Magazine article Metro Magazine

Hugo Weaving and Craig Monahan Agents of Change: In a Far Cry from Agent Smith and Bullet Time Hugo Weaving's Latest Role Is as a Factory Foreman at a Peach Cannery in Craig Monahan's Peaches

Magazine article Metro Magazine

Hugo Weaving and Craig Monahan Agents of Change: In a Far Cry from Agent Smith and Bullet Time Hugo Weaving's Latest Role Is as a Factory Foreman at a Peach Cannery in Craig Monahan's Peaches

Article excerpt

He's traded the cool black suit and shades for a flannelette shirt and dorky specs. Despite a growing international profile since his work as Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999-2003) and The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003), Hugo Weaving's desire to work in the Australian film industry has just seen him finish work on the small-budget Australian film Peaches (2004).

Since his initial bite at international stardom in The Matrix, he has worked on a variety of Australian film and theatre projects: with Rolf de Heer in The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (2000), in the TV mini-series After the Deluge (Brendan Maher, 2003), in a Tom Stoppard play The Real Thing in Sydney (2003), and he was slated to be in the recent ill-fated Eucalyptus (to be directed by Jocelyn Moorehouse, who directed him in Proof.

'I live here and my kids go to school here', he says, as if he can't understand why there would be any reason to move out of Australia. 'I certainly don't subscribe to the belief that all actors should go to Hollywood and make films in the States. I'm interested in working on Australian films.'

Over a twenty-year career Hugo has demonstrated an amazing range of characters, from a drag queen in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliot, 1994), to a quietly dark suspect in The Interview (Craig Monahan, 2004), to The Matrix's sinister Agent Smith and the wise and noble elf king Elrond in The Lord of the Rings.

In Peaches Hugo plays Alan, a former union official who rises through the ranks, only to do a complete U-turn to management at a peach cannery in a small country town. The film delves into the town's past through the diary of Stephanie's (Emma Lung) late mother, which reveals the old free and easy world of her parents and their friends-including Alan and her adoptive mother Jude (Jacqueline McKenzie)-having good times working at the cannery.

Stephanie now has a job at the cannery and is keen to experience the fun, carefree world of her mother's diary. Instead she finds a more serious workplace with new pressures to improve productivity, cut staff and keep costs down.

She strikes up a friendship with Alan, who makes her mother's diary come alive for her. Through him, Stephanie finds a link to her mother, and starts to understand why things changed so dramatically after her death. Increasingly disliked by the workers, Alan feels isolated and looks to Stephanie as a reminder of happier days.

Acting it Out

Hugo prepared for his role as Alan by looking at the character's world. Alan used to be a happy, easy-going guy and a popular union official. Then he becomes the unpopular foreman during a time of economic rationalism.

We spent some time going to factories, talking to union officials, but this role was not heavy on research. I read the script and I tried to work out what the man's been through. He was passionate and idealistic as a union official, then he came to another period where he was compromised, and he lost a lot. The community was falling apart because the cannery was falling apart. What has happened to that man? I tried to understand it.

Hugo and Jacqueline McKenzie used to bump into each other around the traps, and usually ended up talking about doing a film together.

Working with Jac was great. We've always wanted to work together. It was a real thrill to finally work with her. She's a dynamo, and a very intelligent actor. She's a lot of fun.

Good Direction

Peaches marks Hugo's second time working with director Craig Monahan. The first was in The Interview, where his performance in earned him an AR and Montreal World Film Festival Award for Best Actor in 1998. The film was nominated for nine AR Awards, and also won Best Film and Best Original Screenplay. Peaches is completely different to The Interview; it's alive with brighter people, brighter colours and sunlight, in contrast to the stark minimalist look of The Interview. …

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