Hugo Weaving ('V for Vendetta')
'V Is Also For Cinematic Victory!'
Hugo Wallace Weaving was born on April 4, 1960 in Nigeria. The middle sibling of three, Hugo has an older brother Simon and a younger sister Anna who both also currently live and work in Australia. During his early childhood, the Weaving family spent most of their time traveling between Nigeria, Great Britain, and Australia.
Later, during his teens, Hugo spent three years in England in the seventies attending Queen Elizabeth's Hospital School in Bristol. There, he showed early promise in theater productions and also excelled at history, achieving an A in his O-level examination. He arrived permanently in Australia in 1976 and finished his education at Knox Grammar School, Sydney. He graduated from NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art), a college well-known for other alumni such as Mel Gibson and Geoffrey Rush, in 1981.
Since then, Hugo has had a steadily successful career in the film, television, and theater industries. However, Weaving has illustrated that, as renowned as he is known for his film work, he feels most at home on stage and continually performs in Australian theater productions, usually with the Sydney Theater Company. With his success has also come extensive recognition. He has won numerous awards, including two Australian Film Institute Awards (AFI) for Best Actor in a Leading Role and three total nominations. He was also nominated for his performance in 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' (1994).
More recently, roles in films such as 'The Matrix' trilogy as Agent Smith and 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy as Lord Elrond have considerably raised his international profile.
Catching up with Hugo in a Toronto dining room whilst the madness of this year's Toronto Film Festival ensues outside, Weaving insists that it remains important for him to constantly work in his native Australia in order to feel energised. "I guess I try to look for characters and scripts generally that appeal to me, that I immediately want to work on. Australia provides a lot of smaller roles like that for me."
What is it about the smaller films that interest you so much at this stage in your career? "Maybe it's just the way in which the filming is. I mean I do like working on smaller pictures and I feel more at home. I suppose I feel like it's more of a family unit and I think the filming rhythms are probably better for me, that you actually film faster, rather than dragging something out over months and months and months."
Weaving admits that while he enjoys doing the big Hollywood film, like a V for Vendetta, they're by no means a priority. "I find those films like that, kind of give me time out with the family and I think if they weren't there for me, I'd probably just do another Australian film and maybe have a little bit less time out, I don't know."
'V for Vendetta,' Adapted by Andy and Larry Wachowski, based upon the 1988 graphic novel by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, the film is set against the futuristic landscape of a totalitarian Britain, and tells the story of a mild-mannered young woman named Evey who is rescued from a life-and-death situation by a masked vigilante known only as "V," played by Weaving.
Incomparably charismatic and ferociously skilled in the art of combat and deception, V urges his fellow citizens to rise up against tyranny and oppression. As Evey uncovers the truth about V's mysterious background, she also discovers the truth about herself - and emerges as his unlikely ally in the culmination of his plot to bring freedom and justice back to a society fraught with cruelty and corruption.
Originally, Weaving was not the star of the film at all and jumped in at the last minute, though ironically, he had been originally approached but was unavailable because he was due to start filming the ill-fated Australian film 'Eucalyptus.' "Then that folded after they just opted for somewhere else and then 4 weeks into the shoot I was very surprised to get the call saying well look, we've actually sort of parted ways with James Purefoy. It was to do with animating the mask and they didn't think it was working. They just wanted it to be animated and it's difficult because it's a very fixed mask. You can't see eyes or mouth," the actor explains.
Did you read the acclaimed graphic novel before heading to Berlin for principal photography? "Yes, I grabbed a copy of it as soon as I got there and I started to read it and I thought I don't even have time because I had to start work. And so I was working on my script and would then refer back to the graphic novel if there were certain things in the script which needed to be illuminated a bit more or which perhaps weren't, just to see what the original source was for particular points in the script."
Throughout this film, audiences never see your face so how was that as an actor to be able to, well, ... act?! "It was a technical exercise, and then it became something slightly different so that was pretty interesting. Still I think we were still trying to go through a performance and that was very important because ultimately I realised, well the performance did start to bring the character to life, and initially I was thinking much more in terms of the outward effect and, well if I do this or if I do that."
"I mean the mask is still like that or that or if I do certain things and punctuate certain words with certain movements, then that will animate it. And it did to a point and then the more I did it, the more I forgot about those tiny little movements and the move the performance started doing those things for me."
How easy was it for you to try and define your character? "I saw him close to an avenging figure, but he's also an heroic figure as well. On the one hand he's been abused by a government, tortured, abused, poisoned and burnt and he has a vendetta to kind of kill them all."
Then, as he explains, into his life comes Natalie Portman's Evey Hammond. "He rescues her, imprisons her because otherwise she might unwittingly give him away and then they form a very close relationship."
Will 'Eucalyptus' (which was set to star Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman) ever now get made? "Everyone was sad about that film and it was totally obvious what was really going down. It was a terrible, terrible shame, particularly for Jocelyn [Moorehouse], as everyone wanted to work with her. It was an absolute gem of a script, and was just perfect."
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