“When you’re promoting a film it’s really interesting trying to gauge what people think about it,” says Guy Pearce with a grin. “It’s terrible if the film’s crap because you’re just sitting there going: “Christ!”” Fortunately for Pearce and for us, his new film Lockout is a lot of fun – a knockabout romp through a space prison with Pearce as the swaggering action hero who barely notices a punch to the face. As Pearce admits (and anyone who’s sat through Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories would agree), he’s made the odd cinematic mistake but when he’s good, he’s extraordinary. From LA Confidential to Memento and The Proposition, not to mention cameos in The Hurt Locker and The Road, Pearce has racked up appearances in unmissable films without ever quite assuming the arrogance of superstardom. Indeed, when we meet him at the Corinthia Hotel in central London, a short walk from the Thames, he couldn’t be further from the macho archetype he’s just played onscreen. Wearing thick-rimmed Dita’s New Yorker glasses and sinking back in his chair with legs crossed, the 44-year-old Australian shares his excitement about being able to inhabit the imagined worlds of Luc Besson and Ridley Scott, the fascinating dynamic created by John Hillcoat and Nick Cave and why he’d rather go cross-eyed than watch a film in 3D.
GQ: How was it playing an unreconstructed, chain-smoking, wise-cracking antihero?
Guy Pearce: It was great fun, but I wanted to make sure that there was a three-dimensional nature to the character. There are a couple of serious moments in the film where it’s important to see that he actually is a person with feelings, even if he spends most of his time trying to repress them. I say in the film something like, “Oh well, people die all the time.” He tries to bury his emotions. I think a lot of actors take on fun roles and then they’re lazy or flippant with them. I just can’t do that.
Was it a challenge to play such a physical role straight after the louche bounder you played inMildred Pierce?
Yeah – they were totally separate! I met the directors ofLockout when I was doing Mildred Pierce and they were nervous because I was so skinny. I didn’t really have the look that they wanted, but I assured them I could sort that out at the gym.
After seeing your sex scenes in Mildred Pierce, will you see Titanic 3D or have you seen quite enough of Kate Winslet naked?
Never enough of Kate Winslet naked, but certainly enough ofTitanic! [Laughs] I don’t enjoy movies in 3D. I find I can’t engage with the story as well. I saw Hugo in 3D and I ended up taking the glasses off and watching it slightly cross-eyed, because at least I felt the effects weren’t hindering me. I probably shouldn’t be saying that because Prometheus is in 3D! I had no control over that.
When you were approached about Prometheus did you realise that the majority of your role would become a YouTube TED Talk?
It was great! To know that we were doing it purely for the back-story of the film was really interesting. It was kind of hard work because it was a fairly long speech that I had to give. It was a lot to learn, longer than the finished product which has been released. It’s almost disappointing, because you have a little moment of: “What? I learned so much and you cut it out!”
Your next film Lawless reunites you with The Proposition and The Road director John Hillcoat…
John’s such a lovely director to work with. He’s a wonderful human being and a really artistic guy. He’s very generous and extremely honest about what he’s capable of and what he isn’t. I’ve seen a rough cut of Lawless already and it’s fabulous. Nick Cave adapted the book, so again it has the real flavour that those two create. Their dynamic is fascinating.
Were you already a Nick Cave fan before you made The Proposition?
I’m a big fan of his music and The Proposition is my favourite of all the films I’ve done. It was intense but it was enjoyable as well. You can’t help but feel moved by spending so long working in that Aboriginal landscape in such a spiritual part of the world. The heat in that remote desert just made the whole thing really weird and unusual.
Originally published in British GQ.