Actor Guy Pearce

The Emmy-winning actor discusses his roles in the upcoming features Lockout and Prometheus and shares how he balances working on blockbuster films and low-budget projects.

Guy Pearce began developing his talent at an early age with TV, theater and film roles in Australia, where he was raised. His four-year stint on a popular Aussie soap made him a teen idol, and his film breakthrough came with his role as a drag queen in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. His credits include the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce—for which he won an Emmy—a turn in the Oscar-winning film The King's Speech and three features in release this year. Pearce also has a passion for music. He plays the guitar, saxophone and piano, and has written hundreds of songs.


Tavis: Please welcome Guy Pearce back to this program.  The talented actor has been very busy since I last saw him, including his Emmy Award-winning performance in the mini series, “Mildred Pierce”.

His latest project is the new film, “Lockout”.  The movie opened earlier today in theaters across the country, so here now a scene from “Lockout”.

[Showing Clip]

Tavis: I’ll let you explain this, but I was laughing when I saw that clip because when she asked who sent you and you say, “Your old man”, her old man is the President of the United States [laugh].

Guy Pearce: Yeah.  He’s a man who has an issue with authority and I think he’s fairly cynical at this when we find him in the movie.  You know, he’s a little inappropriate at times.

Tavis: Tell me more about your character, about the film, yeah.

Pearce: I mean, my character, Snow, he’s an ex special operations guy.  You know, he’s been through many sort of treacherous situations and our story begins with – it’s set in the future.  It’s 2079 and it’s set on a prison that’s in outer space.

Maggie Grace who plays Emilie Warnock, the president’s daughter, ventures out to this prison just to make sure that the prisoners are being treated well, this, that and the other.  Something goes horribly wrong and she’s taken hostage, so the powers that be decide that I’m the man to go and rescue her.

As I say, with his rather cynical attitude, it’s the last thing he feels like doing now.  He feels too old, he doesn’t want to be doing this sort of stuff anymore.  He’d rather be sitting on the couch watching sports and drinking a beer.  But he has to go.

He goes and he’s got a friend who’s out in that prison.  You know, they meet and, as you can see, they have a fairly tumultuous relationship from the very beginning.  So it’s kind of fun.  I mean, he’s a funny guy and he thinks he’s a funny guy as well.

Tavis: I’m trying to think of your corpus and how often, if before, you’ve been drawn to the futuristic theme.

Pearce: Well, I haven’t really, other than “Time Machine” which sort of took us about 800,000 years into the future.  But nothing of such a specific short of genre-oriented thing as this.

I mean, obviously, I have “Prometheus” as well.  Well, I say I have a small part in “Prometheus”.  I’m currently sort of floating around in a couple of futuristic sci-fi films.

This is more of an action film.  It has a sort of slightly heightened sense of reality to it.  It’s kind of a fun film.

Tavis: I’m always fascinated by the choices that actors make and how sometimes just through happenstance they end up being out around the same time.  So to your point about “Prometheus” and this particular project, how is that you ended up being in two projects around the same time, both with futuristic themes?

Pearce: Well, it is just one of those flukes, I guess.  I mean, we shot “Lockout” in Serbia around October or November of 2010 and then we did “Prometheus” middle of last year, 2011.  They both just happened to be coming out at the same time.

You know, there are marketing people involved and I never really understand how that part of the cycle works, but things can appear whenever they feel it’s right.

Tavis: Just ’cause I’m curious, how did this end up being shot in Serbia?

Pearce: It’s a Luc Besson production.  It’s a French production essentially and there’s obviously great studios in Serbia and Belgrade.  There’s these fantastic TV studios that have been built and their facilities are amazing.  So I guess it’s cheap.

You know, that’s one of the reasons and I think there’s a real encouragement to sort of work more in places like that.  Obviously, the Serbian people in the industry there is trying to encourage films to be done.  I mean, “Coriolanus”, the Ralph Fiennes movie, was shot there just before we shot ours.

Tavis: So it sounds like the set was a mini United Nations [laugh]?

Pearce: It really was.

Tavis: There must have been a lot of languages being spoken on that set.

Pearce: Well, we had two Irish directors.  One was primarily the cinematographer.  James was the cinematographer, so he has an Irish camera crew.  Luc Besson’s company, EuropaCorp, French, so we’ve got all French heads of department.

We’ve got an entirely Serbian crew, a bunch of actors ranging from Australian to Peter Strohmeier who’s Swedish, Maggie Grace, American, etc. and some English actors.

So it really was like a game of telephone sometimes.  You’d watch the Irish director tell the French first to do something, he’d tell the Serbian guy, he’d pass it on to his team and I think, no, that’s not what he said.

Tavis: Not exactly what he said, yeah [laugh].

Pearce: Yeah.  Someone has to sort this out.

Tavis: I was about to ask, yeah.  Does that make it challenging for you taking direction as an actor?

Pearce: Well, it was fine because I was just obviously dealing with an Irishman.  I can speak that language, so I think it was all right really.

Tavis: Since you mentioned it, tell me about “Prometheus”.

Pearce: All I can tell you, you know, we’re in lockdown a little bit as far as the marketing of it.

Tavis: I figured as much.  That was my attempt at being slick.

