]

HW: [Laughs] Yeah!

RC: ‘This is coming!’ You [think you can] say that at the first act of the movie and NOT have that happen by the end…

JF: It’s the idea that your public persona is laid bare, that at any cost… I cannot have my private life… That devalues the strength of his position in the community.

HW: I love the way that one of the first actions we see him taking is that, at night he is actively going around houses, looking in windows, just to see if the daughter is–

RC: Because he doesn’t want to be seen to be searching during the day, which is so strange–

HW: Yeah. Everything buried and hidden, even his searching–

RC: It’s all private.

JF: I think he’s trying to keep control of the situation, because he’s lost it. It’s all about pent-up control–

RC: But it’s even weirder [that way], when he’s peeping in windows–

JF: That brings about a worse effect, yeah.

RC: And it’s like, whose window is that? He’s just going around to neighbors, peeking in?

JF: I think that’s what it is.

HW: Yeah.

JF: He’s going to, sort of, suspects that he might imagine that she might go to within the vicinity.

RC: Talk about working with Nicole Kidman. Man, she is a powerhouse, right? She’s this big brand star who takes the biggest risks I think I’ve ever seen an actress take.

HW: Yes, she does. She’s immensely brave. But the lovely thing about Nic is that she’s a very… present person. Yes, she’s a big star, but people endow her with a lot of stuff. She just wants to do her work really well, she does–

RC: And that’s what you get a sense of with her–

HW: And she’s very… Being with her on set is very easy, to breathe with her in a scene. You know? It’s very easy to just do your work well with her, and she is very brave, and I… She said a great thing, ‘Between action and cut, I will do anything.’

RC: Wow.

HW: And it’s not an uncritical mind or facility… It’s actually [that] she’s just prepared to go anywhere between action and cut. And it was a fantastic thing to say. And that’s a measure of how brave she is.

Photo: HuffPost Live/Instagram

RC: When you’re doing scenes like this with her, and she’s doing anything, she’s going to these wild, desperate places emotionally, do you feel like you, as the actor in that scene, have to be present and aware, and sensitive to how she’s going to feel about this off-camera, or do you feel that affects your process of being on camera as well? I mean, how do you work out the sensitivity of a moment with some of the stuff that she has to do in that film?
HW: Like anything in life, if someone’s– if you’re aware of the difficulties of something for them, or– I think, just being aware of other people is sort of what actors hopefully do anyway. We try and be aware of other people outside ourselves–


RC: The presence–


HW: –And then when you’re in that situation, just being aware– everyone on set, not just the other actors.


RC: We were talking a little bit about process, and I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but we were talking about a scene in the film where we see everything that you’ve [Joseph] gone through go over your face in one take. One shot. And it’s unbelievable how you were able to get there. Can you talk to me about gearing up to do that scene?

JF: We were lucky enough to shoot– in terms of that scene– chronologically, so that ended up being pretty much toward the end of schedule and so all of the release was… sort of ready to be let go. I think I played the character with, you know… for me the one word that came from this whole process was ‘shame’. And a man that has a public persona, and has to carry the shame, and… he becomes blocked. He becomes a man that is enraged. he has no… he’s impotent. He has no control. He’s impotent in many ways.

RC: Yes–

 JF: Mentally, physically, spiritually. Because he’s lost control. And I think that there is that one moment when he realizes– without giving anything away, he reads his daughter’s diary, and he realizes the extent of damage that’s probably caused by him. And it’s interesting to kind of… as parents– I’m a parent, Hugo’s a parent– that thing that your children are sponges on all levels, not just sort of intellectually, but very much emotionally. And I think there’s a huge kind of chasm, I think, at a certain age, when his daughter’s sexuality awakened, he felt threatened, and probably receded from that. So there are many components built into that moment.


RC: I loved how, in the film, you imagine when something like this happens– a child goes missing– there are all of these avenues that you could start going down as a parent, be they false, be they true. And in the end of the film, I think, for a certain type of viewer, they go, ‘That’s not wrapped up’, and it’s like, no that IS wrapped up. That’s all that it was for them. You know, that’s not a plot point. That’s just people going crazy.

