[ TWN-Inside Trek ]
By IAN SPELLING
June 12, 2003
Hugo Weaving is a doll. Two, in fact. Thanks to his appearances as the elf lord Elrond in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and as the lethal Agent Smith in the "Matrix" films, toy makers have plastered Weaving’s face on Elrond and Smith action figures. The veteran Aussie actor considers the whole proposition a tad silly.
"My Elrond doll, if you pull his arm down, will actually swipe you with a sword," Weaving says. "Elrond has some moving parts. The Smith doll looks pretty mean, but is a bit smaller than the Elrond doll.
"I don’t have a personal preference, though," he says. "I’ll have to leave that up to the people who actually muck around with them. "What do you do with these things, anyway?"
That’s a fair question, but not nearly as profound as "What is the Matrix?," the query put forth by "The Matrix" in 1999. And with the release of "The Matrix Reloaded" now and "The Matrix Revolutions" in November, writer/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski are posing a fresh batch of questions.
"When Larry and Andy talked to me about ‘The Matrix,’ it was always going to be a trilogy," Weaving says by telephone during a visit to Los Angeles. "We always knew, when we were doing the first one, that there’d be a ‘2’ and ‘3’ if the first were successful. So when the first one became this big hit, I was pretty sure that we’d all be back, somewhere down the track, doing another couple.
"I obviously haven’t seen ‘The Matrix Revolutions,’ " he adds, "but I’ve seen sequences, and I do think that it and ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ are parts of a whole that will also stand on their own."
When last seen, in "The Matrix," Neo (Keanu Reeves) had destroyed Smith, the relentless agent of the Machines that sought to eradicate Neo and his fellow human rebels, among them Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). Neo beat Smith to the punch, blowing up Smith ? essentially a computer program ? from within. "Neo can’t be in the world without Smith," Weaving says. "Smith is Neo’s nemesis, so Smith is there. Smith is still an agent, but he’s more of a free agent now, if you like. Also, as you probably know, there’s more than one of him."
Actually, Smith clones himself like a computer virus: In one jaw-dropping scene, 100-plus Smiths descend on Neo. Shooting that sequence, Weaving says, took lots of time, more than a few stuntmen and/or dummies and, of course, plenty of state-of-the-art CG magic. "There were times when I walked into a room 20 different times, 20 slightly different ways, and went to 20 different spots in the room," the actor says. "Andy and Larry would then put the shots together, and you’d have 20 different versions of me. Sometimes in a wider shot, in a street scene, maybe you had a number of dummies in the background that were modeled from me. And other times you see computer-generated images of my face that were either superimposed over the faces of stunt doubles or are completely CG."
Even as "The Matrix Reloaded" continues its electrifying box-office run this summer, Weaving will wing back to New Zealand for additional scenes as Elrond for "The Return of the King." The final film in the acclaimed "Rings" trilogy will reach theaters on Dec. 17.
Weaving can’t decide which surprised him more, the success of the "Rings" adventures or that of the "Matrix" saga.
"They were both risky ventures," he says. "I think that, with ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ you had so many people who’d read the books and wanted to see the films. I also think the technology was there at this point to make the ‘Rings’ films. People went in knowing that they could see something that resembled what their minds imagined.
"And Peter Jackson is an extraordinary filmmaker," Weaving adds. "All the elements were there, really. They had some great actors on board, people who leaped on as soon as they heard the films were going to happen. So I wasn’t shocked that people embraced the first two films, and I think they’ll embrace the third one, if it’s of a level with the first two.
" ‘The Matrix,’ especially the first film, was risky," he says. "But the studio knew that they had talented directors in Andy and Larry and a protective producer in Joel (Silver), who could drive the Wachowskis’ vision through. When the first one was a success and all the same people agreed to come back, I think that made it much easier and less risky to do the sequels."
Despite the myriad benefits of co-starring in two of the world’s most popular, most lucrative big-screen trilogies, Weaving sounds ready to retire from epic filmmaking. Don’t expect there to be an action figure associated with his next film, which returns him to the kind of intimate, modest affairs that dot his pre-"Matrix" filmography.
"I’ve become Trilogy Guy and Epic Guy," Weaving says, "but totally by accident. You don’t set out to do that. My next film, ‘Peaches,’ is a low-budget film back in Australia. A guy called Craig Monahan, who directed me in ‘The Interview,’ is going to direct it. It’s set in a peach-canning factory.
"I’m looking forward to playing human beings, rather than elves and computer-generated beings, for a little while."