By Jo Litson
April 23, 2003
He stars in the biggest films, but for Hugo Weaving there’s no place like home.
NEXT week, Hugo Weaving will board a plane for Los Angeles to begin a worldwide promotional tour for The Matrix Reloaded, opening on May 15. The film is the second in the blockbuster sci-fi trilogy that began in 1999 with The Matrix and culminates in November with the release of The Matrix Revolutions. The budget for these two sequels is reported to be more than $US300 million ($490 million).
It was Weaving’s performance in the first Matrix that led to the offer to play elf leader Elrond in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (the third of which is released in December). And so he finds himself in two of the biggest cinema events of the day. And yet, here he is in Adelaide on the set of a $5.5 million Australian film called Peaches — and revelling in it.
"This is more like the films I’m used to doing,” says the 43-year-old actor during a filming break. "Ever since I left drama school[National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1981], I’ve been in Australian films [Proof, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Frauds, Strange Planet, True Love and Chaos and Russian Doll among
others] and I regard The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings as anomalies. They were great experiences but not necessarily something I’d jump into doing again. Not because I didn’t like them, they areterrific films, but enormous monsters with such time-consuming processes.”
Weaving has said on numerous occasions that he dislikes spending long periods away from his family, partner Katrina Greenwood and their two children, aged 14 and nine.
"I generally like working on things like Peaches”, he says, "because I feel I’m much more involved, so I get more out of it —
and they are the films that I prefer watching. Culturally and politically, they mean a lot more to me because they’re Australian stories.”
Peaches, which finishes filming at the end of next week, is the second feature film from director Craig Monahan, whose 1999 debut movie The Interview won three AFI Awards: best film, best original screenplay, and best actor for Weaving.
Set in a peach cannery and operating in two time frames, the 1980s and the present, Peaches tells three intertwined love stories set against a backdrop of growing economic rationalism and the declining power of unionism. It centres on teenage Steph (Emma Lung), whose discoveries about her late mother’s colourful past from a diary she is given help her to come to terms with the losses in her life and move on.
Weaving was drawn to the film because "it’s a beautiful script” by Sue (Brides of Christ) Smith and because he wanted to work with Monahan again. The Interview was, he says, "the most fulfilling professional film work I’d done, I think”. He puts this down to the luxury of four weeks’ rehearsal before the start of filming. The Peaches cast rehearsed for three weeks.
Weaving plays Alan, a former union rep at the factory, now a foreman."He’s a character who’s in a bit of a dark space, though you get glimpses of where he might end up,” he says. "Back in the ’80s he was a stuttering, idealistic union man who was a little bit awkward sexually. He was obviously falling in love with this woman [Jude, played by Jacqueline McKenzie] and having a wonderful time with three friends, who formed a little band.
"Now he’s this man who’s disliked intensely by most of the factory because he’s shifted from a unionist to a foreman, his marriage is breaking apart, Jude hates him, and suddenly he’s having an affair with this 17-year-old [Steph]. He doesn’t have the stammer anymore and he’s not wearing glasses anymore. It worried me at one stage that I was playing two different characters, but then I thought: ‘Well, people change’.”
Weaving has an American agent but, despite The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings, there haven’t been many Hollywood offers. Not that that worries him.
"I’d rather stay here. My agent’s saying: ‘Come on, when you’re next over we’ll go and see this person and that person.’ I will go and see people and maybe something interesting will come out of it. I’m certainly not closing doors because there are some great film-makers over there, without a doubt … but by and large I’d really, really love to just work here as much as possible.”