Guy Pearce in THE HARD WORD
Guy Pearce stars in The Hard Word.  

Profile and Interview:
Guy Pearce

by Carlo Cavagna


M ost actors show up for press interviews all dolled up for the journalists and the cameras. The women will be in full makeup and dressed for a night on the town, even at nine in the morning on a Monday, and the men will sport a carefully affected look, whether formal or casual. Not Guy Pearce. He enters looking like he just walked off the beach, with his disheveled shirtfront open and hair of indeterminate length unkempt. The first question he has to answer is whether he is growing his hair out again. "Um…I guess. Yeah." For a role? "No, I just finished a film a week ago. So, you know, I haven't been home yet to even consider what I'm going to do with my hair." He laughs to show he's not serious. We do not get the sense he will be giving a moment's thought to his hair until another role requires it.

Though possessed of fashion-model looks—looks perfect enough to allow him to play Errol Flynn in a poorly regarded 1996 film (Flynn)—the thirty-five-year-old Australian seems intent on not allowing them to shape his identity. It was looks that launched his career, making him a teen idol in the late '80s after he landed on the soap opera Neighbours (just a couple days after he finished high school!), which became a huge phenomenon in both Australia and the United Kingdom, pushing Kylie Minogue and Natalie Imbruglia, among others, into the limelight. However, you won't find a poster of Guy Pearce on any U.S. teenager's bedroom wall.

Why? Because, since Neighbours, Pearce has avoided the dreamboat, hunky lead roles, choosing mostly offbeat projects. He first came to the attention of U.S. audiences as a bratty cross-dresser in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which led to his first U.S. role in L.A. Confidential as priggish, starched-shirted cop Ed Exley. Fellow Aussie co-star Russell Crowe got all the sex-symbol attention, not Pearce. Pearce followed L.A. Confidential with a straight-laced prosecutor in The Rules of Engagement, a cannibal in Ravenous, and the villain in The Count of Monte Cristo, for which he was fastidiously intent on having as bad a set of teeth as possible. These are not sex symbol roles.

Pearce attracted a lot of attention as brain-damaged Leonard Shelby in the mind-bending noir Memento, in which he spent a lot of screen time sans shirt. But, despite its popularity, Memento was still an art-house film. Pearce's lone attempt at an action hero came in The Time Machine, a misguided effort to turn an HG Wells novella into a big special effects film. Like so many of his other characters, Pearce's Alexander Hartdegen was a damaged man, gaunt and introspective, so much so that The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter referred to him as "cadaverous." A romantic lead role came in the Aussie snoozer Till Human Voices Wake Us, but his brooding Dr. Franks was a hero that could have set only Florence Nightingale's heart aflutter.

Thanks to L.A. Confidential and Memento, Pearce is a star here, but one not interested in being seductive or attractive. He injects some unpleasantness into all his characters. The actors to whom he himself responds most are ones who disappear into their roles. Thus, not unlike Jude Law lately, he has been camouflaging his good looks—a beard in Human Voices, oily hair in Time Machine, tattoos in Memento, unfortunate dental hygiene in Monte Cristo. Pearce doesn't want to be a star. He wants to be an actor. And, not even all the time, as he loves to devote himself to his music back home in Melbourne, writing and playing what he describes as "experimental folk rock kind of stuff." (Pearce plays guitar, saxophone, and piano.) Indeed, Pearce has told interviewers in the past that he doesn't see himself acting forever.

Pearce dislikes the spotlight because he wants his characters to be accepted at face value, uncolored by assumptions based on roles he has played before. In part, this is the reason Curtis Hanson picked Pearce and Crowe, both relatively unknown in the United States, for L.A. Confidential. Thus, Pearce doesn't like press interviews. In February 2002, he told GQ, "I always go home after an interview and feel like I've prostituted myself. Ultimately, I'd rather actors be seen as their characters and you didn't really know anything about their personal lives." Pearce also declines to give interviews about a project while he's still working on it. He finds that analyzing his process interferes with it.
Guy Pearce as Ed Exley
Guy Pearce as L.A. Confidential's Ed Exley on the cover of Cineaste.

