|The New York Post
March 8, 2001
He's Good at
ACTOR Hugo Weaving chuckles at the suggestion that his presence in New York City yesterday made him a prime kidnapping target for fanatical Webheads.But it's not too far from the truth. The 40-year-old Aussie is currently involved in filming two of the most eagerly anticipated productions of all time - the epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the two "Matrix" sequels.
Fans are so zealous they track the minutiae of filming progress and feverishly leap on every leak about both closely guarded productions. There have even been at least four arrests, after photos and documents were stolen from the "Lord of the Rings" set.
"People are complete freaks about Lord of the Rings,'" Weaving says. "Some scripts were even stolen and posted on the Internet, but the scripts were changed quite a lot.
"There's not much you can say about Lord of the Rings' in terms of its story that's not known already because of the novels. They are still very secretive about the scripts in one way."
There's even more secrecy surrounding "The Matrix." Weaving reveals that each page of the scripts, printed on paper that cannot be photocopied, has the cast or crew member's name splashed across the middle of it so it can be traced.
Though filming begins in just three weeks, "even actors who've signed on haven't got their scripts yet," Weaving says. "They know they're playing such-and-such a role, but they don't know anything about it!
"I guess with a lot of money at stake, it's fair enough, but I also think it's a little bit over-the-top."
Weaving was in town to promote "Russian Doll," the shoestring-budget Australian film he made in 1999 with his longtime friend and collaborator Stavros Kazantzidis, which will open April 6.
Threatening to overshadow his pet project are "The Matrix" sequels and Peter Jackson's epic "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - all three of which are being shot simultaneously in New Zealand.
"The Fellowship of the Rings," the first of the three films in the trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkein's classic sword-and-sorcery novels, doesn't hit theaters until Dec. 19.
But Internet buzz surrounding the film is unrivaled, with New Line Cinema's official movie site (www.lordoftherings.net) logging a staggering 62 million hits when it first opened in May 1999.
Having just wrapped filming his part as the elf Lord Elrond, Weaving is set to launch straight into back-to-back shooting on the two "Matrix" sequels - a commitment that will take him through to August 2002.
Filming begins in three weeks in San Francisco, before moving to Fox's Sydney studios.
Looking buff after four months of daily kung-fu training with master choreographer Woo-Ping Yuen and his "Matrix" co-stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne, Weaving is keen to reprise his role as the menacing villain Agent Smith.
"It's so much fun to play a villain with a sense of humor," he says.
So what secrets can he dish about the much-speculated-about plot? The answer, predictably, is none.
"The brothers [Matrix' directors Larry and Andy Wachowski] would be very, very, very angry," he says.
"Look, the plot develops in a really fantastic, really interesting way. But I honestly can't tell you anything more than that."
A consummate chameleon, who shot to international fame as a drag queen in 1994's "Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," Weaving never envisioned himself where he is today, working back-to-back on two of the biggest productions of the early millennium.
"I never imagined I'd be one day working on films like these," he says.
"I find the nature of big-budget film-making an antithesis to what an actor would really love to do which is to actually act - you do end up sitting around an awful lot."