Still recovering from the intense training and physical workout of filming The Matrix for almost a year, Hugo Weaving is fit and dangerous – at least he hopes you think so. He talks to ANDREW L. URBAN on his return from the Los Angeles premiere and party.
"I might scare some people who’ve seen the film and think I am a martial arts expert," says Hugo Weaving in his nice guy mode, "but if it came to the crunch I don’t think I’d be able to actually win a kung fu fight…" OK, but who’s gonna be game enough to try him on? Weaving is tall and fit: he spent five months just training, 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, before filming even began. Then there was the six month shoot…
"it was very tough and tiring"
" I hated that training ," he says. "It was gruelling. The filming wasn’t much easier…it was very tough and tiring. That fight in the subway, that sequence took 12 days to shoot."
The scene is near the end of the film, when Agent Smith (Weaving) confronts Neo (Keanu Reeves). But as Weaving says, the joy of his character was that it was a baddie with a difference. "I became fascinated by the character, because normally the villain is either brain or brawn, but Smith is both. And he’s very funny."
Of course, Agent Smith is not your average villain, being a human in looks only, but manufactured by the ruling all powerful artificial intelligence that ‘runs things around here’ – and powered by more than chips.
"it didn’t seem like my kind of film.."
When Weaving first read the script (in London, where he was shooting Bedrooms and Hallways, playing a gay real estate agent [the film opens in May in Australia]) he was not attracted to it at all. "I started reading it and I thought it didn’t seem like my kind of film and I was very half hearted about it." The directors, Andy and Larry Wachowski, had seen Weaving in Proof and Priscilla and wanted to audition him. Ironically, they were already in Sydney. Weaving’s agent kept urging him to go and do the screen test, which he did. "I did the interrogation scene … I already had an idea that Smith, having enormous power and not caring, should take his time about things…" and that’s when Weaving began to develop the accent and the voice that ends up working so well as a distinctive device in creating the Agent Smith on screen we now know.
The Wachowskis went back to Los Angeles, while Weaving flew back home to Sydney. The screen test went to the Wachowskis, and they promptly flew Weaving to LA, where he met the Wachowski brothers for the first time and found them to be "real characters". They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. "And then they said, you know you’ll be doing your own stunts? And I shrugged, yeah, OK. You sure? they asked. Yeah, sure…I had no idea!"
Weaving enjoyed the trip to LA for the world premiere, partying with the real Smith (Will) and his fellow actors from The Matrix, with whom he has formed a bond – as with the Wachowskis, "who are very intelligent and warm people. I had a good time – nice to see everyone again, and it was great to be staying in a nice place for a few days with just Kirsty without the kids…a real break."
"love to make an Australian film"
With the Australian premiere of The Matrix out of the way, Weaving has no fixed plans but would dearly love to make an Australian film. Not that the big budget work is unpleasant: "It’s most noticeable in that you’ve got so much more time…" As for working with two directors on the one film, Weaving says it could have been really difficult, "but they don’t split functions, like one doing the actors or something. They just say what they’re thinking and they are enormously well prepared. They are very cohesive with a single vision and I never saw problems between them. It was a joy to work with.