For a guy who doesn't like to talk about himself or his acting, Pearce is remarkably forthcoming. During our interview, it often seems that though he may not like a question or have a good answer for it, he is loath to disappoint anyone by refusing to respond. He strives to please, talking to us much longer than the allotted twenty minutes. In the GQ article, he acknowledged a "natural inclination is to be responsible for things and people." Perhaps this comes from the unusually heavy responsibilities he bore as a kid, with a mentally disabled older sister whom his mother and he looked after by themselves after his father, an English test pilot for the Royal Air Force, was killed when Pearce was eight years old. Despite that, Pearce found time to begin acting as a preteen, particularly in musicals. A few years later, he also began weightlifting and won a bodybuilding competition at sixteen, becoming Mr. Junior Victoria.

Pearce may say he doesn't like overanalyzing things, but he seems remarkably analytical and introspective. In 2001, for example, he told the Sydney Morning Herald that he thought Leonard Shelby's condition in Memento is just an extreme version of something we all suffer from, confessing that working on the film made him question the memories he has of his father. "I have little flashes of him saying things—when I was on the farm, or him flying an aircraft of him there at breakfast—but I don't even know if they're real or just a manipulated image based on photos and what mum's told me."

In our interview, Pearce admits to a great deal of anxiety about his work and about fame, but one thing he is completely comfortable with is his feminine side. "I do feel very girlie all the time. It is what it is. So much of being an actor for me is about the response to feeling fragile," he told GQ a year ago. Not only that, but he been willing to explore it in his work—in Priscilla, obviously, and in the 1996 Australian body-swapping comedy Dating the Enemy. Pearce is utterly devoid of machismo, as well, all of which may contribute to the apparent success of his five-year marriage to Kate Mestitz, a psychotherapy and social work student who was his childhood sweetheart "for about a minute." He considers a throwaway question on what makes a relationship work for several moments before offering quite a thoughtful answer. He tends to soften his opinions with qualifiers, but he is willing to state them. Speaking hesitatingly but easily, he infuses his comments with that brand of wry, self-deprecating humor that we never hear from American celebrities. He may be full of anxieties, but he's comfortable with that.

Pearce's new movie, an Australian comedic crime film called The Hard Word, may be the closest thing Pearce has done to a sympathetic hero role in a long time. He has, as usual, ruthlessly covered his looks with stubble and stringy hair, so much so that he's barely recognizable at first. But Pearce, the leader of a trio of bank-robbing brothers, is definitely the guy you're supposed to root for. [Read the review] He's tried his hand at some big budget Hollywood movies, and they weren't much good, and so now he's happy to be working back home. In fact, if you're an Australian filmmaker, Pearce would like you to know that he's affordable and available.

Question: Could you talk about the Australian and American film sensibilities in terms of The Hard Word, because it seemed like a very distinctly Australian tone.

Pearce: Yeah, well, culturally, you know, they're different places. So I don't know whether that necessarily relates to filmmaking as such, or just storytelling. It's hard to put my finger on it. That's why I act instead of trying to describe it, because I'm never very good at describing things. You know, there's a sense of humor within the Australian culture that prevails when one is in a rather difficult situation, and I think that was one of the things that seemed rather prominent in the script when I took it on, which I liked. Obviously, being an Australian and having been brought up in the Australian culture, for me to actually express that and express myself through that, made a lot of sense. I don't know how best to—

Question: That's great.

Pearce: Okay. Sorry. [laughs]

Question: Is it fun to go back to home? You know, you keep doing these big American movies—

Pearce: I haven't done too many big American movies, really, have I? Well, I've a couple, I suppose. I certainly haven't done as many as I could have done. [laughs]

Question: Is there a preference to working at home, surrounded by other Aussies, or just serendipitous?

Pearce: Ah…this kind of a preference? It's much more a form of expression for me to go back home and play an Australian character. And obviously it's far more familiar. You know, the lingo between us all just kind of happens. Even though we all speak English here in America, you all speak a very different language. So it's really enjoyable for me to work at home. It's more cathartic, I suppose. To work in America or other places is more about curiosity, because I'm dealing with cultures and sensibilities that I don't really know. So I'm having to sort of investigate them, which I'm fascinated in, but as I said, it comes from a place of curiosity rather than a real need to get something out of my system.

