The Sun Herald
by Jaqueline Lee Lewes
February 28, 1988
LET’S set the record straight. Hugo Weaving is kind to cats, nice to his girlfriend and is always polite to elderly people.A cad he is not. Cats, particularly, know about these things.Weaving already has Eve and Thisbe and now a third moggie has decided that the comforts of the actor’s cottage tucked away in a Surry Hills back lane are preferable to the uncertainties of life in an inner city alleyway.No invitation was issued. But, tellingly, neither has the cat been shown the door.
Yet the tag of cad still clings to Weaving although the TV series Bodyline and his arrogant portrayal of English cricket captain Douglas Jardine is well in the past.
Most of the characters he has played since have been bad guys. There was his recent role of a decadent libertine in the play Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Then came the ruthless cattle baron Richard Eastwick in the yet to be seen mini series Dirtwater Dynasty.
Now there’s the part of Brian Geoffrey Chambers in the mini series A Long Way From Home, a Roadshow Coote and Carroll project which goes into production next month. To be screened by Channel 9, it is based on the Barlow/Chambers case which ended with the hanging of the two Australians in Malaysia for drug trafficking.
John Polson, best known for his Vietnam role, will play Kevin Barlow. British actress Julie Christie will play his mother, Mrs Barbara Barlow.
On screen, Weaving has a face which fits well into times gone by. But sprawled casually on cushions in the home he shares with his girlfriend of the past five years, he’s a very contemporary figure with his longish blond hair, torn jeans and bright yellow shirt.
Weary of period pieces, he was delighted to be offered a contemporary role in a very dramatic story.
"I am also playing an Australian – people have seen me playing a hated pommy …" he said, shrugging off the spectre of Jardine.
For the past week he has been studying an hour-long tape of press reports of Barlow and Chambers’ battle to beat the gallows. "It’s pretty moving stuff," he said, adding that at the time he hadn’t really become emotionally involved in the case.
"I knew it was happening, I remember watching it on the news, I knew who they were and what happened to them, but I really didn’t know the details," he said.
Mrs Barlow is acting as an adviser on the series, and the story will focus on her fight for her son’s life with many of the scenes featuring mother and son. A rueful Weaving said this meant he wouldn’t have any scenes with Julie Christie.
While Chambers’ mother has apparently given some co-operation, she has preferred to keep her grief behind locked doors. Weaving understands why. After all, the mini series is the dramatisation of her son’s life and death.
"But Chambers’ family didn’t give up trying to save him. His mother was pleading on humanitarian grounds while Mrs Barlow said her son didn’t do it,"said Weaving.
Recently Mrs Barlow admitted she had known all along that her son was guilty. But, she said, he was a dupe.
"But obviously she couldn’t say that at the time," said Weaving.
While Chambers had already made seven or eight drug runs from Malaysia, Barlow was making his first trip when the two were caught. The danger then, says Weaving, is to portray Chambers as the baddie and Barlow as the goodie.
"But it wasn’t as black and white as that," he said.
"They both agreed to do it and they both knew what they were doing. There’s no doubt they were both guilty."
But guilty or not, Weaving finds the idea of capital punishment repugnant. Anyway, he says, Barlow and Chambers were merely pawns. The Mr Bigs of drug trafficking never get caught.
"That’s what makes it so sordid and such a waste of life," he said. "These two guys, there was nothing special about them, and it hasn’t changed the situation. So much heroin is still coming into the country."