Having little interest in subjects at school like math or science, Guy favored art, drama and music. He joined local theatre groups at a young age and appeared in such productions as “The King and I”, “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Wizard of Oz”. In 1985, just two days after his final high school exam, Guy started a four-year stint as “Mike Young” on the popular Aussie soap Neighbours (1985). At age 20, Guy appeared in his first film, Heaven Tonight (1990), then, after a string of appearances in film, television and on the stage, he won the role of an outrageous drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994).
Most recently, he has amazed film critics and audiences, alike, with his magnificent performances in L.A. Confidential (1997), Memento (2000), The Proposition (2005), Factory Girl (2006), The Hurt Locker (2008), The King’s Speech (2010) and the HBO mini-series, Mildred Pierce (2011). Next to acting, Guy has had a life-long passion for music and songwriting.
Guy likes to keep his private life very private. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, which is also where he married his childhood sweetheart, Kate Mestitz in March 1997.
His latest film The Infernal Machine is a psychological thriller feature film, written and directed by Andrew Hunt. The film released on September 23, 2022.
Bruce Cogburn, a reclusive and controversial author of the famed book “The Infernal Machine,” is drawn out of hiding when he begins to receive endless letters from an obsessive fan. What ensues is a dangerous labyrinth as Bruce searches for the person behind the cryptic messages, forcing him to confront his past and ultimately reveal the truth behind the book.
Please enjoy my conversation with Guy Pearce.
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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 129
Guy Pearce 0:00
You know, and I just sort of go home and quietly be on my own and play the guitar and play the piano and go, it's okay. It's okay. It's all part of it, you know. And in a way, you know what it what it's done is that having having fame, experiencing fame, and also experiencing rejection, as far as not getting a role, both of those things are extreme and don't necessarily speak to who you are as a as a performer, as an artist and what it is that you're able to offer.
Alex Ferrari 0:32
I'd like to welcome to the show Guy Pearce. How you doing Guy?
Guy Pearce 0:46
I'm very good, mate. How are you?
Alex Ferrari 0:48
I'm doing great, man. I'm doing great. I'm so excited to have you on the show, man, because you've done so many movies that have touched my heart in so many ways. And I'll just tell you my quick Pricilla story. I was in film school. And I went to see Priscilla in the theater. And it blew my mind off. So I was just like, I was just like, first time I'd ever seen anything like that. I was like, what 20 something. And I was just oh my god. So I wanted to thank you for that first of all.
Guy Pearce 1:17
Well, thank you, I appreciate it. And it's funny, because that's the film that it's sort of the gift that keeps on giving, you know, it really, it just came at the right time. Obviously, it was released in 94. And it obviously came at the right time. And we've had such wonderful, you know, people sort of, you know, commenting throughout these previous 25 years about what that film was meant to them for all sorts of different reasons. So it was a real honor to be part of it. You know, as a as an actor, you just take on something because it feels good. But then of course you don't realize whether it's going to be part of the Zeitgeist or bit Just get lost in the wash. And obviously Priscilla has, has stood the test of time and as touched a lot of hearts like yours.
Alex Ferrari 1:57
I cannot trust me a film like that does not get lost in the wash. It's just it just it just it's it's yelling at you to like No, you need to watch me.
Guy Pearce 2:06
It's it's a fairly noisy, it's a fairly noisy starting up.
Alex Ferrari 2:11
And then and Terrence and Hugo I mean, I mean, they got there to prefer all three of your performances was so magical. But I want before we even get started, I wanted to ask you about your performance. And that because you were so fearless in you threw yourself into that character so beautifully. And in a time where it wasn't nearly as accepted. It could have it could have pigeon holed you. It could have been like, oh, there's that dude that did Priscilla, I don't want to cast them kind of thing. So you just like, No, I want to do this story. How did you like how did you get the, as they say, in my culture cojones.
