Film Interview – Hugo Weaving / Little Fish
The Event Guide
He may be Elrond or Agent Smith to some, but for Hugo Weaving, it’s all about being a nobody, as he explained to Paul Byrne.
Despite the fact that he was canny enough to get himself into two of the biggest movie trilogies of all time – namely, the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘The Matrix’ – Hugo Weaving walks into The Dorechester in London without any cameras popping or any muggings by those creepy professional autograph collectors (who do it for money, not love). Which, it would seem, is just the way he likes it. "Hey, it would be nice, of course, to have a few screams of adoration every now and then," smiles the 46-year old Aussie actor, "but it’s certainly better for an actor not to have that kind of baggage when it comes to playing a part. I like being a nobody; makes my job all that much easier. Besides, there’s only been a handful of actors who can be larger-than-life off-screen as well as on, but I don’t think I’m really the John Wayne type, you know?"
Instead, Hugo Weaving is one of cinema’s most interesting character actors. ‘The Matrix’ sequels may have sucked the big one, but Weaving’s Agent Smith is still one of the great baddies of modern cinema. His turn too as the wise old Elrond in ‘The Lord Of The Rings’ films brought just the right balance of wisdom and mischief to the franchise.
For true fans of the man’s work though, it’s his work in smaller outings, such as Jocelyn Moorhouse’s 1991 drama ‘Proof’ and Craig Monahan’s 1998 thriller ‘The Interview’, that has always marked him out as something special. Weaving’s won numerous awards through the years in his adopted home, Australia, including two Australian Film Institute gongs for the above-mentioned duo, and a nomination for his performance in ‘The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert’ (1994).
Those hardcore fans have been relieved to discover that hitting Hollywood paydirt hasn’t changed Weaving’s choices all that much. Having stepped into the breach to play the eponymous masked crusader alongside Natalie Portman in the intriguing but uneven ‘V For Vendetta’, Weaving this month stars alongside two other Aussie faves, Cate Blanchett and Sam Neill, in Rowan Woods’ junkie drama ‘Little Fish’. "I’ve said this many times before, but we’re blessed in Australia with a film industry that encourages these kinds of mid-budget movies where you can push the boat out a little," says Weaving. "You get to work on ideas and themes that you rarely find in the mainstream, and yet, with the right cast, and the right director, these movies make their mark too. People seek them out. That’s the way I like making movies, and this is exactly the kind of movie that I want to keep making."
In ‘Little Fish’, Weaving plays Lionel Dawson, former sports hero and now, like his stepdaughter, Tracy (Blanchett), a junkie. Throw in one last big deal going down, and Sam Neill as Lionel’s dealer and occasional lover, and you have a sweetly dark slow burner. "I should say, of course, that I have no problem whatsoever with big-budget productions," smiles Weaving. "How can you not be bowled over, working on something like ‘The Lord Of The Rings’, but ‘The Matrix’ sequels, as challenging and fun as they were to make, it was tough, realising that we hadn’t quite got the mix right."
So, is Weaving willing to admit that ‘Reloaded’ and ‘Revolutions’ were, shall we say, a tad on the crap side? "Hey, each to his own when it comes to choosing what you like and what you don’t like," he laughs, "but I think it would be fair to say they didn’t quite reach the parts the way the first movie did. Having said that, there are moments in both sequels that I really like…"
In the meantime, Hugo Wallace Weaving – who was born in Nigeria, his family moving when he was just one year old – is happy to play pop to 17-year old Harry and 13-year old Holly alongside his wife of 12 years, artists Katrina Greenwood.
"I love living in Australia, because it’s like Ireland really; people don’t bother you. They’re only impressed when you buy a round of drinks, and nothing else really matters. It’s good to have that kind of perspective around you when you work in this business, because the world of filmmaking can really mess with your head…"
‘Little Fish’ runs at the Irish Film Institute, on Dublin’s Eustace Street, from Friday 21st July, club membership required.