Hugo Weaving talks about tone and gore and the Ripper Murders for 'The Wolfman'
Learn why he's playing a real person in Universal's monster movie remake
I ran a lot of interviews I did for "The Wolfman" last week, and in each case, I upset someone because of spoilers. It's hard to talk about that film with the cast and not have the urge to talk about some of the crazier third act moments.
In the case of my talk with Hugo Weaving, we ended up talking about the punchline to the movie, so I decided to hold the interview until after opening weekend. By now, you've probably seen the film, or you know if you're going to see it, and so read on at your own risk. It's a brief talk, but a pleasure. I've been a fan of Weaving's for a lot of years:
Hugo Weaving: Hello, Drew?
Drew: Mr. Weaving.
Hugo: Oh, hi.
Drew: It is a great pleasure to speak with you, sir.
Hugo: Thank you.
Drew: It is interesting the way at the beginning of this decade, you were pretty much in every giant geek movie being made. Between “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings” it seemed like you pretty much dominated everything I wrote about at “Ain’t It Cool” for about six years.
Drew: Now with “The Wolfman,” you're tackling another geek icon. Was the original something that you were familiar with or a fan of before you were asked to be involved with this one?
Hugo: I was familiar with it but not that familiar with it, and I wasn’t really a fan of it. When I read this script and decided I wanted to be involved in it, I did have a quick look at the original just to see how different it was from the script, and I thought it was a funny hoary old film to be honest. I thought it was probably a great idea to revisit it in the way it was being revisited. It seemed to be a much better period to set it in and much more interesting character development and... yeah, I just thought it was probably a good thing to revisit because, no, I wasn’t a big fan of the original.
Drew: It’s interesting the way they tie Abberline into the Ripper murders here, and there’s a suggestion that perhaps he botched that. So this is a chance for him to save a little face as an investigator.
Hugo: Well, that’s something that Benicio’s character says. I mean, the interesting thing from the... the reason why the Ripper murders are mentioned is because they evoke in the viewer's mind all sorts of images of ghastly Victorian London, and similarly later on in the film when we’re on the moors, we’re thinking about The Hound of the Baskervilles. So Abberline really is kind of... he could have been called Detective Jones and he would have served the same purpose, but making him the Inspector in charge of the Ripper murders, which historically he was…
Hugo: …is kind of quite interesting really because, I mean... as you say, those Ripper murders were never solved, and I don’t think he personally would have felt that that was his fault, but at the same time it’s a man who hasn’t been able to have a success in that area.
Drew: One of my favorite touches in this…
Hugo: It also says more about the times he lived in, I think…
Drew: Well, there’s that great goad that goes on between the two of you in that scene where you’re very aware of him and his history and he certainly pokes you back just as hard.
Hugo: Yeah, exactly.
Drew: One of my favorite touches in the movie is when you go to confront Emily Blunt and you’re sure that he’s in the shop. You hand her the newspaper and the newspaper is so matter-of-fact about “Werewolf on Rampage in London,” and there’s almost no acknowledgment that that’s kind of insane that there’s a werewolf running around.
Drew: It seems like in this world, people simply accept the supernatural and that’s almost an element of the age it’s set in, where people were still very in touch with superstition and science was still almost suspect. Was that part of what you guys were playing in, that it was very matter-of-fact?
Hugo: Well, I think that’s why setting it in that period was much better than setting it in the 1930’s. Visually you’re kind of in a much more interesting territory. And also you’re able to believe that in a village in England, the villagers could still believe in werewolves. There’s no electric lighting. You can kind of believe that maybe that sort of thing is going on. I think for Abberline, there’s no way he’s going to believe that. He can’t believe that. He’s a rational man. He’s a scientific man. He’s a detective. He’s a modern man if you like, and he, you know, just cannot believe that. But he has to believe it when he sees the transformation in front of his eyes, and at that point in the movie, they suddenly blow up into an extended chase sequence so there’s no time for Abberline to think or for the audience to really think about it. And by the time things have settled down again, yeah, the newspapers are out and the aim is just to catch this guy.
Drew: Certainly where the film leaves your character, there is a suggestion that were they ever to revisit this, you would be a big part of it.
Hugo: Yeah, he does get bitten on the neck, so the assumption would be that he’s in trouble. [laughs]
Drew: I find it’s such an arch world, and it’s such a difficult thing to set a tone particularly in horror or period horror, but all of you seem to be on very much the same page. Was this something that came from Joe? Was it something that came from a conversation between you as actors? How did you guys decide how you were going to play this type of material?
Hugo: Well, look, for me the tone is set in the script. It’s absolutely in the script. It’s very clear when an actor reads a script. You should be able to understand the tone of the film from what’s on the page. And I would say that was why we were all interested in doing it. We’d all read the same script. And that’s the most important thing. Now having said that, you can all think you’re making the same film from the same script and sometimes you’re not. But when Joe came on board around the same that I did and I had a talk with him, I specifically asked him about the tonal qualities of the film and what film we were trying to make. And things were a little bit up in the air at that stage because he had only just taken over from Mark Romanek, but he was definitely saying that he was making the same film as me. And it felt to me that Benicio and Emily and Anthony were as well. It wasn’t something that we had long conversations about, no. Joe would be responsible for maintaining that sense of foreboding, and in terms of the style, when you’ve got such great art department and incredible sets and costumes around you, you kind of don’t really need to do too much to feel like you’re there.
Drew: Well, I want to thank you for taking the time today, Mr. Weaving, and like I said it’s a thrill. I have really admired your work even before the “The Matrix” and “Lord of the Rings” and I’m happy with the way that Joe used you in this movie. I think it’s a really fun and sly performance.
Hugo: Thank you very much.
Like I said... short and sweet. "The Wolfman" is playing now in theaters everywhere, and if you want to read more about what Mr. Weaving had to say about the possibility of being in "The Hobbit," you should read my earlier piece.
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