LOS ANGELES - Look at the cast lists for many of the big-budget films released in the 21st century and you would probably find Hugo Weaving's name.
Since playing the cold Agent Smith in "The Matrix" trilogy, he's been part of the trilogies for "The Lord of the Rings," "Transformers" and "The Hobbit," plus other blockbusters like "Captain America: The First Avenger," "V for Vendetta" and the new "Cloud Atlas."
While it seems like a zillion-dollar movie can't be made without Weaving, the Australian actor says that those roles are really more of the exception to what you'll find on his resume. Weaving is drawn to small-budget movies with more complex characters to play.
One such small film is "The Last Ride," which was just released on DVD. It is the story of a fugitive from the law who kidnaps his 10-year-old son and takes him into the Australian Outback. This is a film that relies less on explosions and big battles and more on the emotional conflict between father and son.
"'The Last Ride' is an example of a film that is really interesting and visually arresting that often doesn't get an audience," Weaving says. "I've always believed in doing what interests me and what excites me, but I also believe in trying to stretch myself and have a variety of work."
Weaving was content to do small films but was drawn into the mega-movie world by invitation. The directing Wachowski siblings contacted Weaving's agent about "The Matrix" after seeing his work in the small-budget movies "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and "Proof." That was the first of many Wachowski films - including "Cloud Atlas" - on which Weaving has worked.
Starring in "Cloud Atlas" threw an acting challenge at Weaving like none he's had before because the film - told as six stories blended together - looks at how a single story unfolds through a 500-year span, with characters meeting and reuniting through each reincarnated life.
Weaving approached the multiple demands of "Cloud Atlas" and the single story of "The Last Ride" in the same way.
"Anything I do, the challenge is to do as much preparation and be as focused as I can, and be as informed about the particular project and the psyche of the individual character you are playing," Weaving says. "Once that's there, you have to remain open and free to the impulses of the day coming from the other actors and the director."