By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Guy Pearce is mostly known for playing cerebral or flamboyant characters in films like “Memento,” “L.A. Confidential” and “Factory Girl,” where he played avant garde artist Andy Warhol.
The Aussie performer relishes the opportunity to surprise—“The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” and “Bedtime Stories,” anyone?—as well.
The 44-year-old has a starring role in the highly anticipated summer science-fiction adventure “Prometheus,” hitting theaters June 8. For Pearce fans who can’t wait that long, the actor packed on the muscle for his first action hero role in “Lockout,” conceived and produced by French filmmaker Luc Besson (“Leon: The Professional,” “The Transporter” films). He plays a convicted felon who is sent to a prison space colony to make a daring rescue the President’s daughter (played by “Lost’s” Maggie Grace) following an inmate uprising and ensuing hostage situation on the outpost. His character, known only by the single moniker Snow, is reminiscent of classic Hollywood heroes like Bruce Willis’ John McClane and Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo.
Front Row Features: You really buffed up for this. How did you to get into shape?
Pearce: A had a serious workout in a Belgrade (Serbia) gym. I used to work out in the gym a lot when I was younger. I was a competitive bodybuilder when I was 16. The gym’s quite familiar to me and I know what I’m doing there so it was really just about consuming a lot of protein and buffing up as much as I could, which stopped the day we finished shooting. (He laughs.) It was good to feel strong and feel like I was in shape even though I kept injuring myself every week. It became quite a bit of a joke between the crew and me. (They’d say) “Oh, what’s he done this time?”
Front Row Features: What did you enjoy most about this project?
Pearce: The character. Normally, the kinds of actors who play these characters are like that in real life. For me, to step into a character like this, rather than another go of being myself, is fun. Even though (Snow) has a difficult time of what he’s experiencing, he also takes the mickey out of what’s going on around him, and I sort of enjoyed that.
Front Row Features: Had you always wanted to play an action hero?
Pearce: Not especially. I never think about roles I want to do. I met with (producer) Luc Besson just before I was going off to do “Mildred Pierce.” When I met with the directors (James Mather and Stephen St. Leger), they said, “He’s a bit skinny, isn’t he?” I promised to buff up. I just enjoyed where the character was coming from and I thought it was a nice change of pace from “The King’s Speech” and roles like that.
Front Row Features: What did you make of your character?
Pearce: He has reached a point in his life where he’s done this (impossible rescue mission) many times before. He’s sick of being beaten up and sick of leading this life and probably sick of being misogynistic. It was nice to work with Maggie (Grace) who has a mature air about her. She was able to put him my character in his place. He’s a bit of a smart aleck.
Front Row Features: Do you think your character’s misogynistic?
Pearce: I think he loves women but I think he’s quite immature, so he doesn’t know the best way to handle them. At the same time, there also are hints at how good he is at what he does. Ultimately, he comes from a particular world where things have to be done in a particular way, and it’s brutal, and that’s all there is to it so I can justify it in that way.
Front Row Features: Your co-star Maggie Grace said she felt isolated while on location in Serbia in late 2010. What was your experience like?
Pearce: I had a driver who was insistent on taking me around and showing me (the capital) Belgrade, which was great to do even though I may have wanted to do something else. It’s a fascinating place and it has a tumultuous history. I thought the people were fantastic there because obviously they’re out for a good time. When you live in a war-torn country you want to have as much fun as you can in between bombs going off. I generally love Eastern Europe anyway. There’s an artistic, intellectual and psychological view of the world that I find alive and engaging.
Front Row Features: What did you do during your down time?
Pearce: I didn’t have a lot of down time because I was in most of the scenes. When I wasn’t working, I was at the gym. (He laughs.) Maggie had bigger chunks of time where she wasn’t working than I did. I had maybe half a day or a day (free) whereas Maggie had periods of six or seven days when she wasn’t working. That becomes difficult. I never experienced that. Funny enough, I was more isolated than everyone else on the production because they all stayed in the same hotel in the new part of town, and I stayed in the old town in an apartment. It was fantastic. I had my guitar with me so if I had any free time I would play if I wasn’t too bruised. I had a nice time there.
Front Row Features: Do you plan to do any recording of your music?
Pearce: I do record but I don’t do anything with it. One day I’ll release six million albums. (He laughs.) I don’t want to turn it into a profession but as a creative outlet it’s great to finish things. Putting it out there publicly is a way to do that. Otherwise, I keep going back to the songs and keep tinkering and doing things with them. On some level, that’s not healthy creatively. I need to set up a website and dump all my music on there. If anyone wants to donate some money, it can go to a charity.
Front Row Features: What did you like about the role?
Pearce: I like a variety of things so I’m interested in finding things I haven’t done before if possible. I might choose something now that I wouldn’t have (chosen) a year ago, based on what I’ve done recently as well. It has to feel honest. I need to feel like it’s got this life and kind of bubbles along. I don’t look for certain characters. There’s not an ideal character I’d like to play. And it changes at times. Someone asked me the other day why I made “Bedtime Stories,” the Adam Sandler movie. Right before then, I’d done a film about a massacre at a café, another film about a girl being murdered in Australia, “The Hurt Locker” and a movie about terrorism, so when (director) Adam Shankman rang me and said, “Would you like to be in this crazy comedy with Adam Sandler?” I said, “Yes!” You work based on your emotional responses to things.
Front Row Features: What can you say about “Prometheus?” Do you feel pressure playing a character named Peter Weyland? (The “Alien” movies have references to the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, which runs the human colonies in that fictional universe.)
Pearce: I do on some level. There’s an extra weight added to that movie because everybody has such an expectation. It’s an interesting because there’s a lot of discussion going on about what we can say and can’t say. It keeps changing so I’m reluctant to talk about it because none of that is established yet. But it’s an interesting thing to be part of because of (director) Ridley (Scott) and his history with (“Alien”). It’s a big base to be attached to and I’m very curious to see it because I’ve only seen little bits, which look amazing. All I can say is that it’s a stand-alone movie. There are some characters that run through from that but it’s not an “Alien” prequel.
Front Row Features: Are you interested in other sci-fi or action roles?
Pearce: Not necessarily. I don’t know what you’d say is the typical film I’ve done. I guess psychological dramas if you look at “L.A. Confidential” or “Memento.” I’ve just done John Hillcoat’s film, which is now called “Lawless,” it was “The Wettest County,” but that’s a very different film. It’s a harrowing story of these three young brothers trying to make money out of selling illegal alcohol and the various people who come into their lives that try to stop them, and (my character) is one of them.
Front Row Features: When do you go home?
Pearce I’m taking six months off at the moment. I’m just trying to enjoy Melbourne.
Front Row Features: What sense do you have of the legacy of “Memento” 12 years out?
Pearce: It’s a film people respond to in the way they always have. People come up to me and say they’re studying “Memento” in film school and I’m constantly being made aware of the importance of a film like that. It stands up. It’s interesting making films and seeing the life they have in the subsequent years and which ones stand up over time, like “L.A. Confidential,” “Memento” and “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.”