Guy Pearce 2:48
Well, a couple of a couple of things. I think I'd been doing a lot of theater since I was a kid, you know, and variety of plays and musicals and all sorts of stuff. And so I was quite used to going from one crazy character to another crazy character, whether you're playing the King of England, or whether you're playing the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, or what, you know, whatever it happens to be. And so the idea of doing things that were vastly outside of my own personal experience was something I was always excited about. And something that I I never felt that I suppose on some level, I was quite an anxious kid. And and on many levels, getting to play these characters that were so vastly different to me was a real chance to break free from the confines of the anxious kid that I was, you know, so So there was that. And the other part of it was that I'd been on a television show in Australia called neighbors for four years. And I played this very sort of just straight sort of suburban kid, obviously going through the ups and downs that we see in soap television. And, and I'd struggled a little bit after I left that show because lots of I was pigeon holed in Australia where lots of people went, Yeah, we didn't really want to cast him in our movie because he's the guy from that show. And then Priscilla came along. And Stephen, Stephen, our director, when nothing would be funnier than to take the guy from that show and put him in a dress. And I was like, yes, yes. So in a way, I was breaking free from the show. And to me, I didn't feel like I was necessarily doing anything brave in taking on the role in Priscilla. I was just getting to kind of break some shackles. I mean, in line with what your what you'd said. I mean, you know, obviously my first film in America was LA Confidential. And a lot of people said to me, how on earth did Curtis Hanson cast you after seeing Priscilla? Well, the answer was Curtis never saw Priscilla and he didn't want to see it. Because he kept being told, you know, you know what, guys like him Priscilla is short. This is the guy who want to play a 50s FA Cup. So I was I was I was really lucky that thankfully Curtis didn't go to the Cinerama dome for the opening of Priscilla in 1994. And you know, otherwise, you'd have wiped off the slate I reckon.
Alex Ferrari 5:06
And I'm assuming it's kind of like when a comedian wants to do drama, they want to kind of break through the shackles like Robin Williams or Jim Carrey, that that to break through the perception of what people aren't in your world. You were the guy from neighbors and you need to break so it definitely broke that bolt.
Guy Pearce 5:21
Well, and I wasn't I wasn't even necessarily looking to break the shackles. It's just that that film came along, and I was offered it and as soon as I read it, and it wasn't even so much about trying to break the shackles, honestly, it was this that I was so moved by the script, and I just saw some beautiful, I could apply that character. And I just genuinely just went straight into it like I do with any other job that I take on. You know, it's because I respond to a script and I respond to a character and go, Oh, yeah, I can see what I could do with this. The same as when I was doing plays and musicals when I was a kid going, Yes, I could take on playing Julius Caesar, of course. It's that same kind of childlike use of your imagination that enables me to keep doing what I do, I suppose. And there's plenty of films and scripts that I read and go, No, I just can't see myself or it's, I don't quite believe it, or I'm not quite sure that I could do this successfully. So you know, there's plenty of things that I say no to. But when I find something to say yes to it's a great feeling.
Alex Ferrari 6:23
And with Priscilla, I mean, I'm assuming that that was the movie that kind of broke you out of the Australian market, in a way because it was an international success.
Guy Pearce 6:32
Absolutely. Particularly in America. I mean, the TV show neighbors was really big in England and in Europe. So lots of people there knew us from that show. But Priscilla went to America and we went to America with it, it actually went to Cannes first, and I couldn't go because I was on another TV show in Australia. And I couldn't go but it had a huge success. And Ken lots of publicity surrounding it. Then when it got released in America a few months later, I then did get to go went to the opening. And that enabled me to get an agent in America and then start auditioning for things there. And, you know, within a year, because at the end of 95, I landed the role in or I auditioned for LA Confidential, and at the start of 96, I got the role. And then we filmed it in sort of May of 2006. So so really within a year, so that it there's some very clear sort of steps that thankfully, were laid out in front of me, that meant that I was then able to start working in the States. And the beauty was really, you know, Curtis might not have seen Priscilla but lots of other people had. And then they saw LA Confidential and so that on some level, established a kind of a, what was wonderful for me, which was right, you're a versatile, you want to be a versatile actor. Yes, absolutely. And so people on one hand, we're going how can that guy from Priscilla be that same guy from LA Confidential. So I felt really fortunate that that that paved the kind of paved the way for future work, you know,
Alex Ferrari 8:01
Now, when you were first starting out, and this is something that I mean, actors have to deal with, I think almost more so than any other creative in our industry is the nose and the rejection constantly. And I'm assuming when you first started, I'm assuming in the first audition, you walked into like you come in? Yes. Let's just give you the part. Yeah. How much money do you want, you could add all the money you want. I'm assuming this is not the normal route that you went at the beginning?