Question: Is it more like work, when you're doing something like Time Machine?

Pearce: Definitely, yeah. Well, it's hard to generalize, because each scenario is different. Doing Memento in a sense felt like doing an Australian movie, because it was little and intimate and quick, and low budget, and everybody understood what we were all doing. Whereas working on a studio picture, I can't help but be aware of all the political stuff that's going on. I have to work to be able to survive, in a sense. That's why it's more like work.

Question: How is your life different when you're living here as opposed to home?
Guy Pearce in his NEIGHBOURS days
Guy Pearce in his Neighbours days.

Pearce: Well, most of the time when I'm in Australia I'm not really working, it seems. I'm just at home, getting on with renovating my house or writing music or whatever. So I get back to doing all the stuff that I naturally do. Whereas if I'm away working, that's all there is to do, is to concentrate on the work.

Question: In Australia you were well known at a young age because of Neighbours. Is it nice to be able to come here and be under the radar a little bit, whereas you might get mobbed there ?

Pearce: Yeah, definitely. I did find it very hard in those days, particularly. The worst experience of it, really, still is in England. I mean, I did the show seventeen years ago? And yet, when they see me walk down the street in London, it's the strangest thing for them in the world that I should even be there. They all get very loud and yell out to each other in the street, and it's horrible. That I find difficult and slightly infuriating. Whereas here, yeah. Here, there's something about the American sensibility that kind of hails people in the public eye. You have a star system. You have that kind of thing where you say, "Good on you for doing that." So you feel a bit safer here with it. Australia's not so bad with me, really, people are pretty cool with me at home, but in England it feels a little bit scary. [laughs] I'm generalizing, too, because obviously everybody's different.

Question: How do you feel about the violence in The Hard Word?

Pearce: What do you mean?

Question: There's a lot a violence. How do you feel about being in a film that violent, and how the film uses its violence?

Pearce: Umm…I'm not entirely sure. I don't know how I feel about it.

AboutFilm Question: How do you feel about violence in movies in general?

Pearce: Umm…that's such a broad question. I, uh…It's funny, because I'm one of those people— I have real dilemmas at times in trying to understand what I really think about the things that are in films and how people respond to them. I flip back and forth from going, "It's a slice of life. This happens in life. A film is an artistic venture. It's expressing life, so why not?" There's a part of me that can be quite brutal about that. Then there's a part of me, obviously, that goes, "Oh, that poor kid saw this thing in a movie, and now he's gone and shot everybody, oh god." So I don't even know where I sit with it. It's a day-to-day thing with me, to be quite honest. Sometimes I can think, "It's just the way life is. If someone's going to react like that, then just because they react like that, does that mean we need to censor this that and the other?" And obviously, you've got six million different types of movies and they all handle violence differently. In our film, there's this weird sense of humor about the whole thing. [Yet] even there, I'm not entirely sure if I think that's a good thing or not a good thing. So I don't really know how to answer it, to be quite honest. I'll have a different answer tomorrow that I do today.

Question: Do you have a good friendship with the guys who play your brothers, Joel Edgerton and Damien Richardson?

Pearce: Yeah, yeah. I had done a play just over a year ago with Damien, who plays Mal, who is hilarious. He's one of the funniest guys I've ever come across, and so when I read the script, I thought it would be good for him, because he just captures the essence of the script, I think. He and I had become very good friends anyway. And then Joel came on board as the younger brother, who I have to say is one of the most extraordinary actors in the world. [When] I was working with him, I found myself going, [pauses as if distracted] "All right, it's me. Sorry. I will speak." He's so engaging. He's so electric, and he's such a lovely guy. So yeah, we got on very well, and we had a good time together.

Question: And he's really cute, too.

Pearce: Ehrm. How do I even respond to that? [laughter]

Question: How much time did you spend preparing and training? Did you practice running and carrying the bag?

