“I always go on my gut-reaction to a script”, the veteran actor of more than 60 films and TV series’ says. “If I’m sitting there going ‘Hmm, yeah, I dunno – it could be good…’ forget about it. It has to be something that’s amazing. Something I really want to do. I have to be able to react to something.”
And though he’s starred in some huge cabbage-clad blockbusters (like “The Matrix” trilogy and “V for Vendetta”), and worked with some major filmmakers (Michael Bay, George Miller, Peter Jackson), Weaving says “the budget of a film and who is doing it is always secondary to the script.”
In “Last Ride”, Weaving plays one half of a father-and-son outfit – gruff Kev (Weaving) and young son, Chook (Tom Russell) – who travel across the country, on the run from the law.
Weaving first read Marc Gudgeon’s script in 2007 – but I’d be another year before the film got up. “The dates hadn’t been set when I read it. The financing wasn’t in place. And originally they were talking about filming it in NSW (it ended up going to South Australia) – so a lot of things changed over the course of the year-and-a-half… two years.”
“But as soon as Glendyn Ivin’s name appeared on the cover sheet I was intrigued – so I stuck with it. I enjoyed [Ivin’s acclaimed short film] Cracker Bag, and thought it’d be really interesting to work with him. He was a key ingredient”.
Nigerian-born Weaving was as fascinated by the film’s future director as he was with the character he’d been asked to play, the ostensibly malicious Kev.
“At first, you think you have the guy pegged. You think he’s one sort of guy. But then, after a few incidents, we get to see other aspects of the man. He’s a very complex man. A very conflicted person.
“I think he’s very different to me”, says the amiable down-to-earth actor, sipping on an early morning coffee. “There is probably not a lot of me in there – but I suppose I tried to get into his skin, rather than the other way round. But there are things in there that I can relate to – like being a dad for instance. You understand the nature of parental love, and how you want to protect your child and look after them. But having said that, [Kev’s] journey through life is very different to mine so I had to get to know him by understanding what likely happened to him as a child, and what other events might’ve shaped the man he became”.
The film allows the audience to make up their own mind about Weaving’s fraught crook-on-the-run father – rather than simply hammering it into our heads, like most Hollywood films do.
“Glendyn doesn’t bang something over the head. He lets it sit there. I think that’s the real strength of the film.”
It might also be said that another strength of the film is the chemistry between Weaving and on-screen son Tom Russell.
“He’s only done a bit of amateur, dramatic stuff – which he seems to love”, Weaving says of the newcomer. “I think he’d just done Les Mis[erables] before he did this.”.
“Tommy is in a place that I’d like to get to, which is relaxed, in-his-own-shoes and intuitive. He’s also very instinctive. Every actor wants to get there. Working with Tom was wonderful, because he reminded me as actor what the ultimate goal of performing is. I guess you could say he was teaching me.’’
Weaving and Russell have some pretty heavy scenes together, so it was almost a requirement they get to know each other, and felt comfortable with one another.
“We got together about three weeks before the shoot – basically we were just building up a rapport. Having said that, Tom and I didn’t do a lot of talking about the characters unless it is was necessary. Nor did Glendyn and Tom. [Tom] knew what he had to do – he had the script, he knew what was going on, and he knew the nature of the relationship. I think you can load up a young brain with too much information.’’
Young Russell was a bit concerned about shooting a pivotal scene in the film where Kev forces Chook to learn how to swim (A very disturbing scene for any parent to watch).
“That was great – well, not that he was worried about it, but that he mentioned he was. We talked about it. I told him ‘I don’t want to hurt you’ and ‘It’s important that we go through this scene in such a way that nobody gets hurt – even though it looks like the character is really laying into the other one’. So we just kind of choreographed it, and walked through it slowly.
“And when I belted him, we used a belt that wasn’t real, so it doesn’t hurt at all – in fact, he started using it on me at one time”, Weaving laughs. “I had to remind him that I was the one supposed to be hitting him [in the movie]”.
Weaving is thankful he’s able to fit smaller movies like “Last Ride” in alongside big blockbuster movies like the recent “Transformers : Revenge of the Fallen” (in which he again provides the voice of Megatron), as well as theatre.
“It’s great – and one process illuminates another”, the actor, whose other credits include “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and classic mini-series “Bodyline”, says. “Doing theatre, for instance, weirdly illuminates the different processes in film. Theoretically in life, you want to get better at your job, and if you ever get to the stage where you come to the conclusion that there’s nothing more to learn, then that’s it. And I guess if you’re doing the same thing every day, and it becomes repetitive, then [the job] loses its appeal after a while.”
And Weaving isn’t afraid to admit that he’s gotten a bit bored doing some of the big blockbusters we’ve seen (or heard) him in over the past few years. Mainly, “because you’re sitting there twiddling your thumbs a lot of the time.”
“There are just too many people – so communication goes out the window”, Weaving adds. ‘’There’s too much money being wasted too”.
“So even though you’re working really hard doing a [smaller] film like Last Ride – where you’re working six-day-a-week, and sometimes very early in the morning or very late at night – it’s more exciting, fulfilling, invigorating and rewarding… in so many ways”.
Weaving’s next film is a complete 180 from his financially-friendly Oz thriller.
“The Wolfman”, due for release later in the year, is “another one of those jobs that went on forever”, says the actor, “but [director] Joe Johnston was great to work with; a really lovely man.”
The film, starring Benicio Del Toro as the creature of the night, wasn’t one Weaving signed up for purely because he knew it’d bump up his bank balance (though it goes without saying it likely will) – again, it was the script that attracted him.
“It was a good script… a smart script”, says Weaving. “All these great people are in it – Benicio, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt, Anthony Sher, Max Von Sydow, Geraldine Chaplin.”
Weaving plays real-life copper Aberline, the same chap that chased down Jack the Ripper. In the film, the inspector is on the hunt for another killer – albeit someone likely more hirsute than the mysterious Ripper.
“[My character] is the voice of reason [in the film]. He’s the circumspect detective. He takes the audience through this impossible case – people have been killed, and some person (“there’s no such thing as werewolves” he believes) or persons, have done this. He eventually realizes, ‘Ok, there is a werewolf’.”
LAST RIDE commences Thursday