The Australian drama Last Ride, directed by Glendyn Ivin and based on Denise Young’s acclaimed novel, is a story that is both riveting and heartbreaking in its complex portrayal of a brutal yet loving petty criminal struggling with parenthood. When ex-jailbird fugitive Kev (brought to life in a stunning performance from Hugo Weaving) takes his 10-year-old son Chook (newcomer Tom Russell) on the run from the law, they set out on a journey into the remote and rugged outback, where both father and son will be faced with the devastating consequences of their actions.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Hugo Weaving talked about how proud he is of Last Ride and how happy it is that it is finally being released in the States (in theaters in NYC and available nationally through VOD) three years after completing it, what originally attracted him to the project and complex character, and how his acting process varies, from role to role. He also talked about what it was like to work with the Wachowskis again on Cloud Atlas, what a joy it was to return to Berlin (they shot V for Vendetta together there) and how it was an extraordinary experience that he cannot wait to see the finished product of, as well as what it was like to be on The Hobbit set and play Elrond again, 60 years before The Lord of the Rings, how the tone is different this time, and how he thinks the 3D will work wonderfully well for the type of film it is. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
HUGO WEAVING: Yeah, both. I’m very happy that it is getting a release here, even though it will be a small art house release, but I’m very happy that that’s the case. I’m so used to Australian films not getting a release outside Australia. If they do get a release, generally Australian films don’t last particularly long at the box office here, even if they’re really interesting or accomplished. They just don’t ‘cause that’s the way the world works. It’s very hard to get any film these days done. When you’re battling against the minds of the studios and the money that can go into promoting larger budget films, it’s very hard for a very small-budget Australian film to get a look in. You can get critically acclaimed and go to various film festivals around the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of people are going to hear about it. I’m used to that dynamic. So, it’s really lovely, even though it’s been three years, that it’s getting a little bit of a release in the States. I’m really thrilled ‘cause it’s a film that I had a wonderful time working on. We all did. I’m really proud of it.
WEAVING: The script arrived through my agent with a message from (director) Glendyn [Ivin], saying he wanted me to do the role, so it was an offer, straight away. And I had really loved seeing his short film, called Cracker Bag. He won an award for Best Short Film at Cannes, the year before. So, I was immediately keen to read the script ‘cause I knew it was an offer and I knew it was from Glendyn, and I was really excited to read what it might be. After reading the script, I met him, and then I read the book on which the screenplay was based. And I said yes, pretty much straight away.
It was an easy choice for me, really, because I knew he was an interesting filmmaker, and it was a character that was so compromised and complex. I immediately was interested in playing a man like that, who was trying to protect and express love for his son, but who was compromised to the extent that he’s almost incapable of doing that. But, you still can see that he does feel that way, despite himself.
So, it was an easy choice to make. And then, there was the more difficult task of slowly building up the internal world of that character. I think the original book – the source material – was so strong and so rich, and working with Glendyn the way in which we worked on it and talked about it prior to production, made that journey easier. And then, the actual shoot itself, to be in such exquisite surroundings with a small group of people for six weeks, was a very intense, intimate and exciting adventure. It was great to do.
WEAVING: It varies from role to role, depending on what sort of film it is. With something like Last Ride or Little Fish, you feel like the camera is at a little distance. You’re observation of these creatures in the landscape tends to require a more relaxed and naturalistic take, and a way of building up that character over a longer period of time, prior to shooting, if it’s a character which is radically quite different from me. But then, there will be other roles where the leap to the character would be much less. You would have to travel less of a distance, so the approach to that character might be really, really different. Or the style of the piece might be such that, as an actor, you are required to be the villain and be charming. It’s more of a technical leap. It’s more that you just need to enjoy yourself, as a villain. If you’re doing that, then that’s enough for that particular style of the piece to work.
But for Last Ride, it was more of an external and internal build-up, at the same time. I was externally trying to create what this character looked like, and there was a sense, in the book, that he was described as being like a dingo, so I felt like he was lean and sinewy, and I was physically trying to transform, over a period of a couple of months, before the shoot started. I had to decide, “What does he sound like?” Well, he’s a particular type of man who’s grown up in a particular way, and so he’s got a particular voice. I had to try to find that vocal thing, and physically get what he might be like. And then, internally I had to decide, “What are his though processes? Is he slow or quick? What’s his background? How does he feel? What doesn’t he feel? How does he cover himself up? What’s his driving force?,” and all that stuff. But, I wouldn’t approach every character in that way ‘cause it wouldn’t be required. I work in different ways, depending on the film, really.
