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Hugo Weaving, 2020
Photograph: Gareth Cattermole

Hugo Weaving on ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Matrix’ and his new stage role

The Aussie acting legend on dark new National Theatre drama ‘The Visit’ and why Elrond is ‘just a clothes horse’

By Andrzej Lukowski

Famous for iconic roles in ‘The Matrix’, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and more, Hugo Weaving is also a renowned stage actor back home in Australia. He makes his National Theatre debut in Tony Kushner’s new version of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s ‘The Visit’. In it, Lesley Manville’s wealthy Clara returns to her depressed hometown with a proposition: she’ll turn its fortunes around if the townsfolk kill her ex, Weaving’s Albert.

How did you end up doing this play?

‘I don’t know! A play a year in Sydney is usually enough for me. But I read it and loved it and the window was there and against all my normal judgement I did it and I’m very happy I have.’

Who is Albert? Does he actually deserve to die?

‘He’s just an ordinary guy really, and as a young man he and Clara had an extraordinary instinctive animal passionate togetherness. But then she became pregnant, and he freaked out and denied paternity. He knows he’s done something shitty and lived with the pain of it, and that’s kind of punishment enough. But he doesn’t understand how much he destroyed her, and how much what she has become is
a reaction to those events.’

‘The Visit’ paints a disturbing view of democracy’s limits – is it pure fantasy?

‘This stuff happens all the time! The idea of a common good necessarily means that society is going to abandon particular individuals. This play takes that idea to its logical conclusion.’

Some would argue democracy has failed Australia with regards to your government’s climate-change policy and the current bushfire season…

‘It’s deeply disturbing. Our prime minister walked into parliament with a lump of coal saying “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” I couldn’t believe that we elected these people again, they’re the most illegitimate bunch of losers that we’ve ever had. They didn’t deserve to be in power, but they got back in. It’s a tragic, appalling, I would say criminal, government.’

You’ve been in some very successful films… did they change your life?

‘Not really. It’s funny. For me, they were pretty anomalous. I really loved them, particularly working with the Wachowskis on the “Matrix” films. But I’ve got a pretty healthy sense of insecurity so I don’t feel like my life’s changed, no!’

Did it impact your kids, growing up with Elrond as a dad?

‘I was always just “dad”. And I didn’t work much abroad when they were at school. I only needed to fly out to New Zealand for a couple of weeks here and there. Elrond’s just a clothes horse, really; mostly he was there for exposition.’

‘The Visit’ is at the National Theatre, Olivier. Until May 13.

Hugo Weaving on not doing the ‘Avengers’ or ‘Matrix 4’.

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