HW: That is, for me, the greatest strength of the film: it IS about impotence, really, everyone’s inability to express what they feel, to find what they want, to take the right action– ’cause there’s not a lot you can actually do. So the film’s great strength is in that failure and inability of people to connect with each other, and to move forward in their lives. Because when something like the loss of a child happens, the loss is so extreme, and the not-knowing what happened is so open-ended, that you are literally incapable of doing anything. And it’s a great– I think that when the film’s at its best, it’s when that’s so palpable.

RC: Absolutely. Is there a certain irony, you think, to the story, that getting past this shame, getting past this impotence, may have [required] this tragedy? The greatest tragedy that would cause all of this other impotence for so many other families, may have been in many ways the saving grace of this relationship?

JF: Right, that’s very astute. And I love the way you’ve seen that, because I think that, at the end, it’s the beginning of possible repair, because come right– we hurtle– we’re thrown right into this disintegration of a relationship, amd marriage, and all that encompasses, and at the end, they connect. There’s a moment of touch. There’s a moment of genuine connection which has been so absent. And I think that from that moment, there’s a possibility– there’s a sort of redemptive possibility. So that’s a really big component. I think there IS an irony in that. You’re absolutely right.

RC: Yeah. Well, guys, thanks so much for being here. It’s been real pleasure talking to you.

HW, JF: Thank you.

RC: Congratulations on making such a powerful film, and premiering at Sundance.

HW: Thanks.

JF: Thanks a lot.

RC: Pleasure talking to you.

Photo: ChefDance Facebook

More Photos of Hugo Weaving at Sundance

All taken 23 January unless otherwise noted.

Photo (plus next three) Jeff Vespa, Getty Images

Photo (plus next one): Daniel Bergeron/Corbis Outline

Photo (plus next two): Larry Busacca/Getty Images

Given how stunning these are, I’m tempted to say the photographers calculatedly saved the best for last… and there’s hope more beautiful portraits may still emerge. You can learn more about Larry Busacca’s stunning portraits at PetaPixel.

We also have one rather flippant new video entry from Sundance, AJ+’s “Red Carpet Hardball”, in which various celebs at the Strangerland and other premieres are ambushed by the snarky reporter with complex hard-news questions completely out of place at such an event. I don’t think Hugo is given enough credit, frankly, as he does answer a challenging question, and unlike Chiwetel Eijiofor (who admittedly does a great job) probably hasn’t been asked this question before. I guess we should be glad Hugo wasn’t also ambushed with a “How do we fix Nigeria?” question. He hasn’t actually been to Nigeria since the year of his birth. 😉  I do think there’s a fair context for asking actors and other thoughtful celebs such questions, but a red carpet event where many reporters are clamoring for minimal face-time sure ain’t it. Call me square, but I actually wanted to hear more about THE MOVIE.  Especially given how few media outlets have deigned to shared premiere footage.

AJ+ via YouTube

Strangerland still doesn’t have a release date or any sort of official media presence, which is bizarre given that even small Australian indies like Last Ride, Mystery Road, The Dressmaker– and particularly The Mule– have been so well promoted on social media. The film’s new distributer Alchemy has a shell of a website with no real content about films as of yet, and is competing with at least half a dozen other filmmakers/distributors with very similar names. I hate to say it, but it looks like this might be Hugo’s worst-handled film in terms of marketing since The Tender Hook and the US release of Mystery Road.  I hope Alchemy proves me wrong in a decisive way soon, because I’m still very excited about this film, and still think the Sundance disapproval seemed shrill and adolescent, more undeserved media piling-on of Nicole Kidman, who deseves better.

Hugo Weaving in a brief preview scene from Strangerland (via AP News  and Cinefix)

You can read a new interview with Strangerland director Kim Farrant at IndieWire. And a balanced, positive review at The People’s Movies.

Hugo Weaving photographed by Victoria Will in vintage-style portrait for @Esquiremag. #HugoWeaving #Sundance2015 ” JohnSant87 via Twitter

And here’s my candidate for Strangest Strangerland Press Article, but it features a new photo of Hugo (with Kim Farrant, Niole Kidman and… Kim Farrant’s massage therapist brother.) 😉

The Waiheke Times, via Stuff.Co.NZ

In Other Hugo Weaving News

STC has updated their page for Endgame, adding a lot of background info on the play and its themes. No word yet on whether rehearsals have officially begun, but they probably will soon. Tickets remain available for most performances. The play runs through 9 May.

