An A-lister drives his latest movie, writes Kylie Northover.
HUGO WEAVING proved long ago he can turn his hand to any role but in his latest film, Last Ride, it’s hard not to be once again amazed at how wholly he can inhabit a character.
Based on the Australian novel of the same name by Denise Young and directed by Glendyn Ivin, whose short film, Cracker Bag, won the 2003 Palme d’Or at Cannes, Last Ride is the story of an emotional road trip undertaken by Kev (Weaving) and his 10-year-old son, Chook (Tom Russell, in his first role), through the South Australian outback after Kev commits a crime.
A gruff former crim, Kev, raising Chook on his own, oscillates between aggressive and tender and the viewer finds it hard to warm to him or completely despise him; precisely what attracted Weaving to the role.
"I really liked the contradictory nature of Kev’s personality," Weaving says. "And I was attracted to the idea of working with Glendyn. I loved Cracker Bag and when I read this script I loved the nature of the father-son relationship and the fact that Kev presents as a certain character but there’s an enormous amount of hidden turmoil – and expressed turmoil as well – and an inability to control those impulses."
Weaving, of course, is an A-lister these days, having starred in blockbusters such as The Matrix and Lord of the Rings trilogies and even the Transformers movies (where he supplies a voice).
But he still lives in Sydney and often works on local projects.
In its cinematography of the South Australian landscape – most notably some amazing scenes on a salt lake – and its characters, the film manages to be quintessentially Australian and universal.
"You’re dealing with an archetype but it’s also about parental love, about the character and the things passed on by a parent that you either wittingly or unwittingly pass on to your child, so this story could’ve been made in Russia or Mexico or the States and it would work incredibly well," Weaving says.
"I think thematically and emotionally the journey’s comprehensible from anyone’s point of view but it does have a very specific environment and characters that are of this – and of a particular part of this – country … I think for a film to make the broader story work, you need to have a strong sense of location and sense of where you are. For me, if it rings true, then you kind of buy into the whole thing. I don’t buy the themes if the details and the reality of it aren’t actually there. The truth, in a way, is in the details – otherwise you just see the sham and the artifice."
Kev – whose crime we learn of in snatches throughout the film – is a man given to violent tendencies, like his father before him. But he’s also a likeable, rough-around-the-edges Aussie bloke; the type we’ve all either known or seen before.
In researching the character, Ivin and Weaving recorded interviews with former prisoners, from which Weaving says he gleaned crucial nuances for playing Kev.
"Glendyn explained what he was doing and asked people if they’d talk about their time in jail," he explains.
"It was great stuff; great insights into the ways in which people think and even the way they hold themselves or move. They’re different characters to Kev but meeting someone like that, or hanging out just spending time watching that document, is invaluable."
Weaving makes the character of Kev his own, so much so that you even believe in his art-department faded tattoos.
"Glendyn was worried about the tatts but I had them on every day and we never really made a big thing of it," Weaving says. "Some of them you didn’t even see; I liked that. It’s about details that give you something without going: ‘Hey, look at this.’ I like that. In a way you can focus on anything in that film and realise it’s cool the way it’s been dealt with."
Like the landscape, Last Ride is sparse and poetic, with more going on than it seems on the surface.
"Glendyn has a holistic attitude towards filmmaking; he’ll take all the elements, environment, characters, soundscapes, imagery … and he observes the modesty of whatever that thing is and the balance between all those elements," Weaving says.
"I think that’s his great skill – he inherently understands what balance is in his own life, and also in the broader environment, and how things interact with each other, whether they be human forms or inanimate forms.
"I really like that about him – it’s a wonderful strength."
Last Ride is now screening.