Guy Pearce 8:26
No. And when I got really lucky, the thing was, you know, as I said, I've done lots I've done theater for about 10 years from when I was sort of eight till I was 18. And in that whole time in different theatre companies in the town that I was growing up in, and in the whole time, it was made very clear to me that this is a tough industry, most of the time you're out of work, you know, you really it's competitive and good luck. And, and I never really had tickets on myself, I never really thought I was anything special. You know, I have a sister with an intellectual disability. So I'm very aware growing up that the world is unfair. And and I thought I just I just really enjoyed what I was doing. I really got something out of being in the theater but and I would look at those incredible actors that I would see on screen like Brando and Pacino. And then of course, in later years, Gary Oldman, and Russell Crowe and all these incredible actors and think they're so incredible to me, but I don't I know I'm not them. And any job that I get is a bonus. Any any work that I get is just I'm really grateful for I have an enormous amount of gratitude. Of course, over the years, I've gone okay, well, I must have something that I offer and there must be something believable about what I'm doing because I keep getting work, you know. And so I yeah, I suppose I just always, I've just always been really grateful for the shifts and changes and you know, when neighbors came along, it was just an incredible lucky break because I was finishing high school, talking to my drama, my high school drama teacher about going to Neider, which was the National Institute of Dramatic Art, the big Theatre School in Sydney, which I did audition for, I didn't get in and I got down to like the last three on the day. And they basically said, You're a bit young and go away, have some life experience and come back. And right around the same time, I'd done an audition for neighbors, and they offered me a six week roll. And then a couple of days later, they turned that into a year before it even started. So this all sort of happened really quickly. So I was going, but all those things that people said about not ever getting any what Okay, so I realized I was extremely lucky that that happened, you know, that I thought, wow, okay. And when people say to me, lots of young actors and kids, and, you know, so what sort of advice have you got, I might get lucky. Because, you know, learn your lines, turn up on time, have a very professional work ethic and get lucky because, you know, there's plenty of wonderful actors that I know at home, who haven't had the breaks that I've had. And, and they're I don't want to be self denigrating, but they're much better than I am. You know, they're amazing. And I just think, okay, something just lined up in the universe that men I should get on that show. I learned what I learned from that show. I then got Priscilla from Priscilla, I got an American agent from that. I gotta, like, confidential and just go, okay. Be grateful for all these steps along the way, because they could easily be taken away, you know?
Alex Ferrari 11:23
Yeah. And it's, you're absolutely right. It's because I've talked to so many, you know, high performing actors and directors and writers. And I always love studying the path because everyone's got a different path. No one has the same path. You can't copy somebody else's path. But you and the thing I do notice luck has a lot to do with it. But also preparation for that luck to happen. You had done 10 years of theater, you would got your chops ready. You were good. And if you wouldn't just started at 18, you wouldn't have gotten neighbors.
Guy Pearce 11:53
No. And I think also, you know, the other thing about doing neighbors was the in the show had been on another network. It was on Channel Seven here in Australia, in Australia. I'm in New Zealand now. But it was on Channel Seven in Australia. And it was on for six months, and it didn't work. So they asked it. Then the marketing people at Channel 10 said, We'll take that show because we know exactly how to market it and turn it into a B and that's when I started I started the first episode of channel 10. So they marketed the hell out of it. We did lots of publicity. People came out of that show, like Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue were all there at the same time, we worked our asses off, and the show became a huge success in Australia. And then, of course, it launched in the UK. So we had to deal with as an 18 year old becoming suddenly very well known. And that in itself, you know, the acting part wasn't hard. That was the hard stuff. The hard stuff was dealing with fame, and just overwhelming kind of recognition. That was tricky. And, and I think, you know, all sorts of aspects of my childhood and my upbringing helped me get through all that. And all those things still helped me get through everything that I deal with today. But you know, I see lots of young kids. You know, I see some kid who gets on a show and they become a huge star. Of course, in today's day and age, the the mechanism to make somebody famous is they've worked it all out. Bang, bang, bang, theory is superstar and you think, Oh, wow, how's this kid gonna handle this?
