The Wolfman star Hugo Weaving talks to ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about embracing the beast within for the film, music’s influence on acting and how the horror genre can smarten up in this exclusive…
It takes a real man to tangle with The Wolfman.
Luckily, Hugo Weaving‘s Abberline is the perfect Scotland Yard detective for the job. In The Wolfman, Abberline goes toe-to-toe with the eponymous monster in some hair-raisingly delightful action sequences. It gets gory and gothic, but the film is a blast. However, for Weaving, Abberline’s far more than just "Agent Smith circa 1890." He’s got some internal conflicts bubbling that feel just as tangible as Benicio Del Toro’s. Abberline may not have to worry about the full moon, but he’s got a host of other horrors to confront, and the actor faces them entertainingly…
Hugo Weaving sat down with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for this exclusive interview about The Wolfman. He talks about embracing the beast within, music’s influence on acting and why a milk bottle isn’t always just a milk bottle…
Do you feel like Abberline walks the line between good and bad?
I didn’t really think about it being "good" and "bad." As a detective, he’s out to solve this crime. If someone’s wandering around the countryside killing people, he’s got to be apprehended and stopped. Abberline has to find out who’s doing this, and that’s his job. You can’t have people like that in society. Naturally, Abbeline would have a rational, inquiring, skeptical mind and he would try to follow down the logical path. Once he’s confronted with seeing someone’s transformation in front of his very own eyes, that whole worldview is blown out of the water. Then he simply has to try and stop this creature. If that means melting down silver and making silver bullets—even if it that would’ve been the most preposterous suggestion to him a couple of weeks before—he’d do it.
He’ll do anything to solve the crime….
Think about it from his perspective. If someone does change into a werewolf and is killing people, what are you going to do? Let them do it? No. There’s nothing bad or evil about Abberline. He’s trying to help people and save them. The reason why you think Abberline moves into another territory is, as a viewer, you start to understand the dilemma that Benico’s character is going through. You don’t want Benicio to be apprehended. You want him to somehow get away or be saved. That’s the strength of the film—you’ve associated your feelings with Benicio. It’s good [Laughs].
Isn’t that moral twist the crux of the horror genre? We identify with the monsters more than their pursuers.
Yes! Initially, the monster is just a monster. There’s a dilemma though, and you begin to realize what that dilemma is. With Frankenstein,
The Wolfman shows that anyone is capable of becoming a monster. It examines what’s inside of us.
Exactly! The new film puts the story in a much stronger setting. 1890 is the right place for it. Making it a period film and choosing that particular period was a really strong decision. It was the right decision to make.
The setting definitely heightens that encroaching terror. You’re stuck in that forest and can’t leave.
To be in that forest at night with how it was lit was simply so beautiful. It was spooky! Riding a horse through those trees was fantastically evocative. The locations were breathtaking.
Is the movie more about embracing these inner animalistic tendencies or shunning them?
I think it’s about embracing them. Why are we interested in this particular monster? If the monster is us and we are civilized beings, the monster is the animal urges that are coming up. Maybe we’re interested in it because we live in a particular world that’s so ridiculously civilized that we’ve forgotten how to be human beings anymore. We’ve forgotten about the animal side of our nature. I suspect it’s about relaxing civilization a bit and letting the animal instincts free—not to the extent that you’re going around killing people though [Laughs]. Maybe that’s why the genre’s timely…it’s a good time to look at our own civilization and question it.
Do you listen to music to get into character?
I do! There’s a musicality to films. There’s a music to a human voice. There’s a music to storytelling. When someone’s telling a story, the music of the story—the way it’s told—is really important. The way in which stories are conveyed, either through voice, music or images, is really vitally important. I listen to music a lot, and I listen to very varied music. It evokes all sorts of things for me as an actor.
Did you grow up watching horror movies?
Of course, I saw them, but I’m not like Benicio where the first official films I saw were horror movies. I’m often disappointed by the horror genre. A lot of horror films should be a lot more intelligent than they are. There’s something about them. They release the tension too much rather than maintain it. It’s not my favorite genre, but I was keen with this script to jump in with the cast.
You can philosophically do so much with the genre though. You guys tend to explore the psychosis more in this film.
Yeah, why are we interested in horror? Why do we make these films? Is it just to shock people and give them a scare? Why do we get scared by these things? What should we be looking at?
There all kinds of conflicts mounting in the film too.
When I read a script, the character’s internal conflict is the most important thing for me. If a character’s not internally conflicted, he’s probably not very interesting. We’ve all got an internal conflict. Sir John’s internal conflict is really clear. Benicio’s conflict obviously becomes very clear. Abberline becomes totally conflicted within himself as well. What’s in a book is there on the page, and your imagination goes to work. Sometimes a film won’t allow that imagination to go to work. Films can be at their best when they show you something, but also question it at the same time. An image may also represent something else, other than just the image itself. If there’s a shot of a milk bottle, sometimes it’s just a bottle of milk. Other times, the bottle of milk might be juxtaposed with a shot of a woman, and the bottle suddenly has another meaning. That’s the power of film—you can juxtapose images.