Hugo Weaving: “I swim in the river, sit under the stars and marvel at the universe.” Picture: Steve Baccon
WHAT do you make of the fame game?
That whole celebrity thing is such nonsense. I had a recent altercation at the Sundance Film Festival with a guy who couldn’t believe I wouldn’t sign something because I was trying to catch a film. He screamed out that he hoped I would get murdered in the street. I saw him later and he said, “Have you got over it yet, asshole?” and I said, “What’s wrong with you?” and I had this long conversation with him.
You talk about an “important” break rather than a “big” break and nominate Proof (1991), where you played the blind photographer, Martin. Why? “Big” break implies success and lots of people taking note of you. Proof was the important break, the first thing that I had read and was interested in that I thought was a little out of the ordinary and the sort of film I was interested in watching.
So which roles really excite you?Generally they are not crowd-pleasers. They’re often not the things people remember me by, like The Matrix (1999) or Lord of the Rings(2001). Lord of the Rings feels like a very small part of my career and not something I think about much.
If neither Agent Smith nor Elrond are favourites, who is? I really loved Lionel in Little Fish (2005). He was a very tragic figure, a Christ-like figure who sacrificed himself but was helpless, needy and dysfunctional with a past filled with fame and the illusion of it. He was gay in a macho world and addicted to heroin where it was absolutely taboo.
Like many of your characters, he was deeply flawed. What’s the attraction? I’m interested in those characters. We’re all troubled; it’s finding out what it is that’s troubling us. I don’t know what a hero is — probably someone pretty normal.
How does your latest role as the blind tyrant Hamm in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame compare to Tolkien or playing action heroes? I don’t compare roles. Actors switch and change and essentially they’re trying to illuminate something about a character, a way of thinking, but the person they’re there to understand is different each time. My goal is chasing down a character. I’d be more likely to read and be interested in Beckett than I would the others.
You’re taking Waiting for Godot to London later this year. Will the production change for a new audience? It’s been over a year and a half since we performed Godot in Sydney but it’s the same director, same cast. The young boy we’ll pick in London. We’ve only got four to five days of rehearsals. It’s a massive task.
You retreat to your farm north of Sydney. What else do you do? I get a bit tunnel-visioned so I switch off, otherwise I’d go mad. I love family time and going to see friends; I read voraciously. I swim in the river at the farm, sit under the stars and marvel at the universe. And prepare for the next thing and give myself time to get ready.
Your son Harry Greenwood is starring in Gallipoli. Are you planning to act with him? Hopefully we will one day but there are no plans. I’m a pretty liberal father; I don’t give Harry lots of advice and if he wants to know something he knows I’m there. He’s much more advanced than I was at that age.
As a Sydney Swans tragic, how often do you see them play? A lot. I love screaming myself hoarse — except when I’ve got a performance the next day.