The Sydney Morning Herald
September 6, 1999
While Hugo Weaving has been speaking to the Wachowski brothers about appearing in the next two instalments of The Matrix, a much more immediate prospect has presented itself in South America.
It’s a new film, with Australian director Rolf de Heer, in remote French Guiana.
Weaving says the best thing about going to Los Angeles after the success of The Matrix, in which he played the humanoid Agent Smith to strong international reviews, was getting a call from the director of Bad Boy Bubby and Dance Me to My Song.
That led to him being cast alongside Richard Dreyfuss in de Heer’s The Old Man Who Read Love Stories, which starts shooting next month. An Australian-French co-production, it is based on a book by exiled Chilean writer Luis Sepulveda about an old widower who lives among the natives in a remote Amazonian town and is brought romance novels by an itinerant dentist who visits twice a year.
Weaving, who will play the dentist, has been smarming it up in cinemas recently in the likable British comedy Bedrooms and Hallways, directed by Rose Troche (Go Fish ).
While long regarded as one of the country’s finest screen actors, for such films as Proof, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and The Interview, he seemed to have attracted Hollywood’s attention after The Matrix‘s success. So it’s time to ask what’s happened since.
Weaving says he took on an American agent and read scripts but found most of the interest was in him playing another villain.
"Most of them were pretty humourless villains. They were just sort of nasties and it would have been totally unenjoyable to do them. They were poorly written scripts."
Even when the scripts were good, it wasn’t material that excited him, which caused him to wonder why he’d want to live in the US.
"There is work for me in Australia and it’s really interesting work, it’s varied work. Yes, it’s a small industry and, yes, there are big breaks in between jobs, but that also suits me fine because I have a family and I like spending time with them."
Whether he appears in the back-to-back sequels to The Matrix depends on when and where they are being filmed, he says.
Those questions are still being worked out. A spokeswoman for the original Matrix says it is too early to say whether they will be shot in Sydney, with the availability of Fox Studios a key factor. A spokeswoman for Fox Studios confirms that "it’s too early to say – but we’d love to have them".
The latest word on the timing came in Variety last week. An article that suggested Keanu Reeves would be paid $US30 million ($47 million) for the two sequels said writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski were planning to begin production in the northern autumn next year.
"If they were maybe being done here and it was the right time, yeah, I’d certainly love to work with Larry and Andy again," Weaving says.
But he’d be less interested if they ended up being shot in the US. "I live here and I have children here and they’re very important reasons for staying here, but I really think the industry we have is very strong. It’s very small but it’s got something that makes me want to work here more and more."
Weaving does not know why actors run off to work in Hollywood so often. "There are a lot of actors who’ve left this country when things are just starting to happen for them and I think they probably would have been better off staying here. Although there are only a few films being made, in a way you’ve got more of a chance of shining in something that’s going to be seen on a world stage than if you go to the States and get swallowed up and play a small role in a film there."
In Bedrooms and Hallways, Weaving plays a real estate agent who uses the houses he’s selling for assignations with his gay lover. He says the film appealed because the script was funny and his own role was "hysterical". It’s a role that involves some lively sex scenes, which prompts a question about how he approaches them as an actor.
"When you’re coming to doing it you think, right, I’ve got to do all these sex scenes. That’s when you start thinking about it."
His previous sex scenes in films, all with women, had been a "strangely enjoyable but also totally absurd" experience. "It’s meant to be a very intimate moment but it’s not because there’s the whole film crew surrounding you and trying to be very mature. You always have this closed-set thing, but it’s not really closed.
"They’re always fun. I always have a laugh on those days and I guess doing those scenes with Tom Hollander were even more absurd."