Sydney Morning Herald
By Sacha Molitorisz
June 3, 2005
Hugo Weaving and Emma Lung in Peaches, a Hopscotch Films release.
Agent Smith trades the machinations of The Matrix for those of a quiet Australian town in Peaches.
Director Craig Monahan
Stars Hugo Weaving, Jacqueline McKenzie, Emma Lung
Hugo Weaving has had head-turning roles in everything from Hollywood hits to smell-of-an-oily-rag Aussie films. His most memorable creations include a blind hotographer in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s Proof; a drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; the creepy, self-replicating Agent Smith in the Matrix films; and that luminous fella with the pointy ears in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
As far as Weaving is concerned, however, the standout is a crook named Eddie Fleming. That’s the character he played in 1998’s The Interview, a tense Australian drama for which Weaving won his second AFI best-actor award. (The first was for Proof.) Weaving has said making it was "without doubt the best experience I have ever had making a film".
"I think I said something like The Interview was the most fulfilling experience from an acting point of view," he says. "And it definitely was. That was a combination of working with a director who was very open and very prepared, and … working with [co-star] Tony Martin – just sitting opposite him every day, which is pretty much what we did because the film is essentially a dialogue between two men."
Weaving has reunited with The Interview’s writer-director, Craig Monahan, for the filmmaker’s second effort, Peaches. The collaboration is long overdue. In the years between Monahan’s films, Weaving started and finished working on two of history’s most successful film trilogies, first as Agent Smith, then as Elrond the elf.
Peaches is set in a sleepy South Australian town named Swanreach. The drama opens with a fatal car crash: two adults are killed, but a baby survives. The narrative then jumps forward nearly 20 years, with the baby grown into the eccentric Steph (Emma Lung).
Steph is a teenager, so – naturally – she has a love-hate relationship with the single woman raising her, Jude (Jacqueline McKenzie). Jude, meanwhile, has a hate-hate relationship with her former lover, Alan (Weaving), who runs the town’s peach cannery. That’s pretty much the town’s only industry, so Steph gets a job there, where she learns about her dead parents’ friendship with Jude and Alan 20 years ago.
The plot is mostly as fresh as a newly picked peach. The fictional setting is beautiful and interesting. The structure works well, flitting between the melancholy present and the optimistic years before Steph’s birth. Best of all, the narrative gradually gains momentum, veering off in unexpected directions.
The film features various intriguing subplots and tangents. It was written by Sue Smith, a Sydney scriptwriter making her feature-writing debut. Her impressive credits include TV’s Brides of Christ and The Road from Coorain.
"Sue’s fantastic," Weaving says. "I met her during Bordertown, a 10-part series she wrote. The lovely thing about it was that after we started shooting, she started writing especially for the actors playing the characters. That’s a really unusual experience for an actor.
"For Peaches, she was on set a lot. It was great having her around."
Weaving is clear about what attracted him to the script.
"Peaches is about five or six people working in the same factory in the Riverland in South Australia," he says. "It’s very much a drama on a human level. These are real people faced with the loss of their parents, their families, their jobs, their community, their hopes …"
Weaving was born in Nigeria, raised in England and moved to Sydney at 16, where he trained at the National Institute of Dramatic Art. He had to play two versions of Alan: as a young idealist and as a middle-aged loner.
"There’s a 17-year gap," he says. "The ’80s Alan is this passionate but shy union official. The older guy is losing everything. He has had the hope beaten out of him."
Weaving’s two performances are excellent, as are those of his co-stars.
"Emma’s pretty fresh, just out of drama school, and I think she’s very talented," he says. "And Jacqui I’ve wanted to work with for years.
"She has some understanding of bigger films and smaller films. And she’s a real character, Jacq. She’s pretty full-on. She’s an actor whose emotions are absolutely there on the surface."
So what does Weaving prefer? The bigger films? Or the smaller films, like Peaches?
"I do love working in Australia," he says. "Generally, the budgets are smaller, the crews are smaller and generally you work at a fast pace.
"That gives you energy. At the end of the day, you’ve worked a lot but you don’t feel tired. On the big ones, you sit around a lot. That really saps your energy."
Still, it beats working in a cannery.