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Australian actor Hugo Weaving has to be head-over-heels in love with a script before he signs on. And when he first read the script for Australian road thriller â€œLast Rideâ€, he was immediately smitten.
â€œI always go on my gut-reaction to a scriptâ€, the veteran actor of more than 60 films and TV seriesâ€™ says. â€œIf Iâ€™m sitting there going â€˜Hmm, yeah, I dunno â€“ it could be goodâ€¦â€™ forget about it. It has to be something thatâ€™s amazing. Something I really want to do. I have to be able to react to something.â€
And though heâ€™s starred in some huge cabbage-clad blockbusters (like â€œThe Matrixâ€ trilogy and â€œV for Vendettaâ€), and worked with some major filmmakers (Michael Bay, George Miller, Peter Jackson), Weaving says â€œthe budget of a film and who is doing it is always secondary to the script.â€
In â€œLast Rideâ€, Weaving plays one half of a father-and-son outfit â€“ gruff Kev (Weaving) and young son, Chook (Tom Russell) – who travel across the country, on the run from the law.
Weaving first read Marc Gudgeonâ€™s script in 2007 â€“ but Iâ€™d be another year before the film got up. â€œThe dates hadnâ€™t been set when I read it. The financing wasnâ€™t in place. And originally they were talking about filming it in NSW (it ended up going to South Australia) â€“ so a lot of things changed over the course of the year-and-a-halfâ€¦ two years.â€
â€œBut as soon as Glendyn Ivinâ€™s name appeared on the cover sheet I was intrigued â€“ so I stuck with it. I enjoyed [Ivinâ€™s acclaimed short film] Cracker Bag, and thought itâ€™d be really interesting to work with him. He was a key ingredientâ€.
Nigerian-born Weaving was as fascinated by the filmâ€™s future director as he was with the character heâ€™d been asked to play, the ostensibly malicious Kev.
â€œAt first, you think you have the guy pegged. You think heâ€™s one sort of guy. But then, after a few incidents, we get to see other aspects of the man. Heâ€™s a very complex man. A very conflicted person.
â€œI think heâ€™s very different to meâ€, says the amiable down-to-earth actor, sipping on an early morning coffee. â€œThere is probably not a lot of me in there â€“ but I suppose I tried to get into his skin, rather than the other way round. But there are things in there that I can relate to â€“ like being a dad for instance. You understand the nature of parental love, and how you want to protect your child and look after them. But having said that, [Kevâ€™s] journey through life is very different to mine so I had to get to know him by understanding what likely happened to him as a child, and what other events mightâ€™ve shaped the man he becameâ€.
The film allows the audience to make up their own mind about Weavingâ€™s fraught crook-on-the-run father â€“ rather than simply hammering it into our heads, like most Hollywood films do.
â€œGlendyn doesnâ€™t bang something over the head. He lets it sit there. I think thatâ€™s the real strength of the film.â€
It might also be said that another strength of the film is the chemistry between Weaving and on-screen son Tom Russell.
â€œHeâ€™s only done a bit of amateur, dramatic stuff â€“ which he seems to loveâ€, Weaving says of the newcomer. â€œI think heâ€™d just done Les Mis[erables] before he did this.â€.
â€œTommy is in a place that Iâ€™d like to get to, which is relaxed, in-his-own-shoes and intuitive. Heâ€™s also very instinctive. Every actor wants to get there. Working with Tom was wonderful, because he reminded me as actor what the ultimate goal of performing is. I guess you could say he was teaching me.â€™â€™
Weaving and Russell have some pretty heavy scenes together, so it was almost a requirement they get to know each other, and felt comfortable with one another.
â€œWe got together about three weeks before the shoot – basically we were just building up a rapport. Having said that, Tom and I didnâ€™t do a lot of talking about the characters unless it is was necessary. Nor did Glendyn and Tom. [Tom] knew what he had to do â€“ he had the script, he knew what was going on, and he knew the nature of the relationship. I think you can load up a young brain with too much information.â€™â€™
Young Russell was a bit concerned about shooting a pivotal scene in the film where Kev forces Chook to learn how to swim (A very disturbing scene for any parent to watch).
â€œThat was great â€“ well, not that he was worried about it, but that he mentioned he was. We talked about it. I told him â€˜I donâ€™t want to hurt youâ€™ and â€˜Itâ€™s important that we go through this scene in such a way that nobody gets hurt â€“ even though it looks like the character is really laying into the other oneâ€™. So we just kind of choreographed it, and walked through it slowly.
â€œAnd when I belted him, we used a belt that wasnâ€™t real, so it doesnâ€™t hurt at all â€“ in fact, he started using it on me at one timeâ€, Weaving laughs. â€œI had to remind him that I was the one supposed to be hitting him [in the movie]â€.
Weaving is thankful heâ€™s able to fit smaller movies like â€œLast Rideâ€ in alongside big blockbuster movies like the recent â€œTransformers : Revenge of the Fallenâ€ (in which he again provides the voice of Megatron), as well as theatre.
â€œItâ€™s great â€“ and one process illuminates anotherâ€, the actor, whose other credits include â€œThe Lord of the Ringsâ€ trilogy and classic mini-series â€œBodylineâ€, says. â€œDoing theatre, for instance, weirdly illuminates the different processes in film. Theoretically in life, you want to get better at your job, and if you ever get to the stage where you come to the conclusion that thereâ€™s nothing more to learn, then thatâ€™s it. And I guess if youâ€™re doing the same thing every day, and it becomes repetitive, then [the job] loses its appeal after a while.â€
And Weaving isnâ€™t afraid to admit that heâ€™s gotten a bit bored doing some of the big blockbusters weâ€™ve seen (or heard) him in over the past few years. Mainly, â€œbecause youâ€™re sitting there twiddling your thumbs a lot of the time.â€
â€œThere are just too many people â€“ so communication goes out the windowâ€, Weaving adds. â€˜â€™Thereâ€™s too much money being wasted tooâ€.
â€œSo even though youâ€™re working really hard doing a [smaller] film like Last Ride â€“ where youâ€™re working six-day-a-week, and sometimes very early in the morning or very late at night – itâ€™s more exciting, fulfilling, invigorating and rewardingâ€¦ in so many waysâ€.
Weavingâ€™s next film is a complete 180 from his financially-friendly Oz thriller.
â€œThe Wolfmanâ€, due for release later in the year, is â€œanother one of those jobs that went on foreverâ€, says the actor, â€œbut [director] Joe Johnston was great to work with; a really lovely man.â€
The film, starring Benicio Del Toro as the creature of the night, wasnâ€™t one Weaving signed up for purely because he knew itâ€™d bump up his bank balance (though it goes without saying it likely will) – again, it was the script that attracted him.
â€œIt was a good scriptâ€¦ a smart scriptâ€, says Weaving. â€œAll these great people are in it â€“ Benicio, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Anthony Sher, Max Von Sydow, Geraldine Chaplin.â€
Weaving plays real-life copper Aberline, the same chap that chased down Jack the Ripper. In the film, the inspector is on the hunt for another killer â€“ albeit someone likely more hirsute than the mysterious Ripper.
â€œ[My character] is the voice of reason [in the film]. Heâ€™s the circumspect detective. He takes the audience through this impossible case â€“ people have been killed, and some person (â€œthereâ€™s no such thing as werewolvesâ€ he believes) or persons, have done this. He eventually realizes, â€˜Ok, there is a werewolfâ€™.â€
LAST RIDE commences Thursday
- CLINT MORRIS
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