Pearce: Ah, not as much practice as we should have done, carrying the big bloody bag, that heavy, heavy bag.

Question: What about jumping on the train?

One of Pearce's better hair moments in The Time Machine.

Pearce: Ah, we tend to do a lot of that stuff in Australia. We don't really have the money to get anyone else to do it. "We can't afford a stuntman today, so you'll be jumping onto the train." "Right, okay."

Question: The butchers' language in The Hard Word... Can you talk a little bit about that so we know where it came from, the history of it?

Pearce: Well, in all honesty, someone was talking to me about it before, and I was trying to remember if it's just come from butchers, or from the butcher fraternity within prison. I can't remember. Scott [Roberts], who wrote the script and directed it, he was right on that. He knew about that.

Question: What's the trick to it?

Pearce: Most of the time it's just words flipped the other way. So "butcher talk" is called "rechetub kaylat." It's just the other way. But then every now and then you'll say a word normally. And every now and then, with the words you've flipped over, a letter will go on the other end.

Question: Is that indigenous to Australia?

Pearce: Well, I think so. To Australian butchers, anyway.

AboutFilm Question: It seems like there's a lot of Australians right now that have a great facility with the American accent and the British accent, including yourself. How easy is that, to do an American accent, or to change accents, for Australians and for yourself in particular?

Pearce: Well, English is no problem for me because I am actually English. My whole family are English; I was brought up listening to various forms of the English accent. Obviously there are more specific ones that get a little bit tricky. Same with American stuff. But because in Australia we're so inundated with American culture, television, this that and the other, everyone in Australia can do an American accent. It's just second nature.

Question: To do a real American accent? Or to do the Boston accent, or New York? How do you pinpoint to avoid the stereotype? Everybody who does an Australian, always does the Sydney Australian. How do you get the dialect when you're picking an accent?

Pearce: Well, obviously it depends on where the character is from. If I'm going to an area that I don't really know that well, then I'll employ a dialect coach, which I have done on most of the films that I've worked on, just to make sure I'm on the right direction. Tim, the guy that I work with, works on lots of movies and actually goes on the set with lots of people—I don't have anyone on the set with me because I figure the work should be done by that point—but when he goes on the different sets, he will interview lots of local people with the tape recorder. So, he's got this incredible library of interviews with people from everywhere in America and most places around the world. So when you say to him, "I'm doing an English guy that's been brought up in Africa. Very upper crust army guy, but has lived in so-and-so for five years," he'll go, "Okay, I'll send you this, this, this, and this. Just have a listen to this, this, this, and this." Then, in a sense, you're kind of brainwashing yourself in the way that one would watching American television. And, I have a real love of sound and the shape of the sound. I'm a musician, and I'm fascinated with the effects of sound, and tone, and pitch and melody and all that sort of stuff. It's the first thing I have to solidify whenever I'm coming up—not 'coming up' with the character, because I never come up with them, the writer does that—whenever I get onto a character. The first thing I need to get sorted out before I can then move forward, before I can feel any confidence whatsoever, is the voice.

Question: What are some of your favorite Australian films?

Pearce: Ahh… gosh.

Question: Priscilla?

Pearce: [laughs] Well, it kind of is in a way, obviously. I was a big fan of Chopper. [Eric Bana's] performance is amazing. Particularly when— I mean, nothing against Eric, but when you know Eric, to see him play that character, it's so— When everybody heard he was playing that role, everybody went, "What??" It's far more brutal than our film, I think, but it has a similar kind of tone, because it's Australian. He's this criminal who thinks he's a real showman; he thinks he's really funny, and he tells all these stories about chopping people's fingers off. And he's a real guy. Chopper still exists. It's an interesting scenario. I just thought the tone of that film was really powerful.

Question: Are you going to do Batman with Christopher Nolan?
Guy Pearce in MEMENTO
A scruffy Guy Pearce in Memento.

Pearce: I haven't been asked to, so I don't know.

Question: There was never a discussion?

Pearce: No. I think that was a vicious rumor.

