Published February 23, 2006
chris atchison/metro toronto
Hugo Weaving spoke with a drug counsellor as part of his preparation for his role in Little FIsh.
Exploring the darker side of the human condition is an aspect of their craft that many actors relish.
But whether they enjoy an assignment playing a criminal, hustler, drug addict or the like is irrelevant. All that matters to critics and audiences is whether they can play the part well.
When Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, Lord Of The Rings) took on Lionel Dawson, a gay, drug-addicted former Australian Rugby League player in the new film Little Fish, his primary concern was just that — could he convincingly pull off the role?
“I’ve got a fairly privileged Anglo background coming through England to Australia, so I’m not of his background at all,” Weaving, a native of Austin, Nigeria, says.
In the film, Lionel desperately relies on family friend Tracy Heart (Cate Blanchett) for drugs and support as he spirals further into heroin addiction and she tries to avoid being overcome by her drug demons.
To prepare, Weaving reviewed DVDs of interviews with addicts and drifters in and around the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, where the film is set, to attempt to understand their circumstances and challenges.
Along with a former rugby league player who came out after retiring from the game, Weaving interviewed a drug counsellor who offered personal insight into Sydney’s drug underworld.
“The main person I spent a lot of time with was a guy about my age holding down a job counselling addicts, and who was an addict himself,” the 45-year-old explains. “He had been on methadone for about 15 years and still was. He was fantastic.”
Little Fish not only sheds light on the often insurmountable odds faced by addicts, but also the desperation found on the fringe of a city known for is postcard beauty and relative prosperity.
As Weaving points out, the details of the film may be precise to Sydney, but the overall message of love and redemption are universal.
“I think any film to be interesting for me has to be culturally very specific. So I think you’re talking about love and the difficulty of love and loving people that are pulling you down.
“That’s not something that would just be understood in Sydney. That would be understood anywhere.”
Little Fish opens in theatres tomorrow