The Daily Telegraph
October 28, 2015
IT’S been 21 years since Hugo Weaving last frocked up to prove a point to a bunch of hostile country folk in a dusty Outback town.
While Horatio Farrat, the cross-dressing police sergeant Weaving plays in the hotly-anticipated revenge comedy The Dressmaker, shares his The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert character Tick’s healthy appreciation for female fashion, he’s a far less flamboyant creation.
“Cross dressers and drag queens are temperamentally very different, I think,’’ says the Sydney-based Weaving.
“The drag queen is making a very political statement by dressing up and publicly going out, often to do something theatrical. It’s very in your face.
“Whereas Farrat is leading an intensely private double life where he will cross dress, not to try to look like a woman, but to enjoy the feel of the fabric in the privacy of his own home.”
Director Jocelyn Moorhouse has described her latest film, set in the fictional one-horse town of Dungatar in the 1950s and co-starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis andLiam Hemsworth, as “Unforgiven with a sewing machine”.
Based on the novel of the same name by Rosalie Ham, the wildly ambitious tale of “love, revenge and haute couture” subverts the conventions of the traditional western by casting a woman in the central role and arming her with a quick unpick and tailor’s chalk.
It’s not a huge stretch, then, to see Farrat as a reimagining of the female supporting role.
“In the (traditional) Western there’s probably a softening influence of a woman,’’ says Weaving.
“If Tilly and Una (Sacha Horler) are the gunslingers (in The Dressmaker) then Farrat is perhaps the madam at the brothel who really has a heart of gold.”
The Dressmaker, shot against the spectacular backdrop of Victoria’s You Yangs Regional Park, as well as Horsham in western Victoria, sees Weaving reunited with Moorhouse for the first time since Proof (2001), the multi-AFI Award-winner that launched both their film careers and did no harm at all for that of Russell Crowe either. (Best not to dwell on Eucalyptus, Moorhouse’s adaptation of another Aussie novel set in the 50s that collapsed just days before it was due to go into production in 2005, reportedly due to Crowe’s script rewrite demands.)
The past two years have seen Weaving working primarily in the theatre, flexing his dramatic muscles with a string of meaty, classical roles for the Sydney Theatre Company including Macbeth, Endgame’s blind tyrant Hamm and Waiting For Godot’s Vladimir (opposite Richard Roxburgh), which enjoyed a successful season at London’s Barbican Theatre in June.
The latter part of 2015, sees him making a return to film — in Rachel Perkins’ film adaptation of acclaimed YA novel Jasper Jones, and Mel Gibson’s WWII dramaHacksaw Ridge, currently filming in NSW.
The back-to-back announcements came as something of a surprise to industry observers since Weaving had recently said he intended to take an extended break.
“Yes, it’s absolutely ridiculous — my six-month rest has very suddenly come to a halt.”
While Weaving is a little hazy on the detail of how these two confirmed projects tally with his intention to “recalibrate” his work/life balance, his commitment to homegrown cinema is unimpeachable.
Although the actor is best known, internationally, for The Matrix’s Agent Smith and half-elf Elrond in the Lord Of the Rings’ and Hobbit trilogies, Weaving has a string of low-budget Australian credits to his name, including The Interview, Little Fish,The Last Ride and more recently, Strangerland, Mule and The Turning.
Much of his best work, says Weaving, has only been seen by a handful of people.
“I do get disappointed, often, with the way things turn out, the way (projects) disappear down the gurgler after all the effort everyone puts into them. I wish some of these (films) got the recognition they deserved.
“But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep jumping on board films here and wanting to make things better.”
Weaving has high hopes, however, for The Dressmaker, an audacious, drop-dead gorgeous “hybrid” of a film that Weaving compares to Quentin Tarantino’sInglourious Basterds and even Shakespeare.
“It melds many different stylistic influences together in a really exciting way in a way ,’’ he says.
“Shakespeare was a genius at doing that. One minute you have a scene with a whole lot of clowns — like the gravedigger scene in Hamlet. Five minutes later you have got two people fighting over the dead body of the woman they both love. “