Question: How do you pick your scripts? They're so diversified. Do you look for the character or the story?

Pearce: It's a combination of things. Sometimes I'll go for something more because of the story, or more because of the director. But, generally, I have to feel like it's something that I have a real sympathy for—a person that I can completely go, "Oh, wow, oh, I'm there." Otherwise I don't feel like I will be able to pull it off at all. I know I haven't done everything very well in the past; some things have worked and some things haven't. But I need to feel like I can feel about the person, understand that person, I suppose.

Question: But, they're very different. Is that on purpose?

Pearce: Not necessarily. It's just that I have a real fascination for all walks of life, really. When I go to a movie, I'm always thrilled if I've seen an actor do something and I didn't realize until the end of the movie that that was that person. I love that. Then it's more about the story and the people in the film, rather than, star vehicle, blah blah blah. I've definitely done things in the past where I've gone, "I'm not entirely sure about this character, but gee, that director! And I love the story. I'm going to have to do a lot of work to try and figure out who that person is," which is not my favorite way of working.

AboutFilm Question: Can you give us an example of that?

Pearce: Rules of Engagement, for example. You know, Billy Friedkin and his work in the past—some of his work has not been my cup of tea, but some of it I found bizarrely exciting. But, I had no concept of who that person was. I just thought, "Well, okay, I'll figure it out when I get there." As I say, I'm not very good at doing that, because then I feel like I'm having to work with my memory, remembering information, rather than just going, "There it is."

Question: I remember that I was going to interview you during production of The Time Machine, and I was told, "He doesn't do any interviews while he's in production, because he likes to stay in character." Is that true?

Pearce: No, it's true. I mean, look—I find it really difficult to even articulate things that I've done in the past. I express myself through the characters that I play, not through the articulation of them later. It really makes me feel uncomfortable particularly while I'm shooting something, because I carry a certain anxiety whether [it's] working, whether we're all on the same page, particularly on a studio film, where at any moment your director's gonna go and someone else is gonna come in. So, yeah, I find it really difficult to do interviews during a film, definitely. So sorry about that. [laughs]

Question: What kind of music do you write?

Pearce: Really original, fabulous music! [Laughs] I find it hard to— It varies, I suppose. It's sort of rock, experimental folk rock kind of stuff, I suppose.

Question: Do you have a band?

Pearce: Not at the moment. There's a bunch of different people that I utilize when we record at home. There's a girl that I'll play with more regularly than anybody else, I suppose. Whenever I go home, she and I try to go and do some little gigs around the place, just the two of us. So, no, I'm not really in a band. All the guys that I've worked with in bands before are in real bands and doing it all the time, and I'm home so little it's hard to maintain a consistent process.

Question: Where is home?

Pearce: Melbourne. I moved up to Melbourne from Geelong. Geelong is an hour south of Melbourne. I grew up there and moved up to Melbourne when I was eighteen when I started on [Neighbours].

Question: And you're still married, I hope.

Pearce: Yeah, yeah. I'll be married for quite some time I think.

Question: You've already been married for quite some time, haven't you?

Pearce: Yeah, about five years, yeah.

Question: What's the secret to that?

Pearce: [long pause] Communication…and the desire to have respect for the other person, I think—and have respect for yourself. And be open enough to be ready to respect what that other person wants to express, I suppose.

Question: Does she travel with you, or stay home?

Pearce: Well, sometimes. If she can, she will. But she's studying so much now that I can't even call her. "I'm writing an essay! I can't talk to you! I'm sorry!"

AboutFilm Question: What's she studying?
Bad skin: Guy Pearce as loathsome Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo.

Pearce: She studies psychotherapy and social work.

Question: You two were childhood sweethearts, is that right?

Pearce: Ah, for about a minute, I think, when we were twelve.

Question: No kids, right?

Pearce: No, no, I don't feel really ready, and I don't know that the world needs any more kids in it, and I just feel too inconsistent emotionally to do that.

Question: Big responsibility.

Pearce: Totally. And our friends that have got kids, it's really fascinating to watch them and see how they're dealing with it, and not dealing with it.