Alex Ferrari 13:21
So yeah, and that's, and that's so interesting, because, you know, when you're, I mean, obviously, when you're older, you can have life experience you have you can handle that kind of over, you know, that fame, but when you're 18 you're not you're a knucklehead, I was a knucklehead. I mean, we're all knuckleheads. Yeah, so to be able to you actually work through that and survived it is pretty remarkable today that
Guy Pearce 13:44
One of the one of the things also that kind of helped really was the Jason Donovan and Carl him, and oh, they were kind of in the forefront of it. They were the golden couple on the show. And there were 20 Others of us in the cast, because in the show, it said around the streets, so there's like four families. So there's basically 20 to 30 other cast. So I was it wasn't just me in the firing line, I was part of a group. So I felt like I was able to sort of just be there but not not having to sort of take the full load, so to speak all the time. And I think that helped as well. But But still, you know, we turn up in a shopping center and 6 million teenagers rip your clothes off. So we still got to deal with stuff, you know, and I just sort of go home and quietly be on my own and play the guitar and play the piano and go It's okay. It's okay. It's all part of it, you know, and in a way, you know what it what it's done is that having having fame, experiencing fame and also experiencing rejection as far as not getting a roll, both of those things are extreme and don't necessarily speak to who you are as a as a performer as an artist and what it is that you're able to offer. So it It enabled me I suppose to really focus on why I want to do what I want to do, and to just hone the craft, so to speak. Because all that other stuff is going to, you've got no control over that stuff, whether you reject it or whether you become famous, just handle them. Well if you can, and keep being disciplined and work on the craft and learn your lines and turn up on time, and don't bump into the furniture and you know, etc. So I think I've prided myself on being responsible and being and handling the career well, and in fact, I was, I'm working with Jackie McKenzie at the moment and extraordinary Australian actress. I'm here in New Zealand doing a film with Lee tama, Horry. And her and I had some big stuff to do the other day in a scene. And I said, it's amazing, isn't it? Because we had, there was some distracting things going on. It wasn't their fault. But there was some distracting things going on with the crew around us having to hold lights and move this, et cetera. And I said to her, it's not the acting, that's the hard stuff. It's it's trying to maintain your composure acting when you've got all this stuff going on around you. That's the hard stuff. That's where I think as an actor, you, you, you come through and you shine. Because you know, in your own lounge room, I'm great in this land room on my own when I'm practicing my monologue. He put me put me in front of 50 crew, and suddenly I'm a crumbling mess. You know, I've got to really kind of get it together. So. So there's all sorts of things in this industry that are tough. But at the same time, as I say, I'm blessed. I'm lucky. I've had great opportunities, and I don't take any of it for granted.
Alex Ferrari 16:34
Now, there was a little movie you did with a first time. Second time director back in the early 2000s. Nolan, I think was his name. I'm not sure it's Chris Christie. He never did anything else.
Guy Pearce 16:48
The nice guy though, he's a nice guy.
Alex Ferrari 16:50
Very sweet, sweet guy didn't know what he was doing. But sweet. No, I mean, mento. I mean, when you did momento with Chris Nolan. I mean, he had just this was his first event. Yeah, it was his first real movie he'd done following. But then
Guy Pearce 17:06
Following which, which he basically shot himself, right in London. So yes, that's right. So momento was the first sort of film produced kind of production
Alex Ferrari 17:17
With real with real crew and real everything. And he's a young guy, and the script is insane. And it goes backwards. And you I mean, when you how do you approach something that hasn't been done before? With a unknown, essentially, unknown director, writer, I'm assuming you felt out the genius in the script. And you felt out the genius and Chris, when you met with him, but tell me what was that process like?
Guy Pearce 17:43
Oh, it was, it was incredible, really, because it as much as I say that, you know, I'm, I'm really fortunate to get any work that I get. And if if I'm, if someone says no, and I don't get to be in a film, and I and I sort of go through that process and learn to accept that there are certain films along the way, or certain jobs along the way that if I didn't manage to get I know, I'd be really sad about. And that was one where I got sent the script by my agent. And he'd written a note at the start of the script, just saying, by the way, this all goes backwards, which was the best thing he could have done, because at least I approached it going, Okay, I don't know what we're what we're in for here. I read it. And I immediately felt, I felt empathy. And I felt the emotional journey of this character, even though it was kind of all over the place. So I immediately connected with that. I think, within a day, I got to see following. And I had the most overwhelming feeling of I have to do this movie, like, I really have to do this film. This is just, you know, I'm all over this. I know exactly what I could do here. Obviously, there's a lot for me to learn as far as what the story means, etc. But, but I just felt really keen to do it. And I met with Chris. And it's the only time I've ever, you know, you hear these stories of actors and film directors saying, Ah, man, he was so passionate about the project. He slept on my front porch for days and just said, I'm the only guy to play this role. And, you know, the passion was there. And clearly that indicated to me that he was the guy and I've always thought to myself, aren't you just you're either the right actor or you're not the right actor. If you go to the meeting, then you it's obvious that you're keen to do the role, but if I don't, I thought I never want to do any of that kind of stuff, where I'm trying to prove to somebody how keen I am to do the movie. So cast me because I'm right. Not because I'm more passionate than the next guy. Right, right. But I said to Chris Nolan, I sort of call him up I think after I'd met and said, Look, I'm really sorry to do this, but just just to let you know, if it means anything at all, I really want to do this film. I said I'm sorry. Sorry, that's sort of buggy with this because he wasn't that kind of guy that he's from quite a professorial Englishman, you know, this whole sort of approach that other people had taken, I can't imagine would really work for Chris. So I was quite apologetic in my in my call. And in the end, I got the role, but I don't think it was because I called him to say how passionate I was. I think it was, and there was no question for me about him being a first or second time director. I mean, I still felt like a, you know, a budding a budding actor myself. Anyway. So clearly looking at following there's there's just no question that he is somebody who is utterly capable, beyond capable. So there was just no question, I wanted to do it. And I was very excited when I got cast I really, and the process of then working with Chris, we did a couple of weeks rehearsal. And of course, I then got to understand the script even more, was just extraordinary. It really was, and there was a very economic shoot, we did it all in five weeks. And it was wonderful. It was wonderful also, because Chris, you know, here is the the one side of his brain is writing this amazing deconstructed story, that perplexed audiences all around the world to the point where they had to go straight back in the cinema and watch the film again. Right. And on the other side, he writes this incredibly sensitive, beautiful emotional story about a man who's trying to hold himself together with this, you know, failed memory. And I just thought that the ability for him to do those two things, and then on set for him to be all over all the technical stuff, just absolutely naturally, and at the same time be talking to me about the specifics and the nuances of psychology and behavior and performance. It was just like, wow, this guy is a master. I mean, it's so I was really fortunate to be there, in the early days with Chris Nolan. And of course, we've all seen what he's gone on.