WEAVING: It’s always really delightful to be with Lana and Andy. It’s really, really delightful. I’m really fond of them. It was a joy to go back to Berlin with them ‘cause we had shot V for Vendetta there. I had never been to Berlin, prior to that, and I loved being in that city. It’s the most exciting city in the world, I think. To be able to go back there, to that same studio, and to live in Berlin for three and a half months in a flat, and my partner Katrina was with me the whole time, was just great. And Katrina is very good friends with Andy’s wife, Alisa. So, it was very nice to be back there. It felt like it was reuniting with a family, in a way. And then, we got to meet Tom Tykwer, which was great. To work with Lana and Andy is always a joy.
How was the experience of making that particular film?
WEAVING: That was the most extraordinary experience, actually, for everyone. It was a slightly dangerous adventure because it’s the sort of film that hasn’t really been made before, and I think everyone was mindful of that. I can’t wait to have a look at that.
Have you gotten to see any of it yet?
WEAVING: No, I’ve just seen little bits for ADR purposes, and little bits on the day. We’d seen a couple of cuts of bits of what we shot, selectively put together, throughout the shoot, just to give us a sense of where we were, and it was pretty remarkable to see that. So, yes, I’ve seen bits and pieces, but that’s very different from seeing the whole film. It’s six stories, six geographies and six time zones, and a number of actors playing up to six roles each. That’s a complex thing to try to imagine, even if you’ve done the most wonderful planning, which they had done. It was something you’re not going to quite be able to get a handle on until you see it and until you start putting it together. So, that was the adventure. That was the thing that was dangerous and exciting for everyone involved, I think. In the end, you think, “Well, we’re not sure what this is going to be like because it’s not like anything else that’s been made.” It really is a totally unique film, and that was exciting. It was an adventure, in a way. It felt like you were exploring new territory, and that’s pretty rare.
What was it like to be on The Hobbit set, for the first time? Did it feel weird to be playing Elrond again, but 60 years before The Lord of the Rings? How was the tone and world different?
WEAVING: Yeah! In some ways, it was a lot of fun to go back and be on a Rivendell set again with Ian McKellan. It was really lovely to see some old friends and old faces again, and to go back into a similar world, which is tonally a little bit different. You’re in the same world, but the story has a different tone. Peter [Jackson] and Fran [Walsh] are just lovely people, and there’s a particular frustratingly wonderful energy about working on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The project is so massive and there are so many people. It makes it frustrating for everyone because things just take time and you don’t know what’s happening. You don’t know what’s going on, despite all the best intentions, but the people are so lovely that you just accept, “Well, this is the way this particular world is.” You live from day to day and from moment to moment, doing the best you can. There’s a delightful atmosphere there, so it was lovely. I’ve literally just come back from there a couple days ago, having done post-production on that, so it was really nice to see everyone again.
What are your thoughts on the film shooting in 48fps and also in 3D? Did it help to immediately be able to see how it would look in playback?
WEAVING: Yeah, absolutely. I think the 3D will work incredibly well for The Hobbit. I don’t think it does for everything, and I don’t think it should for everything. To some extent, 3D is just a gimmick, but sometimes it works wonderfully well. With something like Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the Werner Herzog film, you think, “Why is this in 3D?,” but it’s actually wonderful in 3D. It’s a documentary, but it works incredibly well. And then, there are some other films where you think, “This might be in 3D, but the way in which it’s been put into 3D or the way in which it’s being used is too obvious or it seems gimmicky.” I don’t get a lot from the 3D experience, generally, but for certain films, I think it works really wonderfully well, and I suspect The Hobbit will be one of them. For that particular world, I think it’s probably a really fabulous natural exploration of it. With some other things, the 3D doesn’t work so well. I’d rather see something like Last Ride or a small film on a flat screen, rather than with black glasses. That’s impressive enough, as it is.