The Dressmaker is deep into post-production, and according to Deadline, some early footage of the project was shared at the just-ended 2015 Berlinale for marketing/distribution purposes. Obviously it’s too early to expect a final edit this soon. The film’s Facebook page recently noted that David Hirschfelder (who also scored Healing and Kidman’s The Railway Man) is composing the score. There will also be a movie tie-in reissue of Rosalie Ham’s source novel, welcome news for international readers who can’t locate a copy of the original printing for under $35 plus shipping from Australia. 😉

Tim Winton’s The Turning has received mostly favorable notices in kits UK release (from 6 February) includinfg reviews from The Independent, Dog and A Wolf, The List, Flickreel.com, The Irish Post and The Hollywood News. FILM3SIXTY reposted their excellent Berlinale 2014 interview with Hugo Weaving and director Davod Wenham discussing their contribution, “Commission”.

And The Mule continues to draw better reviews than either The Turning or Strangerland, ironically, the latest in Badass Digest, Technology Tell, Catch of The Day, and The South China Morning Post. And you can now buy the film’s way-cool 1980s-style soundtrack.

Finally, I’m not a big proponent of Valentine’s Day, which I consider a manufactured holiday designed primarily to sell greeting cards and chocolates and foster an atmosphere of romantic insecurity. 😉 But I realize some people may feel differently, and I loved the “unguarded moment” existential gesture of Hugo Weaving picking flowers near the Strangerland set, seen in these photos which recently surfaced courtesy INFPhoto. 😉

Long-Overdue Update, Hugo Weaving 2015 Calendar, Strangerland To Debut At Sundance 23 Jan

I know this blog is long overdue for an update… So I’ll start off with profuse apologies and hopes that everyone enjoyed their holidays, and that they’ve had good fortune thusfar in 2015. I’ve been sidelined with various illnesses (mine and my cat Carmelita, whom many of you know from my Twitter feed– she’s still being treated for lymphoma, but has successfully fought off a pair of opportunistic bugs) and seasonal maintenance as well as work commitments.

Strangerland At Sundance

Fortunately I haven’t missed a ton of new material because Hugo Weaving has also been on an extended break since The Dressmaker wrapped filming in mid-December. He hasn’t made a public appearance since, but might pop up later this week at the Sundance Film Festival if we’re lucky, as his new film Strangerland (also starring Nicole Kidman and Joseph Fiennes) is scheduled to premiere this Friday, Jan 23 at 6.15 pm (MST, one presumes, ie 8.15pm EST, 11.15 GMT). Oddly, tickets aren’t yet available via the film’s Sundance website page, though one assumes most tickets for the premiere have already been snapped up by industry insiders. 😉 (It’s also common practice for festival ticket package-holders to have a lengthy period to buy their allotment of tickets before single per-screening tickets are made available.)

There has been no official announcement as as to whether Hugo or his costars are scheduled to attend, though this website hints they might be expected. Hugo has no announced work conflicts and is usually on hand for world premieres on independent films, but he’s also unpredictable. It’s hard to guess whether Sundance’s mix of independent film tradition and increasing celebrity/commercial focus will attract or repel him… but my guess is he’ll be there if he has no prior commitments.  Strangerland will screen a total of six times over the course of the festival, with post-premiere screenings at different venues in Park City on January 24, 25, 26, 28 and 31. (again, check Sundance’s website for specific time and ticketing info.) There is still no official trailer or teaser for the film, though the ‘unofficial’ teaser keeps popping up and as quickly being taken down; my guess is that it will be the eventual teaser, as it’s nearly perfect as-is. A longer trailer will probably follow once the film’s distribution is announced and its wide release is approaching. So far there’s no news on that front, and no official website or social media presence for the film (Facebook, Twitter, etc) though that’s sure to change. At the moment, there’ds merely a sub-page on the film’s distributor’s website, Worldview Entertainment.   The film has scored decent programming slots at one of the most prestigious early festivals of the year, so let’s hope this translates into generous worldwide distribution.