Alex Ferrari 21:54
He's done. Okay. He's done okay, for himself at this point. Yeah, I mean, he's, he's one of the generation he's, he's, he's one of those directors, those creators once in a generation that comes along, because when you have someone who you can't do, there's nobody else that could do it. Chris Nolan felt like it's so special. It's like a Spielberg. Like, there's no one who do.
Guy Pearce 22:13
That's right. And talking about films, you know, that sort of gifts that keep on giving, like Priscilla, I mean, Memento does as well, in a totally different way. I get film students all over the world for the past 20 years, emailing me and, you know, sending messages through my agent or whatever, saying, We are studying your film at film school. What Chris Nolan did is like nothing else. And so I really have understood more and more over time, the genius of this film at the time, of course, I'm when I start any film, any job, I'm so focused on, obviously, the bigger picture, the story of the film, etc. But what what it is, I've got to do, what my what my task is what you know, how I get inside the head of a character and inside the heart of a character. So I'm focused so much on that, that I'm not really thinking about how the film is going to be perceived by the public later on, you know, hopefully, they have the reaction that I had when I read it. But it's quite a selfish pursuit. To be honest, when I read something go, oh, like when you read a book, and you put it down, and you can't stop thinking about it. That's the reaction that I have if things are great. So and then of course, it's not until it's released, and then the whole world starts going. Wow. And I go, Oh, really? Yeah. Wow. Okay, I'm on board.
Alex Ferrari 23:29
Let's just go for the ride. Let's go for the ride. No, no, no, now that you've you've had the career that you've had so far in life? Is there something that you wish you could have gone back and said to your younger pre neighbours, act yourself? Like, you know, what, just prepare yourself for this?
Guy Pearce 23:47
Ah, I think it's, you know, I mentioned my anxiety before, I think, I think if there was a if there was something I could have gone back and said that would have alleviated some of that. You know, and then anxiety sort of comes back. You know, I'm battling with it all the time. Not battling. That's too harsh. That's too strong a word, but I'm dealing dealing with it. Yeah, that's right. It doesn't go away. Obviously, I've gained more confidence as years have gone on, and I and I wasn't just anxious about whether I was any good as an actor. I was just an anxious kid. I lost my dad when I was really young. And I helped raise my sister who, as I say, Help has an intellectual disability. And I think I felt a lot of pressure to be I don't know, I think I feel quite self conscious about not being smart enough, not being clever enough, not being all these things. And so I wasn't a very relaxed kid, you know, I was just on the lookout. I mean, I can spot something a mile away or so like, I've got radar for things. So I'm quite a control freak. And I'm quite, as I say, just a bit angsty about stuff. So I've just learned over the years through lots of therapy and you know, the work that I get to do and now have My own child, and, you know, just living the life. I mean, I'm nearly 55 Just to make the effort to just sort of calm down. And, you know, I want to be I want to be a responsible person, but I don't, I don't want to be. I don't want that to sort of eat away at me, you know. And so I've made real efforts to, to, to, to help that. And I think if there was something I could go back and help the younger me with in his teams, rather than waiting till sort of getting through 30s and into 40s, that would have that would be a handy thing.
