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This guy Johann Schmidt aka Red Skull is right out there, an outrageous villain, Hugo Weaving tells Andrew L. Urban.

It’s indicative of Johann Schmidt, the super villain that Hugo Weaving plays in Captain America: The First Avenger, that there was a line in the original script that had him saying, “something along the lines of ‘Hitler is a pussy!’ – so it was a great challenge to play him,” says Weaving. “This guy is right out there.”

Speaking on the eve of his departure for Washington with the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Uncle Vanya, and recently returned from his latest stint as Elrond on the set of Peter Jackson’s new two part epic adaptation of The Hobbit in New Zealand, Weaving is enjoying the variety.

"so physically extreme and so outrageous"

Johann Schmidt certainly is an extreme villain, intent on not only ruling the world but doing so with extreme prejudice. “I was interested in him,” Weaving adds, “because he is so physically extreme and so outrageous.” This Schmidt is even nastier than his Agent Smith in The Matrix films.

Schmidt is physically extreme at the best of times, thanks to great make up and wardrobe, but when in the third act of the film we discover why he is also known as Red Skull, we are left searching for adjectives to describe just how extreme.

“We tried all sorts of different styles for Red Skull,” recalls Weaving. One of the biggest challenges, he says, was “how to work out the irrigation problems,” referring to the copious amounts of sweat generated under the prosthetics, which had nowhere to go. “I couldn’t hear very well through the prosthetics so they put a few holes in the ear, so if I tilted my head the seat poured out.”

"a unique blend of disfigured yet recognisable skull-like face, without the flesh of the nose"

The result is a unique blend of disfigured yet recognisable skull-like face, without the flesh of the nose, just the bones jutting out sharply. The noseless look seems to be the latest identifier of evil, also favoured by Harry Potter’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort. 

Weaving got friendly with the prosthetics team, where he would spend four hours in the morning to be transformed into Red Skull. “But it wasn’t every day,” he adds stoically.

He also had to “learn to be patient … it’s so mammoth this project and there were so many people, communication wasn’t as good as on a smaller set. But I like to push myself into different working structures and it’s good to take up a challenge and I learnt a lot about my craft.”

When he was first approached to play the role, Weaving was unsure whether he wanted to do it. “Then I read the script, liked the tone and I thought it would be fun to see. It also helped that I knew some of the team, having worked with director Joe Johnston, director of photography Shelly Johnson and production designer Rick Heinrichs on Wolfman.”

"adapted from the Marvel comic"

The film is adapted from the Marvel comic and also stars Chris Evans as Captain America, with Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell and Dominic Cooper. (In cinemas from July 28)

Published July 28, 2011

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Hugo Weaving as Red Skull


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