February 17, 2006
YOU wouldn’t know Hugo Weaving is the star of the new terror film V for Vendetta: he spends most of it in a mask. "It was hot and I felt there was a barrier between myself and other actors," says Weaving, in Berlin for the film’s premiere earlier this week.
"When you don’t see an actor’s face, it forces you to listen to what he has to say."
Adapted and updated from David Lloyd and Alan Moore’s cult graphic novel by Matrix creators Andy and Larry Wachowski, the film casts Weaving as V, a mask-wearing, Guy Fawkes-style avenger battling the system in a totalitarian England of the not-too-distant future.
Directed by James McTeigue, the film is a brave project for everyone concerned. V is not a typical hero: he bombs London landmarks in order to foment anarchy and kills government figures in a personal vendetta. But he is also driven by a sense of justice and a belief in freedom and dignity.
The film’s London setting is true to the novel but the Wachowskis leave little doubt that the real setting is the present-day US.
"They’re angry," says Weaving of the writers. "That’s why they did it, I think."
Weaving – who is cast opposite John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Stephen Rea and Natalie Portman – was drafted in as an emergency replacement for British actor James Purefoy, who apparently found the idea of acting behind a mask too challenging.
"It was a matter of jumping and trusting my instincts, really, and hoping that James [McTeigue] would tell me when I was making a mess of it."
V for Vendetta asks provocative questions about the use of violence and breaks a taboo by humanising a terrorist in order to explore what leads someone to commit acts of violence. The film sparked outrage in British tabloids following last year’s London bombings, when it was rumoured that it would include scenes of carnage on the London Underground. It doesn’t, although it does feature a Tube train packed with explosives.
McTeigue, who comes from Sydney and now lives in New York, agrees that the subject matter is controversial.
"I also think its like a dialogue that we have every day," he says.
"The news media is filled every day with discussions of terrorism. I think it’s [only] time before it bleeds into the arts. People want to have a different voice and ask questions about why things happen."
Weaving is about to head to New York for Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Hedda Gabler, with Cate Blanchett.
"I choose to work in Australia because that’s where I live and the stories I’m interested in, by and large, spring out of that country," he says.
"But, also, I’m someone who lives in the world and I love travelling, I always have … I want to work in theatre and film, in small films, big films – I consider myself very fortunate to be able to do so."
V for Vendetta opens on March 30.