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 movie Cracker Bag won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at Cannes in 2003, Last Ride is the story of an emotional road trip through the South Australian outback undertaken by Kev (Weaving), after he commits a crime, and his 10-year-old son, Chook (Tom Russell in his first role).
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 to completely despise him – precisely the conflict that 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 the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and even the Transformers movies (supplying the voice of Megatron) 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 filmed on a salt lake – and its central characters, Last Ride manages to be both quintessentially Australian and universal in its message at the same time.
“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 [United] States and it would work incredibly well,” Weaving says.
“Thematically and emotionally, the journey’s comprehendible from anyone’s point of view, I think, but it does have a very specific environment and characters that are 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. But he’s also a likeable rough-around-the-edges 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,” Weaving 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,” he 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 the pair travels through, Last Ride is sparse and poetic, with more going on than it seems on the surface.
“Glendyn has a holistic attitude towards filmmaking,” Weaving says. “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.
“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.”