Alex Ferrari 25:35
And you and you would have said, there's going to be a strip called momento and a script called Priscilla, do those two,
Guy Pearce 25:40
Make sure you do them. Yeah. The other one that sort of came along that I nearly didn't do? Well, it was just an after I had a real breakdown at the end of 2001. I started with America, as I said, in the late 90s. I have a lot of things that have came crashing together. And one of those things was I think that I that I didn't really feel like I was a great actor. And I didn't, I also wasn't really sure of the validity of what I was doing. And also, here, I was still as someone in my late 20s and into 30, doing something based on the decision of an eight year old. You know, as an eight year old, I went and joined a theater company, and I was still doing this stuff. And so as a 30 year old, I was kind of questioning it all and questioning.
Alex Ferrari 26:28
But why do you think that? Is it because of the fame? Is it because of the work? Because did you not enjoy it?
Guy Pearce 26:34
No, I was well, I had realized I had started to get pretty grumpy going to work every day. And I found I was a bit short with people and I just wasn't very pleasant. And I really started to go, I gotta I gotta do something about this. I'm, you know, that all this anxiety stuff that I was talking about, and all this sort of controlling kind of element of myself was was really kind of amplifying. And the weird thing was, I was getting more work, you know, so from 9697 9899 was, you know, momento, I did rules of engagement 98 I did ravenous, that was a tough experience, ravenous 99 2000 2001, I did Count of Monte Cristo and the Time Machine started to do big films, you know, and the machine of Hollywood as well as just me, not not handling Hollywood very well, I think that sort of slightly competitive nature of it, as I think ultimately just not feeling like I deserved what was actually happening, basically, and kind of going, I just have to step away from it all, I just need to step away. So at the end of 2001, I decided to take a year off, I thought, That's it, I'm just I have to get away because I'm just getting really grumpy on set what's happening to me, I'm being really horrible to people. And, you know, took some time off. I did work in 2002. And into 2003, I did the John Jack and o film with tigers called defer or two brothers. But I then wanted to continue that time off after that, and sort of later into 2003. And so I was just not working, I was really questioning, as I say the validity of it, wanting to come back to it as as a 30 year old, having made the decision that this is what my career was going to be not an eight year old going on, it might be fun to be on stage I needed, I needed to sort of view it from a more mature point of view, and really see that it's what I wanted to do and have some more faith in it. interest. And during that time, during that six months, scripts were arriving, and I was literally getting them and putting them in a pile and ignoring them. And then at some point late in 2003, or whatever it was, I'm at home with my friend getting stoned. You know, watching a movie or something late at night, and the and the phone rings, and I let the answering machine get it and as this voice going. Yeah, guy look, I hope you don't mind that I'm calling you. It's Nick Cave here. We've sent you a script called the proposition and they you know, we'd love you to do it. And it seems that you're obviously not working at the moment. And they seem to think that if I call you perhaps it might prompt you to at least looking at the script. And so of course there I am with my mate at home I stone there's a script from the cave, oh my god, we're listening to this answering machine message, you know, and that triggered me to sort of eventually go back to work again, because I did read the proposition and went, Oh, my God, Nick Cave, it's like being inside in the cave song. And so that sped up the process a bit I put the marijuana away. And I really I really enabled myself to instead of just getting away from the industry and then not being responsible and actually doing what I wanted to do which was think about it properly. I just kind of took a holiday so it just that just woke me up and got me out of the holiday and thought I'm gonna go back to work and when I go back to work, which was It's sort of the end of 2004. I'm going to approach it with a whole new attitude, which I did. And that that was very different from me after that 2004 2005 up to 2010. And, you know, here we are now and then I really managed to handle Hollywood, I'm really managed to handle being there and choosing the work that I chose and giving myself the time off in between things. And because also, when you do start to work in Hollywood, there is the old adage, you've got to make hay while the sun shines, right. So as I started to get LA Confidential, and those things, I just felt this pressure to just keep keep on going, keep on going, because it's gonna go, it's gonna go, it's gonna go.
Alex Ferrari 30:38
That that's what the town does do. The town does that, too.
Guy Pearce 30:40
Yeah. And as I say, I'd sort of been taught that also in theater school, when I was a kid, like, you know, when work comes along, you got to take it, because it's gonna dry up any second, which is kind of true, but at the same time, it can, it can wind you up a bit, and it wound me up. And I needed to just go no, no, no, I, I need to just do this the way I need to do it. And as you know, I started as I started to feel more confident about my capabilities as well. So I was able to say no to things, you know, you went on a walk, you went on a walk about, you went on a walk, I went on a walk about and I actually went the end of 2001 I went to this really remote desert part of Australia Northwestern point called cable avec, and I spent a month there trying to learn how to meditate. And and I got a handle on it after a month, but it was a tough month.
