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Hugo Weaving has portrayed a robot bent on world destruction, a neurotic drag queen, an evil computer program and a benevolent elf. Which was his favorite to play?
Let’s wait before revealing the answer, so we can first alert you to the fact that Weaving is in town at the Kennedy Center, starring alongside Cate Blanchett in the Sydney Theatre Company’s breathtaking production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Weaving plays Astrov, a grizzled, middle-aged doctor with whom Blanchett’s Sonya is in love.
Blanchett is a frequent collaborator of Weaving’s – he’s starred in several of her Sydney Theatre Company’s productions, as well as worked with her in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and again in the upcoming Hobbit prequels. “She’s a joy to work with,” he says of the actress.
Weaving – who gained a mass following for his arresting portrayal of the malevolent Agent Smith in the Wachowski’s “Matrix Trilogy” – is fondly remembered in the gay community as Tick, part of a trio of outback-traveling drag queens in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a film as enjoyable and resonant today as it was upon its release in 1994.
“It was certainly a turning point in my career from a point of view of acting,” says Weaving of the low-budget comedy, which also featured Terrence Stamp and Guy Pearce. “It was a really extraordinary experience being out in the desert for that long in drag. We had too much fun, actually. When we finished shooting, we were all depressed for about three months.” He recalls that director Stephan Elliot “originally wanted to cast drag queens and shoot it more like a roving camera on the road, but he couldn’t really rely on them to turn up every day.”
As a keepsake, Weaving was awarded a pair of earrings he wore in one of the film’s elaborately costumed musical numbers. “I don’t wear them too often,” he chuckles.
From Priscilla, Weaving landed roles in a number of Hollywood blockbusters, including The Matrix, Transformers (he’s the voice of Megatron in the franchise) and Jackson’s epic. This summer he was featured as the Red Skull in Captain America. “He’s an übervillain really,” laughs Weaving. “He’s a nasty, mad scientist who’s a megalomaniac.” Next up, Weaving will star opposite Tom Hanks in Cloud Atlas, the latest film from Andy and Lana Wachowski.
As for that favorite role? Robot, drag queen, computer program or elf?
“Of those four? Drag queen, definitely,” he says. “Very human. Problems. Conflicted. Theatrical. Exuberant. A nervous wreck. Much more interesting.
“Everyone has a drag queen inside them,” he adds. “And it’s a matter of finding the particular drag that suits you, that lives inside you.”
Uncle Vanya runs through Aug. 27 at The Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $59-$135. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.