SINS OF THE FATHER
AUSTRALIAN SCREEN LEGEND HUGO WEAVING HAS JUST FINISHED WORKING WITH FIRST-TIME DIRECTOR GLENDYN IVIN ON AUSSIE FLICK LAST RIDE. PANSY POTTER CHATS TO BOTH WEAVING AND IVIN ABOUT COLLABORATING AND CREATING WITH BOTH NEWCOMERS AND VETERANS.
Hugo Weaving has created some of the most memorable screen characters of the last decade. From half-elf Lord Elrond in Lord of the Rings to evil clone Agent Smith in The Matrix to Mitzi del Bra from Priscilla, Weaving has put his indelible stamp on iconic movies all over the world. His most recent venture, apart from voicing Megatron in the Transformers movies, brings to life a brand new character for audiences to admire; a troubled father on the run through South Australia with his small son. Last Ride is an intimate drama which focuses primarily on the relationship between father Kev and son Chook (played by Tom Russell) and the destruction caused by bad decisions and the inability to connect.
Director Glendyn Ivin makes his feature film debut with the film but is no stranger to success, having won the Palme d’Or for best short film at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for the drama Cracker Bag. Coming together to create this adaptation of the novel by Denise Young, both Weaving and Ivin exude enthusiasm about the entire process.
“I learned a lot from Hugo about building a character and how to assess a script,” Ivin explains. “I think any other actors in my first film would have been scary, but Hugo’s not a scary guy!”
This is hard to believe, given Weaving’s ferocious masculinity in Last Ride sees him beating his son and killing his best friend, but Ivin assures that nothing translates to real life.
“I was surprised that Hugo’s not this horrible, grouchy dad!” he laughs. “But honestly, you couldn’t find two more opposite people. Cutting the film, I got to know Hugo again. Hugo’s this softly-spoken, lovely, gentle guy so it’s weird even to me, after being exposed to every frame of the entire process, that Hugo’s work even tricks me!”
The father-son relationship is an element to which both actor and director have been able to relate, with Ivin becoming a father just prior to starting work on the project and Weaving having two children, Holly and Harry. The strained and often violent relationship between Kev and Chook, however, leaves Weaving with little to draw on from his own experience other than fatherly love.
“There are always elements of your own life that are going to be there,” Weaving explains. “So my relationship with my son does play into it. Even though he’s now 20 and not a ten-year-old boy, and I’m working with Tommy not with Harry, and Kev is Chook’s dad not Harry’s, of course you’re informed by your own experience. I remember the day Harry was born, I had this epiphany; I realised what parental love was. He came out and he looked like this frog and I was thinking ‘Oh my god he’s a complete individual, he’s nothing to do with me and I love him already’ and there’s all this stuff that comes out, it was amazing. If I hadn’t had the experience of being a father; there are all sorts of things you get from that, you don’t have to think about at all. You do draw on your own experience and yet I’m looking at Chook through Kev’s eyes, so you can only play what you are doing now with the person you’re with. Acting is a really interesting process because you’re trying to disappear yourself and see through someone else’s eyes with the weight of their experience – not yours – and yet your experience feeds into it. It’s a really interesting art form.”
Working alongside Weaving in this film is newcomer Tom Russell as his son Chook, and both Ivin and Weaving observe that the learning process went both ways.
“Tommy’s at a place where I always want to get to,” Weaving says. “He’s fresh, he’s intuitive, he’s in his own shoes. The camera’s on him and he’s so watchable. You just want to know what’s going on in his head. And you think, after all the training I’ve done, that’s really the place you want to get to and lose all the baggage you carry. He’s a constant wonderful reminder. Remember that comment he said?” Weaving asks, turning to Ivin. “He said ‘Hugo’s weird; he’s Hugo and then the next minute he’s going…” Weaving demonstrates a scrunched up scary face as Ivin nods in recollection. “And before we started rolling I started doing this weird oogley-boogley thing and he thought that was really bizarre.”
“It was really great watching Tom learn a lot from Hugo,” Ivin agrees. “But I think Hugo learned a lot from Tom. Kids are in the moment and I know that part of the process of being an actor is just that. It was fascinating seeing an actor like Hugo and then this ten-year-old kid who has never done anything on film before; they’re sparring each other and feeling like equals on screen.”
Last Ride deals with not only the intimacy shared between father and son, but ultimate moments of betrayal and abuse. Ivin drew on moments of horror from his own childhood, such as seeing a neighbour kill, skin and butcher a sheep in the next-door garden, to add vivid imagery to the character-driven film and this raw approach makes for more confronting viewing.
“There are some really tricky moments but it’s not a violent film for me,” the director explains. “My experience of violence, with stuff I’ve observed and as a kid been part of, is that it always comes from nowhere. It’s not signposted that it’s going to happen so it’s as shocking to you as it is to the characters. You experience it like you’re in the moment. The whipping scene with Chook wearing the makeup in the forest is really confronting when you see it because as an audience you’re dealing with that as a father should do; when you see Chook with the makeup on, you laugh.”
“It also comes out of a couple of scenes with them joking and talking about the stars,” Weaving elaborates. “It comes out of the most intimate scenes in the film. It’s a violent impulse or urge that comes out despite everything. And I think it takes Kev by surprise, so it’s probably shocking to everyone included those involved in it.”
From flamboyant Mitzi in Priscilla to aggressive Kev in Last Ride, Weaving has played across the full spectrum of characterisation and yet both films connect with the essence of being truly Australian. But does extreme masculinity represent extreme Australianism?
“It’s a bit of a mystery to me because I’m not one of those guys and I don’t feel comfortable around those guys,” Ivin ponders. “I do know quite a few of them and I find them fascinating. Maybe they’re pumped full of more testosterone, I don’t know?”
“I’m with you, I find that latent aggression really scary so meeting someone like Kev is instantly scary and challenging,” agrees Weaving. “My own notion of masculinity is that these males are shouting loud ‘I’m a man and I’m Australian’, whatever that means. So it’s a repulsive thing but on the other hand you’re fascinated as to what their drive is, what that energy is within that person. To me it generally reveals an insecurity within that man which belies the presentation. So you’ve instantly got a character who wants to present in one way but is actually being so loud about it he’s actually the opposite inside. I think that’s why those characters are so fascinating for me as an actor.”
WHAT: Last Ride
WHEN: Screening from Thursday Jul 2