Alex Ferrari 31:26
Yeah, I mean, you know, sometimes you just gotta, when you're when you're it's not something that everyone gets to experience. I mean, you had a pretty hell of a run there of movie after movie after movie. And it's not hard. It's hard for people to like, Oh, you have so much success. But there's a stress with that. And there's a stress that you've done, you have to just stop from like, wait a minute, is this what I want? Because the train is moving so fast that you're like, I don't even have time. And I've heard that from so many other from writers from directors from from actors who just like I got it, I gotta take a second year, because if not, this train is going to run me over.
Guy Pearce 31:59
Well, then the thing about, you know, the difficult thing, as I mentioned, when we were doing neighbors, which was all the fame that came with it, but there was no, there was no other choice to make. I was just on the show. And that was that was what we were doing. Once I started working outside of that show, when I started making films, then you're constantly faced with another choice, another choice another choice. Do I take this film? Do I not take this? You know? And of course, don't get me wrong, it's first world problems. You know?
Alex Ferrari 32:22
Exactly. Which one which director should I work with spreading Scott or Nolan?
Guy Pearce 32:29
Leave me alive. So, but but but it was amplifying my anxiety and I had to learn how to handle it. Now the big part in all of this that I was flipping about about a minute ago was that I was smoking pot, and I was smoking too much of it. And then that did not help at all. And so once I gave that up in about 2005. Yeah, stop smoking 2005 That also changed everything. I realized that my perspective on everything, you know, I mean, as we know, drugs and great fun, but then they're not our friend at all. So so that helps as well,
Alex Ferrari 33:11
And you had to, and you had to go through that as well. I mean, look, we all have to go through our own journeys, and our own and our own obstacles that get thrown in front of us, you know, and I think to be from from an outsider's perspective, you've done pretty well, sir. You've you've you've been able to navigate, and I love the parts you've done over the years, and how you approach the business and any type of interviews I've ever seen with you and everything, it just seems like you've gotten a handle on it, where I've talked to others who have no handle on it. And you can see like, at any second, I'm like, Oh, they're going to crash and burn any second like, Oh, that's not gonna go well. So it's a lesson for everyone learning whether in the in the film industry or not in the film industry, whoever's listening, that sometimes you just have to take a break. And even when it's even, like, if you had a job that was paying you $300,000 a year, but you you're like, it's so much money, but I hate what I'm doing, too. I just need to stop and figure out what I really want to do is dance.
Guy Pearce 34:07
Yes, exactly. That's right. Well, the other thing for me is I play music and I write music and that's a that's a real passion for me. But I'd never so once I sort of enabled allowed myself to really you know, start recording music and that I was thinking to release that also helped as well because I when I'd been on neighbors as people know not so much in the States but but in Europe and Australia, Kylie and Jason became huge pop stars. Oh, yeah. And it never if ever I mentioned that my hobby or my other interest was making music I had a lot of journalists rolling their eyes saying if not another neighbor star is going to release a site a single and so I very quickly back in 1986 when No, no, no, no, no, I'm never gonna No, no, no, don't worry, I'm never gonna make a public Sorry, sorry. I'm never gonna make a public. So I had this very private passion, which was to collect recording equipment, build a studio at home and record music home that no one was ever gonna hear. And finally, in about 2009, when I worked with Michael Barker, a wonderful drummer on a play we were doing, we had a band in the play, and we were singing songs, he said to me, you realize you are not doing yourself a service or any favors by not allowing this creative outlet out, you've got to do that. So he really encouraged me. And, you know, I've made a record and got it out in 2014 made another one got it out and 2018. And so that was also a big hurdle that I, you know, that just the thing of being brave enough, or Brave is not really the word but just just being strong enough to go no, I make music and I want to get it out there. So and that's, that's healthy for me to do that even if people don't really like it or whatever, just to be able to get it out is a good stepping stone. Otherwise, you just go around in circles?
Alex Ferrari 35:48
No question. No question. Now, speaking of amazing parts, your new film Infernal Machine, I mean, you to tour de force, performance by user without question it is. I mean, the I can't imagine that. But this is what I always find fascinating about actors is that you get into these parts and the insanity and the paranoia and what you were doing Infernal Machine. How do you approach you know, first of all, tell us a little bit about the movie? And how do you approach like, mentally? How do you turn that off at the end of the day, and not just live it?