Question: You were a bodybuilder before being an actor, correct?

Pearce: Well, no, I started doing a lot of theater when I was ten, and I started going to the gym when I was about fifteen, and by the time I was sixteen someone thought I should go in this competition, and I did, and I won it, and then that was the end of that.

Question: You don't do anything like that anymore?

Pearce: No. I'll go to the gym and do yoga, or a bit of light stuff, but not to the extent that I was when I was lifting weights like that.

Question: So you don't have a six pack?

Pearce: No, I'm afraid it's just one big ol' pack now. The other five left.

Question: But you looked like you'd been working out in Memento.

Pearce: Well, I hadn't.

Question: So you just naturally look like that?

Pearce: Well, because of those years of doing all that weight training, and I'm pretty thin, so I think your muscle tone naturally kind of stays. But, from my point of view, when I look at myself in Memento, I go, "My god, I'm so out of shape." But I know it's all perspective. The good thing is, really, if I'm to do a role where I want to put some muscle on, it doesn't take long back at the gym, because of muscle memory. It doesn't take long to go, "Okay, we're back!"

Question: Do you get asked to do more Australian films or more American studio films?

Pearce: Well, there's many more films being made in America than there are in Australia. You make four hundred and fifty films a year, we make twenty-five. So I'll always be asked— Well, I hope. I may not ever be asked to do another film again. But generally, there's more stuff happening out of America. But people at home know that I want to work at home. It's funny because when I first started working in America, or just after the first couple of things in America, nothing came my way from Australia. I was saying to my agent at home, "I'd really like to do some stuff at home." I had to put the word out to people that I didn't cost a fortune, and I was prepared to work at home. Because that's the assumption: "Well, he lives in America now, we can't afford him, we won't bother." And so you miss out on all this great stuff.

Question: Do you have a favorite of your American roles?

Pearce: Yeah, Memento, I think. L.A. Confidential, too. The experience of both of those films were quite extraordinary. One, because L.A. Confidential was the first film I'd ever worked on in America, and because Curtis Hanson is such a wonderful guy. He has such an incredible ability to take you to places that you had no idea you could go to. And Memento because obviously it was a far more intimate process, and I had a lot more to do in it. But, really, what that film has to say about us as people and what it actually ventured into is a subject that I'm fascinated in anyway, which I guess is really about perception and how we identify things and how we try to identify ourselves [through] memories. Yet, so much of it is illusory. I just found the whole concept so up my alley, that I was thrilled to do it. Chris [Nolan] captured it so well, I think.

AboutFilm Question: What special things did you do to put yourself in the frame of mind of your character in Memento?

Pearce: Read the script. Talked to Chris. There was nothing else to do. It was the easiest job I've ever done in my life. Obviously there was a hurdle I had to get over, which is what most audience members are still now trying to get over, which is understanding what they think they should be understanding about the film. But it suddenly dawned on me one day that I could just pop up and do a little comedy sketch [because] no history or future thoughts meant anything to this character, because of what he's suffering. In a sense it was quite a freeing experience. I was able to let go of everything. It was a good exercise for me to figure out how to be in the present moment, which something I'm continually trying to do anyway. It was great.

Question: How well were both films received in Australia?

Pearce: Huge. Both of those films. There's obviously a huge part of the Australian culture that really just wants to see, I don't know, Lethal Weapon and all that kind of stuff, the very commercial kind of stuff. They do very well, those films, at home. But there's also a big part of the Australian culture that wants something much more— I mean, French films are very popular in Australia. Art house films are very popular in Australia. You only have to look at the films Australia makes. L.A. Confidential, funnily enough— It was quite weird, actually. At the AFI awards—the Australian Film Institute awards—L.A. Confidential won Best Foreign Film, which is sort of odd because it's not a foreign language film, just an overseas film. I got up and accepted the award on behalf of Curtis, and I said, "It's very odd to be here accepting an award at the AFIs for best foreign film." But it was really hailed, and I think, a little nice cushy thing for everyone at home that we were in it. Everyone at home went, "Yeah!"
A rare post-Neighbours seductive moment: Guy Pearce in Dating the Enemy.

