Delving into the Aussie actor’s heart of darkness…
Hugo Weaving. Taking the blue or the red pill?
From the outlandish Mitzi in Priscilla to the kung fu fighting Agent Smith in The Matrix and the ethereal Elrond in Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, Australian star Hugo Weaving, 58, is impossible to pin down. Just as adept in indies as blockbusters, he’s back wallowing in the mire as Hannah, a horrified soldier in potato famine drama Black 47…
What did you make of Black 47 when you first saw the script?
When I first read it, a Heart Of Darkness story set in the potato famine… well, that’s brilliant! Like Apocalypse Now, it had a very strong sense of travelling into hell. Hannah’s in hell at the beginning. I think he’s worn down by life being a professional soldier in absolute agony and pain.
You moved around a lot as a kid before settling in Oz. How did that affect your early years as an actor?
At drama school, I had to beg to be given an iconic Australian role. It took me a while after leaving drama school to feel comfortable with playing an Australian. Even though it was my country, I hadn’t identified with it as an Australian and I didn’t sound like that.
How big a turning point was for you?
A huge one. But the weird thing was [writer/director siblings] the Wachowskis had seen me in Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, and that was the thing that made them want to cast me as Agent Smith! But meeting them was a huge turning point. We got on extremely well straight away and I instantly liked the energy they were on. And the feeling was mutual. Out of those three films came
V For Vendetta and then Cloud Atlas.
How do you feel about the mask in V For Vendetta becoming this worldwide symbol of revolution?
I’ve got that mask! I think I should do something with that! It’s really amazing that the Guy Fawkes mask has reverberated, and been picked up by Anonymous and protest movements all around the world. But the Wachowskis have a knack of doing that.
You’re not really a franchise actor but you’ve been in so many classic ones…
I know, I know… with The Matrix, Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit… that’s what people only think of me as! But actually, I don’t see myself like that. Most of the work I’ve done is either on stage in Sydney or taking plays around the world, or in Australian films that a lot of people don’t see.
Was there never a chance to feature in a movie?
No, I wasn’t interested. Actually, there was one stage where it was a possibility, but I was never a Star Wars buff. Not really. A little bit. I remember with Matrix, when I heard the idea I said, “I don’t want to do that!” But I’ve always loved seriously good science fiction, like 2001. And when I read the scenes, I thought, “Oh, this is entirely different. I absolutely want to do that. I absolutely want to work with the Wachowskis.”
What enticed you to play Elrond in
Lord Of The Rings?
Lord Of The Rings was an anomalous choice for me. Dressing up as an elf? I actually thought it would be fun, and an entirely different thing to do. But also when I met Pete [Jackson], he showed me a world that wasn’t fantastical. It was fantastic costumes and make-up – and I saw some footage – but he was always [presenting] the idea that this is a real world at war and the stakes were incredibly high.
And you just reunited with him on the upcoming
Mortal Engines… Pete’s not directing that but absolutely, that’s his baby. We had lots of discussions about the script. A very interesting project. It’s a post-apocalyptic world. They’re in the future, but they’re rediscovering technologies from our present which have been lost.
‘priscilla was what made the wachowskis want to cast me as agent smith!’
celtic calling the adaptable antipodean is next playing an irishman in revenge tale Black 47.