The Dressmaker

In my last entry I mentioned that Hugo’s other major film to open this year, The Dressmaker, wrapped production in early December. The film’s Facebook page noted that Jocelyn Moorhouse and editor Jill Bilcock began working on post-production about a week ago.  With an announced official release date– for Australia, at least– of 1 October 2015 it should be an eventful year of updates via the film’s website, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages. You can also subscribe to their occasional newsletter via the website if you haven’t already.

Then there was this fan photo posted to Instagram by a crew member shortly after production wrapped. In some ways I think this is spoiler content, and wish Sgt Farrat’s off-duty look had been kept in the bag until the film is released, but it’s an irresistible photo. Also, that particular plot “secret” was disclosed when Hugo signed on, and I can’t imagine it won’t be all over the trailers and pre-release stills, given how reluctant marketers are to leave any plot twists undisclosed in promotion. 😉

Here is me with Kate winslet and Hugo Weaving on the wrap day. Again an amazing cast, were extremely nice and talented people. #katewinslet #hugoweaving #setlife #livingthedream #lookingcreepy #namedrophooper”  Tom Hooper, via Instagram

A few fans have commented to the effect that Hugo’s costume seems a bit… er… dowdy for the former Mitzi del Bra. 😉 But this is a film set in the 1950s and Kate Winslet has been photographed in some striking outfits on set, so I’m optimistic.  Also optimistic that the high star-wattage of this cast will guarantee global distribution. Jocelyn Moorhouse is more than overdue for a comeback in cinemas.

Hugo Weaving 2015 Calendar

Yes, I know this is late… to be fair, I have posted the link several times on Twitter, and did have it up before the new year began. But I’ve been remiss not posting the pages here. Since there are no high-res stills yet available showing Hugo’s characters in either Strangerland or The Dressmaker, I elected showcase Hugo’s expansive 30+ year theatrical career in this year’s calendar. (This will a theatre-heavy year for Hugo, who will star in Endgame for the STC in March before reprising Waiting for Godot with Richard Roxburgh at London’s Barbican in June.) Here is each monthly page plus info on the productions the stills capture. I do print these out every year. I’ll post the largest-sized photos here: they’ll be under the cut at LJ and available via right-click-Open Image In A New Tab via WordPress.

With Robyn Nevin in David Williamson’s The Perfectionist at Sydney Theatre Co, 1982

With Geoffrey Rush in Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist at Belvoir Theatre, 1996

With Angie Milliken in John Webster’s The White Devil at Sydney Theatre Co, 2000

With Angie Milliken in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing at STC, 2003

With Cate Blanchett in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at STC (2004) and New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (2006)

With playwright Andrew Upton, costars Jeremy Sims and Ewen Leslie and director Philip Seymour Hoffman in Riflemind at STC, 2007

With Natasha Herbert in Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage at Melbourne Theatre Co, 2009

With Hayley McElhinney in Checkhov’s Uncle Vanya at STC (2010) Washington DC’s Kennedy Center (2011) and NYC’s Lincoln Center (2012)

With Geraldine Hakewell in Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses, at STC 2012

With Richard Roxburgh in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot at STC, 2013

As Shakespeare’s Macbeth at STC 2014

Promo artwork for STC’s Engame, to begin performances this March 31. Hugo will portray Hamm in Samuel Beckett’s play

Sorry I couldn’t finfd high-res images for some productions, but all pages print crisply to standard letter-sized paper. You can see the full set at the Hugonuts Photobucket Archive too.

Tim Winton’s The Turning To Open In UK

More than a year after its Australian theatrical release, Tim Winton’s The Turning will finally be be distributed in the UK, with a 6 February opening date. The British distributer debuted a recut trailer earlier this week emphasizing the compilation’s overarching theme. While the footage seen is similar to what was in prior trailers, this version is particularly lovely:

SodaPictures via YouTube

Yes, I do own the Aussie DVD, but I haven’t watched it yet because I cling to the masochistic hope that this film might still be PROPERLY released– ie to cinemas– in the US, though there are no plans for that as of yet. (The film does have a US distributor, Main Street Films; they have a nice page for the film with photos and descriptions of all 18 segments, but only list a tentative “coming in 2015” release date.)   More on the UK release at Film School Rejects, Digital Spy and IndieWire.

