TOAt the beginning of this century, Guy Pearce was very well seated. He had brushed off the foamy soap bubbles from Neighbors, where he was part of the original group of pin-ups, along with Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan, and was proving himself to be a versatile film actor, first as a sharp-clawed drag artist in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. , then as a jaw-clenched cop in LA Confidential.
Awaiting its release was the existential thriller Memento, directed by a promising youngster named Christopher Nolan. First, however, he heard rumors that Kenneth Turan, the LA Times film critic, had been singing his praises in a review of the military court drama Rules of Engagement.
“Some people said, ‘Wow, look what he’s written about you!’” Recalls the elegant 53-year-old with glasses when we spoke on Zoom. Turan called Pearce “much better” than his most esteemed co-stars, Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L Jackson, as well as “a master at reinventing himself for each new role.”
“I felt starting to get a little stubborn,” he smiles. “Paramount asked if I would like them to send me the other reviews they had. ‘Yes! Send them all! ‘”He says this with great flourish. “Then come these big fat binders, containing millions of reviews, and basically every one of them says, ‘Who? Guy pearce Do you think he’s trying to impersonate Al Pacino? It was a really interesting, really horrible experience. “And it taught him a lesson.” The prospect of the end result shouldn’t be what I’m looking for. Sure, I’d love to win a ton of Oscars, but it should be enough to be able to say: ‘ I know that’s good. ‘”
Sometimes you scan press coverage these days to get a general idea of how a movie of yours is received. If you take a cursory look at the reviews for his new futuristic movie, Zone 414, you’ll see two words popping up repeatedly: Blade Runner. This is a similar story of a haunting loner who ventures into a world of androids, with Pearce as a former cop hired to find a missing woman in a city populated by AI. Everything resembles a cut-price version of the Ridley Scott movie, down to the rain-soaked streets filled with neon and noodle shops, but Pearce himself is mesmerizing. On the other hand, it always is. He has the ability to solicit the audience’s empathy while holding his cards close to his chest.
Your character in Zone 414 is in trouble. “I wanted to play him as a guy who would love to sit down with a police psychologist and cry,” he says. “But there’s something too typically masculine about him, which means the easiest option for him was to shut those things down. I love when a character represses something. We are such a complex combination of impulses. We want to be hugged and at the same time, there is always someone we want to punch. The more people I talk to, the more I realize how complex we are. There’s an endless pool of great characters to play with. “
It’s this genuine curiosity that makes him one of the simplest, down-to-earth actors in the business – he wants to talk, because that’s where the material is. In his company, there is nothing that is sometimes required in interviews. That was true when met a little over a decade ago, before the release of The King’s Speech, in which he played the abdicator Edward VIII. At the time, Pearce admitted to having an addictive personality and told me that in his wildest days he had never been able to limit himself to just “a little bit of drugs.” This was all before I asked him a single question: he was simply explaining to me why he hadn’t ordered coffee.
It seems that nothing has changed since then, although his life has. In addition to winning an Emmy in 2011 (for playing Kate Winslet’s caddish lover in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce), she has released two albums of her own songs, starring in big movies (Iron Man 3, Prometheus) and small ones (The Rover, kind of a post-apocalyptic guy, Where’s My Car ?, where he teamed up with Robert Pattinson). No credit will be taken for any of them, not even for masterpieces like Memento.
“It’s really meaningful to be involved in something like that, which has become embedded in the culture,” he says. “I am honored and proud. But on another level, I have nothing to do with it. I was just the actor in it. “
He feels like a fraud when people praise him for his minor involvement in hits like The King’s Speech and the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker, which won the Oscar for best picture, or the recent HBO crime series Mare of Easttown. , which he found back in Winslet’s arms. “People have been congratulating me on Mare. I’m like, ‘Come on! I’m only in one scene per episode! ‘”
Unusually among actors of his status and caliber, Pearce tends not to come with a host of associations or a distinct personality. Any baggage present from one function to the next is strictly carry-on. Do you know why people chose it? “I often get letters from directors,” he says. “They tell me, ‘You always bring real intensity to a role. There is an intelligence behind the eyes, and you never have to do much for us to know what is going on. ‘
Where does it come from? “I think because of losing my dad when I was young. It means I have this kind of buzzing emotional story that I keep in check all the time. I’m doing my best in my personal life to relax, but the reality is that I’m moderating the intensity, and I think that’s probably something that translates on screen. “
He talks as casually about the death of his father, a New Zealand test pilot whose plane crashed when Pearce was eight, as he does about more recent events in his private life. In 2015, his wife, psychologist Kate Mestitz, left him after 18 years of marriage. Soon after, he met Game of Thrones star Carice van Houten on the set of the spooky West Brimstone; the couple now have a five-year-old son. Pearce then wove his divorce and childhood grief into the title track of his 2018 album, The nomad.
“It just got loose in that pretty tough year of 2015,” he says. “It was the whole thing about my dad’s plane being called Nomad, and I was feeling nomadic after Kate left. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. I linked it to my father’s death. “
On the album, he sings: “A widowed wife has been heard saying / ‘It’s not like she’s gone / It’s not like she’s left me out of her choice’ / Words that haunt me to this day / Custom that I come to an agreement / With me the fearful voice of his own wife “. Did your mother really say that? “Yes. Mom is not the type to sympathize.” She is from County Durham, he explains, and a tough cookie. “After Dad died, people used to say with big puppy dog eyes, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry …’ Mom found it unbearable. I needed a way to shut them up so I could say ‘It’s not like he left me!’ That always stuck with me. As if to say, ‘He’s just dead, he’s not that bad. So fuck your sympathy! ‘”
He thought about that during their breakup and divorce. “Even though at this point Mom was entering Alzheimer’s disease and I couldn’t really talk to her about it, I was very aware of what her judgment would be about my partner leaving me.” The mention of his mother gives him a pang of guilt. “I haven’t called her in three months,” he says. “She can’t speak anymore, but I call her and tell her my life and tell her how much I love her.”
Since he became an adult, his mission was to find out who his father really was by questioning anyone who knew him. He had only heard from his mother about this heroic and infallible figure, but he wanted to learn about the other side. “What pissed him off? What were their flaws and insecurities? “Only when Pearce found out he was about to have a child did his therapist point out that becoming a father would bring him closer to understanding his father than any detective work.
“It’s like I’m looking for the answer about my dad in this one place while he was always somewhere else,” he says. “It almost makes me want to cry. The idea that I now have feelings that I think he felt connects me to him more than any number of intellectual thoughts.
“I feel that I owe it to him to continue with the fatherly work, the fatherly task, because he could not.”
Zone 414 is available as a digital download starting October 4.