The Sun Herald
August 16, 1998
In-demand actor Hugo Weaving says getting his gear off is just a bit of a laugh
BABE 2. Keanu Reeves’s new Hollywood action flick. A British sex romp. A classy Australian psycho-thriller. Surely, these have nothing in common? Think again, Sherlock.
Hugo Weaving, that guy who can act and is nice to have around, too, is in every single film. And, as he tucks his long frame into a chair and grins good-naturedly, he notes that the best thing about going Hollywood and shooting The Matrix was that he didn’t even have to leave the country – and his family – to do it.
You’d expect Weaving to be pretty chuffed about filming the big-buck science fiction action adventure ("Never done big-budget action before") in Sydney ("I wouldn’t have gone to LA") with Keanu Reeves ("He’s a sweet boy, lovely").
"I think he certainly felt hounded when he just wants to be normal and go out," he says. "I was actually surprised by the amount of fuss. I didn’t think we were bothered about stars here."
And Weaving’s playing a villain, no less. "I’ve got some great one-liners! To me, playing a villain, you need to be seen to be enjoying yourself."
You’d also expect Weaving to be pleased about a reprise in the sequel to Babe.
"I played Rex, the patriarch sheepdog," he reveals. "All the animal characters are just at the very head of the film, as Babe leaves the farm for various reasons and goes into the city."
And you’d anticipate that Weaving could be stoked at a role in the British black comedy Bedrooms And Hallways. This is not a family film. As Weaving notes, still grinning cheerfully: "Most of the nudity is me and co-star Tom Hollander. We’re having sex practically every time you see us!"
But none of the above raise quite the same enthusiasm in Weaving as his latest Australian drama, The Interview. Part Kafka-esque nightmare, part The Usual Suspects reality flipping, part Prime Suspect classy verbal showdowns, The Interview is the tale of an ordinary-looking man (Weaving) dragged from his bed by police. Over the ensuing hours he is interrogated about a crime about which he claims he knows nothing, in a battle of wits with the tough, obsessive cop on the case (Wildside’s Tony Martin).
"A great script, really good," raves Weaving (and he’s right). "Working with Tony, you start approaching something better than you’ve ever done as an actor before."
For research, Weaving and Martin spent hours watching real police interrogations.
"They were a revelation," Weaving says. "Some were six hours long and incredibly boring. But in some, people who you knew in retrospect would be charged were totally convincing. This acting was fantastically good!"
As for the traffic jam of five Australian films opening this month, Weaving can’t see the problem. "They’re all different. That’s the strength of the industry now. We’re not just making period pieces or quirky comedies. There are so many appalling American films coming out – no-one makes a point of that. Australian audiences view (local) films very differently to the way they did five, six years ago."
At 38, after 17 years in the business, Weaving is in a very comfortable position. Like fellow actor Guy Pearce, Weaving shrewdly navigated the wave of success kicked off by the smash drag queen comedy Priscilla. That’s the role he says he’s most recognised for, with even kids as young as eight or nine hailing him in the street to recite the naughtier jokes.
Weaving’s a performer on the world stage, but doesn’t feel the need to hustle for star trappings.
"The business of film bores the pants off me. In fact, I hate it. That whole thing of getting your lawyer, your publicist. I don’t think I’m terribly neurotic. But I do think I always doubt myself. Maybe I put myself down enough to counteract any flattery. I get embarrassed if people think I’m something special."
Weaving’s attitude of going with the flow helps with the weirder aspects of movie making. Like filming sex scenes.
"For The Right Hand Man, with Catherine McClements, we were filming a love scene by the river, but it was actually Lane Cove Park. To get the angle of the camera looking up at me, naked, they had to elevate me. So I had to lie on the picnic table pretending Catherine was there. It was ridiculous and very funny. But if you don’t worry about it, it’s much easier."