Ben Lawrence’s feature film debut Hearts and Bones is about to hit VOD May 6th which stars Hugo Weaving who needs no real introduction. We were lucky enough to get to chat to him about the film plus a few other tidbits – you will figure out pretty quick he loves to give long answers so for me it was great to sit back and just listen.
I was lucky enough to see Hearts and Bones at CinefestOZ last year and thought it was a great film you can also check out Phil’s review here.
A war photographer has just returned home to prepare for his latest exhibition when a South Sudanese refugee appears at his door with a request – that he not exhibit any photographs of the massacre in his village, taken 15 years earlier. What emerges is an unlikely friendship between the two men. While sifting through the photographer’s archive, they make a startling discovery – the refugee’s daughter, thought dead, may still be alive. As more revelations arise, both men begin to question their past and in their search, they discover salvation.
Hearts and Bones will be available to rent May 6th via iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Sony Playstation, Telstra & Fetch TV before being released on DVD from June 3.
Hit the play button below to listen.
Full Transcript below.
Accessreel.com – Firstly, how are you going? You were supposed to be on stage in London till mid May in The Visit – obviously it got cancelled and you came home?
Well, I’m good. Actually. I would be here. It’s funny. I was performing in London and then we were to have a month break. Actually. It was just the nature of the theatre. At the National Theatre in London, that’s such a huge theatre company that they still work in a sort of repertory way. So we had Fall break. I would have been flying back out to London probably tomorrow, to start again on Monday. But that’s not to be and we closed three or four weeks before we would have done. Before the break. Anyways, we ended up having ten previews and then three weeks of performance, so we weren’t entirely robbed and the show was sold out and it was a great thing.
A great joy to work on that particular script with that cast and at that theatre. So I didn’t feel too robbed, really, just very lucky to have had the opportunity to do it, but also to by the time we closed down, we just felt we shouldn’t be performing. And as soon as we shut, I just thought I shouldn’t be in London any longer because it just didn’t look good. And I thought, if I don’t get out now, I’m going to have trouble getting home. So, I came home and isolated, but I’m very well and very lucky. I feel very privileged to be in a country which is dealing with it relatively well. And also to be in a place where I can isolate.
I’ll be locked down with family and I’m not lonely. I’m very good at reading and watching films and talking on the phone and thinking about things. I’m fairly introverted anyway, so personally I feel very lucky, we grow a lot of vegetables up here. We’ve been planting trees and swimming in the river. But I feel very new, I feel very privileged. I’m very aware of how lucky I am compared to so many people in crowded cities, in hotspots in the world, who are really suffering.
Accessreel.com – Before we jump into Hearts and Bones, how do you find being on stage to being behind the camera?
They’re very different. It’s a very, very different process building up to a performance on stage. I love working on a great script with a team of people, other actors, director, designers. I just love it. It’s a wonderful collaborative exercise to create a whole world for an audience that you dip into every night and tell a story. It’s a great holistic workout. My brain gets well worked out in rehearsal; during performance, your spirit, your body feel like you’ve run a marathon.
You’re emotionally worked out and so in every way it’s a great fitness routine as well as being incredibly stimulating and energising. So I love theatre, films I love too, but for very different reasons. Again, I love working on a particular script on the words and ideas and telling a story. They’re both telling a story to an audience. The audience is different and the way in which you tell the story is different, but it’s essentially the same thing and you’re an actor in both media – but the way in which you tell that story as a character or as yourself is necessarily going to be a bit different. It’s captured in a different way. One is live, one is captured on film, so either way you’re still performing, whether it’s in front of the camera or on stage, it’s just how you perform is going to be different and it depends on the style of the piece you’re doing and the way in which you’re going to be telling the story is going to be different.
So I love the challenges of both of them and I love working with people. I’m very happy to be on my own and I do need my own space, but I like the society and companionship and camaraderie as well, so I feel really blessed to be in the profession I’m in.
Accessreel.com – Onto Hearts and Bones, I was one of the lucky people who got to see Hearts and Bones at CinefestOZ last year and I also got to see Measure for Measure as well, so it was a Hugo Weaving double header, both films fantastic. This is Ben Lawrence’s first dramatic feature – is there’s something about working with newer filmmakers that makes the experience different for you as an actor, or is it still much the same?
I think working with any filmmaker is a different experience, whether they’re first-time filmmakers or experienced filmmakers, they still have a different way of thinking and it’s like meeting a new person you get to get to know what your shared language is, how to talk to each other and how to read each other’s conversation and how to read each other’s visual signals, so getting to know any director first-time or experienced – its always exciting. Sometimes there are things that you don’t realise and ah, it’s too late. I didn’t know that. That’s what you meant. Right? So, sometimes working with some a director, the second time round is, you know, I’ve done that a lot in theatre and from there you go, ah, I’m great to be working with you again. Now we know this and we can put, you know, we can sort of just move on from there. So working with a friend or working with an old face is good. I suppose having seen his film Ghost Hunter, it was a real key for me and also having read the script. So he’s a writer, he’s a director already and I see his work and he comes from a pretty great pedigree. His dad was such an extraordinary filmmaker and somehow with that upbringing with his with his mum being a social worker and his psychologist granddad. I think a really interesting background.
Accessreel.com – What drew you to Dan Fisher, it’s a wonderful character, theres a lot of elements to it. The film tackles some rather heavy subjects, was that what drew you to the character?