Question: Could you talk about the Aussie club in Hollywood?

Pearce: It's funny because people think we all know each other and hang out together, and that we all grew up together. Some of us obviously do know each other, and we're obviously very aware of each other. "What's he doing now? Right. I see. Why didn't I get offered that? I see." But, I live in Melbourne and most of those guys are from Sydney. There's a much more high energy, actory clique going on in Sydney than there is in Melbourne. That's why I like Melbourne, because it kind of lets go of all that sort of stuff. I think, particularly because of the advent of the Olympics and all the studios in Sydney—it was all very Tom-and-Nicole, and The Matrix, and Sydney became like L.A. I just more and more went, "Ugh, Sydney."

Question: What about Russell Crowe? Are you still in touch with him?

Pearce: I haven't actually seen Russell for quite some time. He came to a birthday of mine about probably three years ago, so that's probably the last time I saw him.

Question: Did he beat anybody up?

Pearce: Not that I noticed, no. [laughs] He gave me sort of a devilish stare. When I said, "Where's my birthday present?" I had to step a bit back.

Question: Would you do a musical, with all the musicals coming out now?

Pearce: I grew up doing musicals. I've done so many musicals in my life, I kind of got them out of my system. But, I certainly would be open to them. Rocky Horror Show is a big favorite of mine. If, by the time I was forty-five—I reckon a good age to play Frank—and they were doing it, then I might put my hand up. But I did the twelve-month production of Grease around Australia, which kind of cured me of long-running musicals. The funny thing is, because I was doing a lot of theater when I was a kid, and a lot of that was musical theater, as I got older I became more interested in acting as a separate entity and music as a separate entity, like songwriting and production and recording and playing music. A lot of people are going to hate me for saying this, but one of my least favorite kinds of music, or the kind of music that I feel I've so got out of my system, is musicals music. Well, I must admit there's a lot of it that I have a bit of a soft spot for, but, certainly, I'm far more interested in— You know, I'm a fan of Kate Bush, and Jeff Buckley, and Peter Gabriel, and Nick Cave, and Tori Amos. Oklahoma! doesn't quite fit there for me anymore.

Question: It's interesting you choose Rocky Horror after having done Priscilla… Is there a connection?

Pearce: [coquettishly] I don't know. [much laughter] I mean, my interest in The Rocky Horror Show possibly stems from the same place as my interest in Priscilla, but, actually, the music in Rocky Horror Show I really enjoyed. Look, I don't know.

Question: What did you just finish?

Pearce: Two Brothers, this French film with Jean-Jacques Annaud, in Cambodia and Paris, for nine months or something. It's about tigers in 1921 in Southeast Asia. It's amazing to work with tigers. It was fantastic.

Question: You're a cat man.

Pearce: I am a cat man, so that was the reason why I did this one.

AboutFilm Question: What's next?

Pearce: Nothing, really. This French thing I just did, and Nick Cave, actually, has written a film that I may do, but we don't know when it's going to happen. So, I'll just go home and write some more music, I think.

Question: How the Nick Cave idea come about?

Pearce: Nick Cave called me at home, actually. I think he's worked on some screenplays before, but this is his first full screenplay.

Question: What's the name of this movie you might be working with him on?

Pearce: Proposition. They actually came to me over a year ago, and I was having an ever-so-mild nervous breakdown at that point, and felt I needed to just stop. So I went, "I can't look at anything right now, I need to stop." I wasn't really having a nervous breakdown, I'd just done too much stuff back to back. And so a whole lot of time went by, and they called and said, "Are you ready now to take a look at this script?" So I did and then met with him in the UK.

Question: So this is a deal, then. You're actually going to start work on this?

Pearce: It's not organized. It's just a verbal thing at the moment. I would like to do it, we want to pursue it, and we're now going to look for other actors. That's where it is at this stage.

Feature and Interview © June 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
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Related Materials:  

  Talk about Guy Pearce on the boards
  Official site for The Hard Word
  IMDB page for Guy Pearce
  Rotten Tomatoes page for The Hard Word