Few actors have had the impact of Hugo Weaving, who has been tearing his way through the film industry for years. When he made his memorable turn as Agent Smith in the Matrix films he was forever cemented as one of the greatest villains in film history, but that was just the beginning. Since he has not only been a part of numerous block buster franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Transformers and Captain America, but continues to deliver plenty of powerful smaller performances as well. His latest, The Mule is one of those films, but he turns in yet another brilliant performance as expected. I had the chance to sit down with Mr. Weaving to discuss this great film and how they brought this story to life.
Bobby: How did you first get involved with The Mule?
Hugo: They sent me the script; I read it, loved it and said yes. That was the beginning of it and it wasn’t that much longer before I met up with Angus Sampson and Tony Mahony and just started talking about it a little bit, then we were in rehearsal and then shooting it. It was a pretty seamless sort of intro to it. I just responded to the script which I thought was a very smart take on something that we know in Australia very well that has an interesting mix of comedy and there was some thriller aspects to it as well I suppose. I just thought it was a really smart script that made me laugh a lot and I didn’t necessarily know what was going to happen in the next scene so I kept turning the pages and thought it was just a very good piece of writing.
Bobby: At this point in your career you have created so many iconic characters, how much input to you get to create these characters?
Hugo: I just ran with the script really and they were very excited to have all of the actors and it was a very collaborative filmmaking experience. I felt like I had absolute license to go with it, but I was just responding to what I saw on the page. I certainly wasn’t held back at all and felt very free to do what felt right. There was a lot of give and take and a hugely enjoyable experience. We were doing improve scenes every now and then with people just throwing in ideas and we had the flexibility to do just that. There are a number of little grabs in scenes that we came up with while we were shooting so it was very good.
Bobby: Mentioning improve, one of my favorite scenes to the film is the balloon scene. Between the balloon itself and the look on your face was that written that way or did you develop that yourself?
Hugo: I don’t actually remember if that scene was written or not, but I think the balloon might have been and then we just did it, but there were a lot of things like that such as the people playing golf, there were a lot of things that we just rolled with on that day. We got into a groove quite quickly in day 1 and 2 in the way we were filming. We enjoyed each other’s company and there was a lot of permission granted to people and didn’t seem to be a lot of obstruction besides the obvious one with the character of Angus. It was very enjoyable.
Bobby: As an actor a lot of time you feed off the sets you are working on as well. In this film the majority of the film is in this hotel room. Is there a different approach as an actor that you have to take when you only have limited space to feed off of?
Hugo: That’s the premise of the film in that these two cops take this guy who refuses to have an x-ray or examination so they just take him to this room. The great thing was that on day one of the shoot we were on this set that was a slightly enlarged hotel room set to get the camera in there, but it was a beautiful piece of art direction and production design. Being in that room for the first couple of weeks was great because we were able to really concentrate on what was at the heart of this film and jump straight in there and get on with the business of it. The confines of the room sort of set the tone for the whole piece because essentially that is what the film is about. The hero is inactive and there is nothing they can do but to hold on and everyone else is inactive and all they can do is wait and that is the whole film. The entire thing is character based and who is going to outwit who, everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else, everyone is concealing something from everyone else and it all has something to do with the machinations of character and that is the strength of the film.
Bobby: There is a fairly violent shower scene that you are involved in, is that something that is choreographed out or was it more of a guideline and they just let you guys loose?
Hugo: We definitely had a stunt coordinator that day. Angus did injure himself when he first fell in the shower, but that is another story. In terms of the interaction between him and me, you have a naked body in a slippery shower so you have got to be careful. If you just work through the logical sequence of what happens to that person after they turn the hot taps on and they fall to the floor and then the other person how does the other person get them out? Then you just go through it step by step, he picks him up and then let’s go of him and they fall. So we just walked through the sequence just from one move to the next and then did it a few times without doing it a hundred percent so by the time you come to do it you know the sequence. Then you can jump in and do the whole thing in one and then know you will be going back to do other sections of it and as long as you have got each section of the grab. Once you have that it can be cut together in such a way and indeed it is because you are jumping from one character to the other. If you doing everything properly and communicate well you can actual shoot these things very quickly and effectively.
Bobby: The tone of this film is a real dark comedy, but there are a lot of scenes that involve Angus’ butt. I know it is a professional set, but how hard is it that to deal with and stay in character?
Hugo: I think we all enjoyed the script and laughed a lot. There was always a really great mix and that is why we were interested in doing it. I remember talking a lot about the scene where he has produced the evidence and re-swallowed it, how much do you want to see, how do you shoot, how do you cover a scene like that? That audience needs to see something to know there are no condoms full of heroin there, so there were some real interesting and amusing discussions on how to shoot something like that. Less is more in some instances but on the other hand you do need to see it to some extent. The shooting of that scene there were lots of gags and laughs but essentially there didn’t seem to be a problem with character because each of them is very driven with what they are trying to get so by the time you talk through the shoot on how you are going to shoot it and then doing it, it just seemed true to the character. It was a very easy set to work on.
Bobby: It’s a great movie and that is probably one of the grossest scenes that show almost nothing.
Hugo: Yeah, I love when he is re-swallowing them that it is literally gag making. When you see it with a big audience it is really funny, because the audible reaction of people gagging is fabulous. At the same time you are thrilled for the hapless hero character because he has hit upon this brilliant way of beating the cops, but it involves the most repulsive concept imaginable. So it’s a great scene.
Bobby: Exactly, I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me and wish you all the best.
Hugo: My pleasure.
Be sure to check out The Mule available in theaters, VOD and iTunes now.