And there are many lovely high-res photos from The Turning available on producer Robert Connolly’s Flickr account, including these three of Hugo:

Hugo Weaving and Josh McConville in “Commission”, directed by David Wenham

Larger versions of these images, plus high-res pics of the directors and stills from all the the short films in The Turning, can be viewed here.

The Mule Out on Blu-Ray in US

One piece of good news for Hugo’s US fans, though… The Mule is released on Blu-Ray this week. If you ordered the bargain-priced Amazon pre-order, they should be informing you it’s en route shortly if they haven’t already. You can read detailed reviews of the US home release at WhySoBlu?, Alien Bee, Keep It Classic, and The Examiner. The Examiner also reposted their excellent Hugo Weaving interview promoting the film.

In Other Hugo Weaving News

Healing had its British TV debut on Sky Movies January 16; screenings will continue for a month or so; the film is also available for on-demand viewing to their subscribers.

STC has announced the Pre-Season Briefing dates for their full 2015 slate, including Engame on March 23. Seats are available for ticket-holders, but STC suggests you RSVP them quickly, as they’ll go fast.

Ivan Sen has announced that Aaron Pedersen will reprise his already-iconic Jay Swan character for a sequel/spin-off to Mystery Road. Unfortunately, plot developments in the original film make it unlikely we’ll see Hugo Weaving reprise his Johnno character, unless it’s a flashback/ghost-mentor thing along the lines of what Matt Frewer did on the Cinemax series The Knick. 😉 The Age has more info. The new project will find Swan taking on a new case in a different town.

And this very strange bit of Hugo Weaving Early Career Ephemera popped up on YouTube via Craig Anderson on YouTube last month. It’s Hugo’s four-minute role as a very clumsy but enthusiastc scientist studying mangrove forests. This segment was part of a one-hour 1987 film called Fish ‘N Tips, apparently a comedic take on fishing, though I couldn’t dig up much other info. The project is so obscure it’s not listed on IMDb or any film database or website covering Hugo’s career; it took me and many other long-term fans by surprise. Apparently the only home video release was an Australian VHS in the late 1980s; the film was directed by Michael Horrocks. It’s always exciting when hitherto unknown bits of Hugo’s back catalog pop up like this, but I’m afraid this is very much at the Sky Pirates end of the quality spectrum rather than, say, the Everything Goes end.  At best it’s slightly reminiscent of John Lurie’s often-hilarious parody fishing show Fishing With John from the early 1990s, though much less sophisticated. Still, Hugo wasn’t phoning anything in even then, and some fans might find the mud-striptease angle titillating. 😉

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Mule

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

Hollywood Reporter Hugo Weaving Interview Excerpts:

What struck you about The Mule?

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

What preparation did you do for this role?

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

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

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

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

What do you like best about playing Croft?

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

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

I Am Rogue Hugo Weaving Interview Excerpts

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

8:47 AM MST by Bobby Blakey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: The Mule Twitter feed

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

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

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

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

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

Hugo: My pleasure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The infamous Croft Vs Ziggy Buffet Incident 😉

The Dressmaker

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

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

Photo: Heidi Dee via Twitter/Instagram

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

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

The Hobbit: the Battle of the Five Armies

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

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

Comic Book Movie.com via YouTube

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

Screen Slam via YouTube

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

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

Hugo Weaving with Peter Jackson on the BOFA set

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

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

The Experience

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

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

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

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

Love that coincidental caption 😉

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

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

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

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

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

My Review of The Mule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Mule Promotion, Reviews and Interviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell me about your favorite scene in the film.

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

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

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

By Stephanie O [Celluloid 11.25.14]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

eOne ANZ via YouTube

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

Jabba’s Movies via YouTube

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

And here’s Glitch’s video review;

Glitch Media via YouTube

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both above photos: KB Comedy via Twiter/Instagram

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

My screencap; Hugo Weaving and Angus Sampson on NineMSN Mornings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: The Grill Team via Twitter

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

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

Anthony Morris, 20 November 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ego clip: eOne ANZ via YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Festivals and Indie Films via YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Al seven images: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


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

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

Hugo Weaving and Nicole Kidman in Strangerland

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

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

First Contact

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