With a face reminiscent of a Modigliani portrait, Hugo Weaving is not obvious leading-man material, at least not by Hollywood's superficial standards. Still, his sharp features, which include a high, intelligent forehead and piercing blue eyes framed by a pair of unsettling brows, have been an indelible, if supporting, part of two enormous film franchises—The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogies—while just his resonant voice, with its ominous smoothness, has enlivened several CGI creations, including the killer alien robot Megatron in the Transformers movies. The closing months of 2012 mark a couple of returns for Weaving. First, with the recently released Cloud Atlas, he has again immersed himself in the imaginings of Matrix directors Lana and Andy Wachowski. And in December, he treks back to Middle Earth to resume his reign as Elrond, the half-elven Lord of Rivendell, as Peter Jackson begins his attempt to spin Tolkien's modest prequel The Hobbit into three more crowd-pleasing epics.
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Like many pragmatic foreign actors before him, Weaving, a Nigerian-born veteran of Australian cinema, has leveraged his talents into Hollywood semi-fame and fortune with roles of questionable artistic credibility. His turns as the eloquent vigilante in V for Vendetta and as the comic-book baddie Red Skull in Captain America certainly wouldn't seem to require the gifts of a graduate of Australia's renowned National Institute of Dramatic Art. In Vendetta, Weaving's wonderfully expressive mug is concealed by the now-ubiquitous Guy Fawkes mask, while for Captain America, it is buried in layers of scary silicone. But these characters actually show Weaving in his sweet spot: using his emotional intelligence and striking mannerisms to create unforgettable villains and anti-heroes.