Jane Hutcheon


23 Oct

Weaving's Magic One Plus One

Jane Hutcheon

And as he strides into the interview room tall and smiling, Hugo Weaving sports a bushy beard and appears surprisingly relaxed as if he has all day to chat, which he does not. 

As we wait for last minute camera adjustments, he mentions that after four months off in his hometown Sydney, he’s due to fly to Western Australia shortly to begin work on the much anticipated film Jasper Jones.

Since the 1980’s Hugo Weaving has carved out a successful career in theatre and film, mixing lower-budget Australian productions with huge international blockbusters including The Matrix series, V for Vendetta and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

For Weaving, there has never been a dilemma about whether to relocate to Hollywood or remain in Australia. 

"I’m happy to work overseas,” he tells me on One Plus One, “but my focus is here.”

This is a golden era of film-making in this country, we just don’t know that.

“I’ve been saying that for ages.  I think our films are getting better and better.  We (Australians) are just not going to see them.

Weaving believes there are two reasons for this. 

“The problem is not in the film-makers or the creatives.  The problem is somehow selling the idea of selling our own culture to ourselves,” he says.

“Or, we have an industry which is so slanted towards American films that it’s very, very hard for Australian films to get a look in.”

Weaving is clearly proud of the homegrown industry, despite deriving his reputation from high-grossing blockbusters.

His latest film borrows from both.

He’s appearing in The Dressmaker, a film directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse, based on Rosalie Ham’s novel of the same name. 

It’s set in the fifties in a small, fictional Australian town named Dungatar. 

The film opens with femme fatale Tilly Dunnage (played by Kate Winslet), returning to her home town from Europe.  She’s a glamorous and gifted seamstress who travels with her portable Singer sewing machine.  But she has a past.  Years ago as a child, Tilly was sent away after being blamed for the death of a school-mate.

The film features a Who’s Who of Australian performers including Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook, Rebecca Gibney, Kerry Fox, Shane Jacobson and Barry Otto, to name just a few. 

Weaving - who plays Dungatar’s policeman Sergeant Horatio Farrat - said he was ‘immediately interested’ in the script when it landed in front of him. 

“He’s essentially a very nice man,” Weaving says.

However, “he does have a secret…he’s a cross-dresser.  He also feels guilty because he’s done something to the heroine, Tilly.”

“It's got a dark centre, a dark underbelly to it,” he says in his deliberate, mellifluous voice.

Weaving was extremely happy to work with director Jocelyn Moorhouse again.  It was Moorhouse who cast Weaving in her critically acclaimed 1991 film ‘Proof’. They were both relative newcomers to the screen world.  She recently returned to Australia after a stint in Hollywood with her husband, director and writer P. J. Hogan. 

Proof was the first film I had read…that I so wanted to be in,” Weaving recalls warmly.

“I jumped on it and I thought, ‘that’s my film’. I was tested for it and thank-good (Moorhouse) wanted me to be in it.

‘Proof’ was released a decade after Weaving graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA). 

He was born in Nigeria, arriving in Australia as a teenager, after an upbringing where the family relocated every few years. 

He says he did not have grand dreams when he first entered NIDA. 

“I never think too far ahead,” he said. 

Weaving does not like to put himself above anyone else.  He seeks meaning through voracious reading, spending time with his friends and family (partner of thirty-one years Katrina Greenwood and his children Holly and Harry) and enjoying his farm in northern New South Wales.

“I have a pretty strong sense of myself as a not particularly special person,” he says.

He does, however, enjoy in-depth research and finding the redemptive qualities in the characters he plays.  Those qualities are often to be found in how a character interacts with nature.

I adore nature,” Weaving says.  “Without nature and without the natural world we have no perspective on ourselves…I think it’s really special and life-affirming and gives me a perspective on who I am.”

“I don’t have a grand notion of who human beings are because I don’t think they are any more special than a tree or a bird or a kangaroo.

But he clearly values what it means to be human and strives to get to the heart of what makes an individual tick whether playing Mitzi Del Bra in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or the cross-dressing Sergeant Horatio Farrat in the Dressmaker.

(Photos by Tom Hancock)

Watch the full One Plus One interview at 10 am Friday on ABC, at 5:30pm (AEST) Saturday on ABC News 24 and 2:30pm (AEDT) and 9:30pm (AEDT) Sunday on ABC News 24.

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