HUGO Weaving has made it as an international movie star with his celebrated performances in the Matrix trilogy and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
But it is clear he will never forego his first love, the stage. Recently he was in Geelong to perform in GPAC’s presentation of God Of Carnage, by the French playwright Yasmina Reza.
"I’m looking forward to next year. I’m looking forward to turning 50 on April 1. And my daughter Holly who is 17 will have her last year at school.
"And Harry my son left school a few years ago. So Katrina, my partner, and I are redefining who we are. Because we probably won’t be parents in the same way at the end of next year.
"So I’m looking forward to making plans. We’re thinking of maybe going to Europe for a year. Maybe heading out to the country for a bit."
Katrina and Hugo have been together 26 years, but Hugo was once quoted as saying he was petrified of marriage, and they like things as they are.
Weaving was born in Nigeria and grew up in both England and Australia. In England he attended the Queen Elizabeth Hospital School in Bristol.
"It was a pretty amazing school. The thing I remember about it even before I went there was seeing these hordes of elaborately garbed schoolboys walking down the street, in double file.
"We wore these incredible school uniforms. Yellow socks up to our knees, then knee breeches and then these long blue gowns which were cinched in at the waist and had this funny little thing around the neck.
"It was Elizabethan school attire, and that’s what we wore in the 1970s. I loved the school. There was a funny mock-Tudor castle that it was housed in, and it was in quite a small community, right in the middle of the city. Fantastic place to grow up."
When the family moved to Sydney in 1976, Hugo was sent to the up-market Knox Grammar.
"It was funny for me, because coming from England, even though I was in many ways at a traditional school, coming to Knox I actually came to a much more conservative school and old-fashioned environment than I’d been at.
"And the great thing about Knox was that they had a fantastic drama department.
"I had been involved in theatre in England, so I continued that for the last couple of years at Knox.
"I suppose it was then that I turned towards acting. I had already been thinking that maybe I’d like to write. But by the time I came to Knox, the idea of acting became more solidified."
From there, it was a natural leap to the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Australia’s top drama school.
"I absolutely loved it. I moved out of home at the same time, and suddenly I was at an institution where I felt very liberated."
Next was a two-year contract with the Sydney Theatre Company.
"Mel Gibson was there and Judy Davis, and Robyn Nevin. I was in fantastic company. So I worked there over about a two-year period doing about eight or nine plays.
"We also had time out, able to do film and television as well. So it was during that period that I did my first film and also Bodyline for television.
"The film was called The City’s Edge. Tommy Lewis was in it. Mark Lee, from Gallipoli. Dreadful film. Appalling. Great experience and we had a lot of fun. But dreadful. I’d like to see it dubbed into Japanese, it might be better."
Back in 1991 Weaving was in a memorable Australian film called Proof directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. Weaving played a blind photographer. One of the other actors was a very young Russell Crowe in only his second movie. Hugo got the AFI award for best actor, but Crowe’s performance was also notable.
"He was very keen. Because the character I was playing was blind, he was keen to read to me, because he thought that was something his character would do. So he would read great swathes from this book about the French Revolution for some reason. He’d do this every day. It was kind of testing."
Since those days, Weaving reached the top as an Australian screen actor with such movies as Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, and The Interview. He is also an international star because of Matrix movies and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
Weaving concedes that the movie industry in Australia can be a difficult place to make living.
"It’s difficult for people to get films seen really, even if they are made. It’s very hard to get audiences to go and see them."
Weaving is one of the lucky ones. He has probably never been out of work.
"No, I’m fairly constantly in work. I feel extremely lucky and blessed to be able to balance my work with my family, and have time out."
He thought hard as to whether there had been any particularly inspirational person for him.
"Many, many people. And sometimes the ones you might talk about are actually people no one would know. Someone like Paul Blackwell who was at NIDA with me, who I think is a great clown. Some of these people are incredibly under-rated but they’re the sort of people who stick in your mind."
He thought hard again when asked which screen performer he most admires.
"I have to say I really love, well not everything he does, but so much of what Ben Kingsley does. Just how varied he can be. He has affected me in dramatically different ways. Compare his performance in Schindler’s List to that in Sexy Beast. Just those two characters alone are like chalk and cheese and yet they’re both deeply felt and understood psychologically and he seems to be free to work within the confines he set himself.
"But then you think of something like Fred Astaire in Top Hat. I mean, what an utterly joyous performance."