HE’S played a transvestite, a cyber-intelligence agent and an elf king over a 25-year career, and his latest role as a violent ex-con continues to leave Hugo Weaving impossible to pigeonhole.
In a confronting scene from the new Aussie film Last Ride, his volatile character Kev, who is on the run from the law, takes a belt to his young son Chook.
But after careful research studying interviews with men like Kev who had spent time in jail, Weaving has still managed to endow him with a touching humanity.
“I can’t make a judgement about someone really because I have to try to see the world through their eyes, so we tend not to think of ourselves as a**holes even if we are,” said Weaving, perched on a couch in a Melbourne hotel with Brunswick director Glendyn Ivin.
For his first feature film, Ivin – who won the Palme d’Or for best short film at Cannes for Cracker Bag in 2003 – conducted a series of interviews with “‘pretty nasty characters” to help Weaving build the character of Kev.
“And yet when you sat down and had a beer with them they were actually quite charming,” Ivin said.
“So I guess if you’re trying to make a very human portrait of a flawed character, all this other stuff comes along with the a**hole stuff as well.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of Kevs out there. And it’s kind of weird, that whole beating scene, I’m sure there’s a lot of that going on, I know there is, so I was kind of not afraid to put something like that in there. I think actually when people react against Kev … they can sometimes see a bit of themselves in him and it’s pretty confronting.”
Based on an award-winning novel by Denise Young and adapted by Melbourne scriptwriter Mac Gudgeon (The Delinquents), Last Ride is a sparse and fraught road movie played out against the rugged Flinders Ranges in South Australia.
As father and son venture into the desert and an unknown future, Kev grapples with anger management and single parenthood, uncovering the cyclical nature of parenthood.
In a heart-wrenching scene, he dumps Chook on the ethereal salt plains to teach him a lesson, just as his father did to him.
“To what extent do you pass on things wittingly and unwittingly?” said Weaving, himself a father of two.
“There’s all sorts of things that are being massaged onto us by our parents that probably came from their parents and we don’t understand it.
“You wake up one day and go I just said what my Dad always said to me, where did that come from?”
The film brings to the fore the formidable acting talents of 10-year-old Adelaide newcomer Tom Russell, who with Weaving carries the whole film.
“It was a different experience for me,” said Weaving.
“I have worked with kids before but not for a six week period with that kind of a complex and tumultuous relationship between the two characters, but I got on very well with him. He’s very much in his own shoes.”
And it seems the pairing has been enough to bring grown men to the edge of tears.
At a screening of Last Ride in Brisbane Ivin was approached by a “big burly man”.
“He goes ‘I’ve never cried in a film but I almost did in this one’. It was a really sweet thing to say. “And then he wanted to talk about all the Holdens and stuff.”
Last Ride opens in cinemas on July 2.