Guy Pearce on The King's Speech, Animal Kingdom and Christopher Nolan's Shy Years


I don't want to ask too much about a movie like Memento because I could go on for forever, but I am curious on how you felt about Christopher Nolan as a director. Could you tell then that this guy would become one of the most sought-after directors in the business?

I mean, it's hard to know how people will turn out. I hate to bandy the word "genius" around, but this guy... this guy has got it covered. Like he's got everything covered. And I think, when I look at his work... Funnily enough I only saw Inception just recently and thought, There's nothing that this guy can't do. I saw a great interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt who was saying that the great thing about Chris is he not only can give audiences exactly what they want to see as far as the big picture stuff, but he is so dedicated to actors and performance and subtlety. Which I have very vivid memories of that experience with Chris and his focus on my performance. And he got that performance out of me. You know what I mean? He created that performance. He's got so much intellectual energy that he can do 50 things at once and do them all extremely well. So there's sort of no stopping a guy like that. And because he's got such great ideas, he can write scripts like that.

And that's the other thing: It's not like he's coming on board and directing somebody's brilliant script. He's coming up with this stuff. So I'm not surprised that he's had the career that he's had thus far. And I probably did think at the time... I mean, I read Memento, and had to read it twice, obviously, and sort of go back and pull it all apart. And then before I even met Chris, I was like, "Oh, yes, I really want to do this film." Then when I met with Chris. He's very honorable and decent, down-to-Earth, shy -- he's probably not so shy now -- but in the beginning he said, "I haven't worked with many actors, and I'm not sure exactly the process, and I'm not sure how you're going to want to do this." So he was very honest and I just thought, Wow, man, I wish everyone could be like this.

So did you ever have to give him instructions?

What I basically said to him was, "First, I could hug you for saying that." For me, to find trust in a director, as far as the way you work with each other, is the ultimate. And I said to him, "Look, I can certainly tell you what I don't want to do. And I can certainly tell you that if I need to rehearse something 1,500 times, then I'll just say that." And I'm never one for going, "Ugh, this guy doesn't know what he's doing," but I never felt like that about him at all. We had a great rehearsal process for a couple of weeks. By the time we got on set and shot this movie in 26 days, we were off and running.

I'm not 100 percent sure which one you filmed first, but how does one go from filming a movie like The Road to filming an Adam Sandler movie, or vice versa?

[Laughs] Funnily enough, I was in the middle of doing the Adam Sandler film [Bedtime Stories] and I had chosen to do the Adam Sandler film when it came along, the year before, I had done four really heavy movies: Traitor, The Hurt Locker, How to Change in 9 Weeks and Winged Creatures. They are all heavy, heavy movies about heavy, heavy stories. Then over that Christmas break of 2007 Adam Shankman called me and said, "Oh, I'd love you to come and do this big, silly Adam Sandler movie. I don't even have a script, but I'd love you to come and do it. It will be a lot of fun." And I went, "Yes! Sure! Whatever you want me to do!"

So I started doing that film, and however many weeks into it John Hillcoat contacted me and started talking to me about this little role he wanted me to do in The Road. I thought that was great if we could make it work. They literally slotted it right into the middle of the Adam Sandler film, and it was actually really tricky, I have to say. Because there I was in this colorful Adam Sandler world, [then] flew across to Pittsburgh and sort of bounced onto the set going, "Hey-ho, everybody! What's going on?" while everyone around is looking very deathly and morbid. And I went, "Oh, right, there's no smiling. OK, fair enough." Then I came back to the Adam Sandler film, not with my tail between my legs, but remembering this sort of serious world of actor and I had to sort of snap out of it and get back into being silly again. It was really quite tricky.

It's funny how you described taking the role because it's almost how a person chooses to see an Adam Sandler movie. "I've seen too many depressing movies, I need something light. Let's go watch Adam Sandler."

And, look, I have to say, I was going on how lovely Chris was before, but Sandler couldn't have been nicer. He said, "Mate, you want some time off, you want to go and do this other movie? Absolutely, just let us know." You know, he's the boss, he runs the show. He said, "This is a big family, we are just here having a good time." And it really was. It kind of reminded me of being back at school and getting a bunch of friends together who enjoy doing theater, which we did, and just sort of making up a play and putting it together on our faith. It had that feel about it. So it was really refreshing to go back to that because I'd done a lot of heavy stuff for a number of years, so it was a nice bit of light relief.

Are there more light-hearted comedies in your future?

Well, I don't know. I really enjoy that stuff, I just don't know how good I am at it, to be honest. And I don't know that I've got the face for it. I think you have to be aware of your limitations. I think I'm best leaving it up to Will Ferrell and Adam and Paul Rudd and those guys [laughs].

Your answer right there should have been, "Well, if I can find the time between making Best Picture-winning Oscar movies..."

There you go! Write that down as if I said that.

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  • MurasakiTurtle says:

    Thank you for this, Movieline... I've adored Guy Pearce and his acting since Priscilla and LA Confidential, and this is a great interview about past and present.
    One of my favorite things about The King's Speech is how they flip from Geoffrey Rush getting set down for trying out for Richard III with his touch of Australia, and then they cut to Guy Pearce's flawless king's English. Made me smile.

  • Meg says:

    Actually there have been a few small time movies about Edward and Wallis.. including a recent performance by Joely Richardson who played Bessie "Wallis" Warfield, which is her actual name. The tv movie was called 'Wallis & Edward', made in 2005.

  • casting couch says:

    It's been so interesting to follow Guy's career from Mike Young on Aussie soap Neighbours to big Hollywood movies. In reading his biography, I had no idea he was born in the UK; moving to Australia at age 3.

  • Elodie says:

    Thank you for the interview. Guy is certainly in more than one Oscar-winning movies: The adverture of Prsicilla, LA confidential, The hurt locker...and possibly The King's speech. And he should have been given his own Oscar nomination for his stunning performance in Memento. He is such a brillant actor that we want to see more of him.

  • World Clock says:

    Cool .. Love it !!

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