Marvel Cinematic Universe profile: A look at Hugo Weaving’s career

BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 16: Hugo Weaving poses at the 'Black 47' photo call during the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 16, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 16: Hugo Weaving poses at the 'Black 47' photo call during the 68th Berlinale International Film Festival Berlin at Grand Hyatt Hotel on February 16, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images) /

Hugo Weaving portrays Captain America’s first adversary, Johann Schmidt a.k.a Red Skull, in Captain America: The First Avenger.

Captain America: The First Avenger was set up as a classic wartime adventure story, and therefore the narrative required a decisively evil villain to go up against the superhero who represents pure good. Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull is the antithesis of Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers. Weaving approaches the role as a straightforwardly malicious character with his singular purpose, lack of moral complexity, and unshakable misanthropy.

Although Weaving isn’t tasked to flesh out the part the way Tom Hiddleston is with Loki, and Red Skull’s motives are not intricate or profound, like Killmonger or Thanos, Weaving remains committed to an antagonist that fits the era, tone, and genre of The First Avenger. This is not Oskar Schindler imbuing Amon Goth with ideological perspective, this is Captain America punching Red Skull in the face. But even film buffs can appreciate the effort it took for Weaving to perfect his German accent and consistently convey fascistic dialogue and mannerisms.

Red Skull set a precedence of malevolence that would have ramifications throughout many sections of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as Hydra endures and threatens democracy, either through clandestine operations or through ostentatious conflict. When Red Skull makes his return years later in Avengers: Infinity War (followed shortly by Avengers: Endgame), the once megalomaniacal adversary is now a tranquil guide on Vormir, and Hugo Weaving unfortunately does not reprise the role. The villain is now in the hands of character actor Ross Marquand, who is known for doing impressions. As he is in full makeup for these scenes, the transition is practically unnoticeable.

Hugo Weaving is a celebrated British actor who earned modest praise in Australian cinema in the late 1980s/early 1990s. While it is clear that Weaving was working his way up the ranks in some of his early movies, like with the Ned Kelly spoof, Reckless Kelly, his talents are undeniable in movies such as Proof and The Adventures of Priscilla. In the former, his blind photographer has wonderfully touching scenes opposite a young Russell Crowe and in the latter his effortless exuberance surprises and delights audiences when the small-budget production took off at the box office.

Both Hugo Weaving and fellow MCU actor Guy Pearce can credit The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert with lifting their careers to the next level. While Weaving followed that success up with voicing farmer Hoggett’s dog in the global hit Babe, he also stayed close to his roots by leading the suspenseful Australian film The Interview, a movie that Weaving dexterously carries from beginning to end as a rigidly interrogated murder suspect.

Around the turn of the century, Hugo Weaving’s face would be recognized by most movie watchers in the world by becoming a member of two of the most popular trilogies – The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. In The Matrix trilogy, Weaving plugged into a steely and calculating Agent Smith, essentially embodying a computer firewall. The moments that most reveal his acting tactfulness are when Smith slightly breaks from his programming into a more humanized villain, like in the first film when he removes his glasses to probe Morpheus.

He portrays Lord Elrond in The Lord of the Rings, and again in The Hobbit trilogy a decade later. His majestic qualities are on full display as the Elven ruler of Rivendell. He wields a commanding voice and conveys wisdom with his gazes; he does more with his eyebrows than some of his peers can accomplish with their entire face. His piercing glances are trademarkable and are specifically impressive during the momentous Council of Elrond sequence in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Before entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hugo Weaving maintained his prominence by starring in V For Vendetta; behind his Guy Fawkes mask is mesmerizing speechifying and body language. Then in Last Ride he offered a striking depiction of a damaged father yearning to connect with his son. And finally, in Oranges and Sunshine he gave an emotionally delicate performance as a man with a fractured past.

Among his successes, some of his movies did miss the mark, such as The Wolfman and The Mule, although he still managed to leave a positive impression in adequate cinematic efforts like Strangerland and The Dressmaker. Cloud Atlas was particularly divisive; a Wachowskis sci-fi adaptation that proved overly ambitious as the plot could be cumbersome for most viewers to wrap their heads around. Still Hugo Weaving joined a cast that had the opportunity to tackle multiple characters – he played six people spanning a 500-year timeline.

Hugo Weaving’s Top 10 Movie Roles

1. Tom Doss in Hacksaw Ridge
2. Kev in Last Ride
3. Elrond in the Middle Earth series
4. Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy
5. Mitzi in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
6. Martin in Proof
7. Jack in Oranges and Sunshine
8. Red Skull/Johann Schmidt in Captain America: The First Avenger
9. V in V for Vendetta
10. Eddie Rodney Fleming in The Interview

Hugo Weaving’s most affecting turn is in Mel Gibson’s war drama Hacksaw Ridge. It is easily his most layered work – as a war veteran with a tortured soul, he was at times an abusive drunk and then a caring family man. Weaving was not called into the MCU to perform at that level, but he was a great choice to play an authoritative, power-obsessed antagonist. For now, Red Skull is still one of the best roles of his career.

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At this point it seems unlikely that Hugo Weaving will ever return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Would you like to see him reprise his Red Skull or has his window of opportunity passed? Let us know in the comments below.