When I read the script and I knew that Ben was interested in male trauma from having seen Ghost Hunter and I knew he was interested in contemporary Australia from having seen his documentary. I knew he had a particular lens on this, but I have to be drawn to a script as a whole. If there’s a great character for me in a script that doesn’t work, I won’t do it. For me saying yes to something, the whole thing has to feel right.
So I was always drawn to the script because it was dealing with morally complex issues and they weren’t easy answers and it wasn’t neatly tied up, but it was ultimately an uplifting and very sensitive portrait of two couples in contemporary Sydney and I loved that suburban setting for it. I love the fact that there’s two men in there. Yes, we’re dealing with trauma and yes, we are dealing with heavy trauma that has affected both of these men, but they’re going about their lives. They’re doing their jobs, they’re trying to deal with them.
So they’re like all of us in a way that, you know, we all have buried difficulties and problems and tragedies and trauma that we overcome each day and that’s what interested me that it was a humanist, complex psychological drama and it takes place now, in Sydney, in suburbia and yet these people are trying to bring up kids, trying to make homes, so I love that setting and I love that gentle, true documentary eye on these four people and on the people who live with them and around them, as a way of looking at serious world issues to do with the nature of truth, the nature of the image, refugees, multiculturalism, PTSD, trauma, and world conflict. All of those issues are in there, but they’re not dealt with in an overly dramatic way. We don’t have car crashes and yes, there’s an explosion at the very beginning, we’re not really seeing that side of it, we’re seeing it from the perspective of the people talking and people in pain, but in a suburban setting. So I love that. I love that about it. And I think that’s actually the thing that people respond to with this film. So we’ve had great screenings with packed houses and great Q and A’s I think it’s something that people really embrace.
Accessreel.com – You’re working with Andrew Luri who’s a first time actor. Did you sort of help him and guide him a bit?
Oh, no it was a very collaborative place we were working from, he had a lot to offer us and lots of teach us a lot to tell us stories to tell us and, but his own experience, which will really critical to our understanding the nature of that particular trauma that his character was going through because, you know, he’s been to literally similar places, so I learned a great deal from Andrew. Look, if I’m not learning from people, I’m not so interested in doing what I’m doing. I love learning. I loved being at school actually, you know? So I love learning more than anything. So it was a real treat and a great pleasure to me to work with Andrew and what he reminded me of and what he taught me about acting.
Actually, I’m always learning about my own craft and obviously he learned things from me about acting and about storytelling. Nico (Lathouris) a wonderful actor and acting teacher was on board this and Nico plays the neighbor, the guy who sticks his head over the fence, so Nico was engaged by Ben Lawrence to work with Andrew for some time, three or four weeks prior to rehearsals, just to help him develop a way of reading the script, reading the character, putting things in his own words, putting that experience in his own words, allowing his own experience to come through into the character and not just learning lines. You know them coming out of his mouth, like they had no connection to his feelings, so Nico spent a lot of time and Ben did, too. Ben knew that Andrew was his man, but obviously some work for Andrew to just to feel comfortable that he could do this thing. So Ben was critical in instilling the confidence in Andrew and I think I was excited about working with Andrew and we got on very well. So I think he gained confidence from working with me because you could see that. I enjoyed working with him too, and I’m pretty sure there’s a mutually beneficial process for him.
Accessreel.com – How do you pick roles? I’m sure there’s no shortage of big blockbuster offers.
Ah, look first and foremost I live in this country. I went to drama school in this country and although I love traveling, I’ve always traveled all my life and I’m really interested in continuing to travel even though no one’s traveling at the moment. Well, my primary focus has always been to work in this country whether it’s on stage or film. Yes, I’ve done stage overseas. Yes, I’ve worked on films overseas, but primarily the majority of my work is going to be here and that’s by choice. I’m more interested in the country I live in and the particular culture in which I live is fascinating to me. That culture involves the landscape and you know, the jokes and the storytelling, who we are, that’s what that’s like. I don’t know why I wouldn’t want to do that more than anything else.
That’s really the simple answer to your question but then every now and then there’s something really different and which comes out of the blue like something like The Matrix when it first came out was so left of centre and it was so different and it was a big studio piece, but they were first, well second-time filmmakers and they were young and they were really different. It was really quite revolutionary what they were doing and then even things like working with Marvel, with Captain America. First up it wasn’t something I would have gone, yes, I want to do a superhero film playing the Uber villain, but then I read it and it was so preposterous this character and I thought that the piece had such a retro, slightly comedic sensibility to it, I thought it would be fun to see and I actually think it is a really good Marvel film.There’s something about that ‘forties aesthetic, which is kind of interesting, but it doesn’t mean I would want to go back and do that again, but I think the opportunities that occasionally come my way, are like, well, why wouldn’t I go and work at the National Theatre? I’m so lucky to get that offer, you know? It’s a great role I’d just been playing or, in Cloud Atlas you know, with the Wachowskis who did The Matrix, you think well, there’s five roles for me in one film and it’s the greatest book. I love the book and so I’m very lucky to get the role.
Accessreel.com – I’m a fan of movie props and all that sort of stuff, have you ever kept anything from any of your films, like props or wardrobe or anything like that?
Yeah, I have been gifted a few pretty special things. My favourite possession is the mask from V for Vendetta. There were actually four different ones in the film, it was a hero mask one, hero mask two and there was a mask that they made which had bullet holes on it.
So there were a number of different ones I wore for different scenes, but the hero mask two I have and it’s the most beautiful mask and it’s also iconic; it’s a really iconic thing these days, because of how many protests with Anonymous there been all over the world. How many protests are there where that Guy Fawkes, V for Vendetta mask is? You know… So, I love that it sits in my study, just up amongst all my books.