Guy Pearce does his own thing.
If variety is the spice of life, the 46-year-old Aussie’s career resembles an explosion in a curry house kitchen. Space epics, superhero blockbusters, period dramas, crime thrillers, indie tear-jerkers, romantic comedies and, of course, soap operas – he’s done the lot and done them well.
His latest film, The Rover, is that Australian speciality: a post-apocalypse film. To paraphrase Men At Work, it’s the land down under, where blood does flow and violent outlaws plunder.
Set in the Outback just after a near-future global financial collapse, it follows a mysterious man (Pearce) with a bizarrely strong desire to retrieve his stolen car. And so he sets off with one of the thieves’ redneck brothers, played by Robert Pattinson. It is, as I point out, a cheery little number.
So The Rover is quite the laugh...
[Laughs] Yeah, the upbeat romantic comedy of the millennium.
Your character isn’t particularly verbose. Do you enjoy that?
If everything else is good. I think it’s much more interesting to be able to portray something without saying it. And this character is more of an entity than a person, and a pretty f*cked one at this point. He’s got this one thing to do and then he’s probably going to end his own life. This world is not for him any more.
Was it fun to knock Robert Pattinson about?
It’s funny, people ask that a lot. Yeah, it was great fun knocking him around. But listen, he’s all up for it. Aside from the superfame, he reminds me a lot of myself in that he’s really interested in getting fully inside a character.
Does he still receive a lot of attention?
He does, but we were pretty remote, so one person behind a bar would go, “It’s that f*cking guy from f*cking Twilight”, but have no one to tell.
What is it about Australia and the Apocalypse?
I don’t know. There are just as many apocalyptic films made in the US, but you know Tom Cruise is going to save everyone. So I wonder if the ones made in Australia just seem more effective. We don’t really do the visual effects things, so it’s all like, “This is f*cking bleak and it’s the end of the world.”
What is it like working in the remote Outback?
I love it. The Flinders Ranges, where we filmed The Rover, doesn’t feel that remote. Winton, Queensland, where we shot The Proposition, really felt like there was nothing for miles. You felt like you’d entered another world.
Nick Cave was behind the scripts for The Proposition and Lawless. What’s it like working with him?
I love him. He’s such an articulate and inventive writer. As far as film scripts go, every detail is really fleshed out, like the characters in his songs. Doing The Proposition was like being inside a Nick Cave song. It’s poetic, beautiful.
You pick your films well. What’s on your check list?
It varies. You might have an amazing script, but a director you’ve never heard of. Other times you might get a director come to you and you say, “I don’t even need to read it.” But I’ve said no to [projects] that were good, because of a number of things. I might not be ready to go away again for three months or it’s too similar to something I’ve done before.
Has your selection process changed? Have you learned from mistakes?
Not really. There were films I did that ended up being not very good, but they were probably better on the page than on the screen [laughs].
Have you ever been tempted purely by the big bucks?
I’ve been tempted by the money, yeah, but if it’s not a story I feel is even slightly original, then I’m not going to do it. The big bucks are pretty tempting – but I don’t get offered the big bucks the way some people get offered big bucks.
How do you think you’re seen by people in the industry?
I don’t know. It’s hard to be objective. I think people think I’m interesting because I’ve done a lot of different kinds of things. I think they think I’m probably more interesting than I actually am [laughs]. It’s hard to gauge. It changes all the time as well. If you come off the back of something like The King’s Speech, everyone’s like, “Come and be in our movie!” Whereas a year later, they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
Do you ever feel like an outsider, particularly in Hollywood?
Yeah, I don’t really feel like I particularly belong anywhere [laughs]. I mean, I belong at home. I don’t really socialise when I’m in LA. I fly in, do what I’ve got to do and then go. I don’t hang out with all those other Aussie actors. I don’t hang out with Aussie actors in Australia. I’m just not very sociable.
Do you try to have friends who aren’t in film?
Yeah, my friends are psychologists and social workers [laughs]. That’s what my wife does, so they’re her friends. Which is great for me.
You’ve recently talked about your past weed habit, you were also a junior bodybuilding champion – quite compulsive pastimes. Is there always something you’re addicted to?
I guess so, yes. There’s always a few things, but these days they tend to be healthier. I’m very aware of it. Even now, I’m drinking a coffee. I haven’t drunk coffee for years, and just in the past 12 months I’ve started drinking it again. I feel myself going, “Yeah, I’ll have another one, I’ll have another one, another one.” Why can’t I just have the one in a day? [laughs]
How do you feel about the recent global rise in legal marijuana?
I have to be careful about what I say. I can’t be out there going, “Drugs are great, man!” I have mixed feelings. On one level I think it should all be legal and everybody should be able to do what they want, but on the other hand I’m aware that a massive percentage of the population can’t handle it and do crazy things and hurt people or hurt themselves. So you can’t generalise.
All that applies to alcohol…
I agree. I think it’s great that marijuana is being legalised and I’m sure governments are going, “Let’s get on board and make some money out of it, for f*ck’s sake.” Funnily enough I felt more strongly about it a few years ago. I thought it was f*cking stupid that marijuana’s illegal and alcohol’s legal. But then I realised that marijuana’s pretty easy to get [laughs]. It’s not like I’m banging down doors to get any.
Are you addicted to acting? Could you live without it?
I’m not sure. I’m sure I’d get itchy feet at some point. I know I need time off from it. It’s like eating too much McDonald’s: it gets to the point where your body goes, “No more, seriously, I cannot put any more in me.” Until enough time passes and you go, “Ooh, a Big Mac sounds nice.”
The Rover is at cinemas nationwide from 15 August
(Image: All Star)