Pearce: You did a nice job.  But, look, obviously it’s one of the most anticipated films going on and clearly it has a connection to “Alien” and that world.

Ridley and the writers have done a really incredible job of taking what was a small connection to “Alien” or probably a large connection to “Alien” and actually turning it into its own sort of sci-fi drama.  The themes and the ideas and the philosophies within the story are really quite grand and pretty amazing, I have to say, so it’ll stand alone as its own film.

But obviously, you know, even through the character that I play, Peter Weyland, which some people might have seen on the sort of online TED lecture thing that we’ve done, that character is obviously referenced throughout the “Alien” films, so there’s the obvious connection there, but very much its own movie.

Tavis: So that’s all I’m getting.

Pearce: Yeah, sorry.  Futuristic-imagining story with some scary stuff.  Big, big scary stuff.

Tavis: I tried, I tried.  When you mention Ridley, of course, you’re talking about…

Pearce: Mr. Scott.

Tavis: Mr. Scott.  I raise that because I wonder if at this point in your career, or maybe it’s always been the case, that there are certain directors, certain iconic directors like Ridley Scott, Mr. Scott, that you’ve wanted to work with or did it just happen that way on this project?

Pearce: It just happened that way on this project.  I mean, look, there are a lot of amazing directors out there.  I never really covet anybody.  I don’t sort of go out of my way to sort of push myself into their face and say, hey, what about me?  I just think, look, if it’s right, it’s right.  If they think I’m right for something, then it’ll happen, you know.

But obviously, to be asked by Ridley Scott to do something, it’s a great honor, and Todd Haynes on “Mildred Pierce”.  But I’m also just as enthused and excited by those people who I don’t know who perhaps write a really interesting script, it’s their first-time film.

I mean, I’ve just done Drake Doremus’s most recent film.  He won Sundance last year with the film, “Like Crazy”.  So we’ve just done his latest film which doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s all improvised as well.  I found Drake to be one of the most inspirational guys that I’ve ever come across in my life.  It was an absolute dream working for him.

You know, you can find yourself and find inspiration in all sorts of people, so it’s not necessarily just the old-timer experience guys that you’re sort of looking to work with as well.

Tavis: Is it important for you, Guy Pearce the actor, to balance out the blockbuster stuff and the not so big independent kind of stuff?

Pearce: I think, if you ask my agent, he would say yes to that, definitely.  I mean, I just look for work that interests me.  Whether it’s a big budget film or a low budget film, it doesn’t sort of matter to me, to be honest.  You know, I don’t do many blockbuster films.  I mean, I’ve done some studio films before.

Tavis: “Prometheus” ain’t gonna be small.

Pearce: No, absolutely, but out of all the films that I’ve done, there’s probably only a handful that have been sort of big budget films.

You know, it’s an honor and it’s really nice to be part of that world ’cause it’s a very different thing, but I also really enjoy the intimacy of a small film and seeing if you can make something good and seeing it come to life and have people see it and word of mouth spread.  I mean, it happened with “Memento”.  So that’s just as exciting to me.

Tavis: Is the acting fulfilling you at this point in your career?  I’ve seen you a few times on this program.  Is the acting fulfilling you now or are you itching to do other stuff beyond the acting, the writing, the directing, the producing?

Pearce: It’s fulfilling, I have to say, definitely, and probably even more so than it used to be.  I mean, I’m a much more satisfied person just within myself these days, so I’m more confident and more capable of feeling like I can make informed decisions rather than just kind of going with the wind, you know, swinging in the breeze, as they say.

Look, I do have aspirations when it comes to directing, I suppose, but in a sort of a vague way.  It would probably come about if I found a project that I really felt passionate about.

I don’t necessarily want to go and sort of change what I’m doing.  I mean, I’m a musician as well, so really that’s the other half of my life is playing music at times.

Tavis: I was about to ask that.  How’s the music stuff coming along?

Pearce: It’s fine.  I mean, really when I say that.  You know, it’s a glorified and expensive hobby, you know, that I do and probably when I’m 80, I’ll release about 1,000 songs [laugh].

Tavis: I was about to ask.  I know you do this, but I’m waiting for a music project.

Pearce: Yeah, I know.  It’s one of those things that I’ve sort of ended up talking about and people know about it, but no one’s really heard anything.

I don’t feel hugely confident with it.  It’s just something that I do for my own satisfaction and it’s really a nice relief after delving into the world of other characters to really sort of delve into what I want to create myself.

Tavis: Who knows?  Next time you’re on this program, it might be to talk about your directorial debut or your new album coming out.  We’ll see, we’ll see.  In the meantime, we will wait on “Prometheus”.  A lot of us are waiting for that.  But the new one out starring Guy Pearce now is called “Lockout”.  Good to have you on the program, Guy.

Pearce: Pleasure.  Thanks.

Tavis: Good to see you.  Come back any time.  That’s our show for tonight.  Until next time, keep the faith.

Narrator: Every community has a Martin Luther King Boulevard.  It’s the cornerstone we all know.  It’s not just a street or boulevard, but a place where Walmart stands together with your community to make every day better.

Narrator: And by contributions to your PBS station from viewers like you.  Thank you.

Last modified: April 16, 2012 at 2:09 pm