This week Hugo Weaving has been doing press for Cloud Atlas (he plays an incredible villain - or more honestly, a string of them - in the movie) and he's been quite candid and open. I think everything he has said - which includes a statement that he doesn't want to reprise his Red Skull role - is pretty reasonable. It's not like he's putting out press releases; people are asking him questions and he's answering.
One question was about his work on the Transformers movies, where he plays the voice of Megatron. It turns out that Weaving ain't a fan:
"That’s a weird job for me because it honestly was a two-hour voice job, initially. I was doing a play and I actually didn’t have time, anyway. It was one of the only things I’ve ever done where I had no knowledge of it, I didn’t care about it, I didn’t think about it. They wanted me to do it. In one way, I regret that bit. I don’t regret doing it, but I very rarely do something if it’s meaningless. It was meaningless to me, honestly. I don’t mean that in any nasty way. I did it. It was a two-hour voice job, while I was doing other things. Of course, it’s a massive film that’s made masses of money. I just happened to be the voice of one of the iconic villainous characters. But, my link to that and to Michael Bay is so minimal. I have never met him. I was never on set. I’ve seen his face on Skype. I know nothing about him, really. I just went in and did it. I never read the script. I just have my lines, and I don’t know what they mean. That sounds absolutely pathetic! I’ve never done anything like that, in my life. It’s hard to say any more about it than that, really. "
Perfectly reasonable! That's way nicer than anything I've ever said about the Transformers movies. But it wound Michael Bay up, and he responded:
"Do you ever get sick of actors that make $15 million a picture, or even $200,000 for voiceover work that took a brisk one hour and 43 minutes to complete, and then complain about their jobs? With all the problems facing our world today, do these grumbling thespians really think people reading the news actually care about trivial complaints that their job wasn’t “artistic enough” or “fulfilling enough”? I guess The Hollywood Reporter thinks so.
What happened to people who had integrity, who did a job, got paid for their hard work, and just smiled afterward? Be happy you even have a job – let alone a job that pays you more than 98% of the people in America.
I have a wonderful idea for all those whiners: They can give their “unhappy job money” to a wonderful Elephant Rescue. It’s the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Africa. I will match the funds they donate.
[UPDATE: it seems as if this statement has been disappeared off of Bay's site. Too late, Mike!]
Okay, I agree that whining about being highly paid for almost no work is shitty. But Weaving isn't whining. He's explaining how he feels about it. "I don't regret doing it," he says. "I don't mean that in any nasty way," he says. He's simply talking about the line an actor must walk between being an artist and being an employee, between taking jobs for self-expression and taking jobs for the paycheck. Weaving obviously is at a point in his career where he's trying to move past the paycheck gigs, and good for him! He's a good actor, and he always puts his all into a role. He's great in Captain America: The First Avenger, and he apparently didn't even like making that movie!
I find this topic interesting, and when I interview actors I always try to talk about that delicate balance they must walk as artists and cogs in the Hollywood machine. As an interviewer the worst thing is when a subject gives a boring, safe, untrue answer ("I really enjoyed the work, and I think Michael Bay's a nice guy!"), and I crave honesty like this. I think Michael Bay is being an incredibly whiny brat here, being unable to take any criticism, however minor. Does this guy actually think the Transformers movies are good?
Upside: don't expect Weaving back for Transformers 4. Megatron will be getting a new voicebox. (Yes, I know he died, but give me a fucking break with that)