Guy Pearce 36:20
Well, yeah, it's it was a tricky one with that. I mean, you know, thankfully, we were in a lovely location and having a lovely, relaxed time as well with some great people. But you're right, the character is pretty intense. You know, I play a, an ex, or a writer, but someone who has written a book, and that's been hugely successful many years ago. But in the success of that book, also came an absolute tragedy, where a young man was apparently prompted by this book to go and murder a whole lot of people and and so it was a mass shooting, when he was arrested and interviewed by the police. He said, I was, you know, it was like voices in my head. And that all came from that book, The Infernal Machine that my character had had, you know, written. So, so obviously, for that character who I played in that film, Bruce Cockburn, he's dealing with the success of this book, and he's dealing with this horrible tragedy that has occurred, that's apparently his fault. And, and so by the time we start the film, and by the time we find this character, he is now a recluse, living, you know, on his own in the desert, sort of in Southern California, somewhere paranoid, really anxious, just dealing with his own demons drinking too much, you know, just hiding out, and has been for quite some time. And he starts receiving these letters from a fan who he doesn't know. And this, this leads, this is the opening of our story. And this leads to all sorts of other difficulty Saturday, things are exposed, and he is forced to sort of come out of his wreck loose kind of state. But yes, the character, it was, it was an exhausting performance, because he is quite sort of highly strung, so to speak. But, you know, like memento, Andrew Hunt had written this amazing script, that as soon as I read and Richard guardian, who was one of the executives on the film, who I know, called me and said, Listen, I've got we've got this script, and I think you really might might like it. And we're sort of out to someone else at the moment, but have a read. And if it doesn't work out with the other actor, then, you know, let us know if you're interested. So of course, I read it and immediately called Richard went, Ah, so who is the other actor, in or out, like, what I really want to do this film was the same as my experience with Chris. And, and he said, Well, let me put you in touch with Andrew, the writer director, and we had a great chat. And it was pretty clear the other actor wasn't really fully attached. And so I managed to weasel my way in and got to make the film with them. So another great kind of psychological expos. A but an exhausting process.
Alex Ferrari 39:04
Oh, my God, it's it's and where and when is that? Is that comes out on the 23rd If I'm not mistaken, right? Yes, I think so. That's right. It comes on the 23rd. Now, I'm going to ask you a few questions. Ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker or actor trying to break into the business today?
Guy Pearce 39:20
Alex Ferrari 39:22
You're like, you're like You're like Quintin Tarantino. I was I saw him wanted like that same question that he asked him. And he's like, Reservoir Dogs. That's what I did.
Guy Pearce 39:36
I think you know, as I say, it's a combination of discipline and being in the right place at the right time. So you know, the thing you can control is your discipline, and really learn your lines and understand why you're doing what it is you want to do. Is it about five or is it about a genuine need to be creative and a genuine need to express something.
Alex Ferrari 39:54
Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Guy Pearce 40:02
I think to be kind to myself, I think I think to be sort of, you know, and not to, I'm often focused on worrying about everyone else around me. And thinking that if I was to focus on myself, and that's just selfish and self centered, so it's taken me a long time to realize that actually, I'm allowed to take care of myself and allowed to say, be kind to myself. And, you know, and allow moments of self indulgence and go, if I just want to watch the football on my own, I'm just gonna watch the football on my own, or enough.
Alex Ferrari 40:35
Now, what did you learn from your biggest failure?
Guy Pearce 40:43
Well, I just think about what my biggest failure might be
Alex Ferrari 40:45
Guy Pearce 40:46
Yeah, it could be my marriage. I think I think the biggest lesson always is to is to manage and to look at your own ego. You know, and I think my ego probably got in the way of that relationship in the end. I mean, that's a very simplistic way of,
Alex Ferrari 41:10
I understand what you said, but
Guy Pearce 41:11
My ex wife would probably disagree to some degree about that. But the same time she would go well, yeah, maybe you do need to look at your ego. So So I think probably, you know, dealing with one's ego is good.
Alex Ferrari 41:26
Well, I've heard in Hollywood, there's there's a few of those egos flying or there's not many I haven't met many people with ego's
Guy Pearce 41:31
Yeah, there are three. There were only two, but now there's three. There's one on Hollywood Boulevard. There's one on
Alex Ferrari 41:41
Ones dressed up as a spider man on Hollywood.
Guy Pearce 41:44
Watch out. Yeah, one dress a pink corvette around.
Alex Ferrari 41:49
Only a few, only a few. And last question three of your favorite films of all time.
Guy Pearce 41:55
Well, the Elephant Man is the one that springs to mind all the time. For me. I think because of the experience that I had with my sister with a disability, it touched my heart like nothing else. I saw the film in 1980 when I was 12. And it came out. And I go back to it every year or a couple of years. I look at it again. And it's just extraordinary on so many levels. It really really is. I'll mention a film. That's actually one of my films, because it's my favorite of all the films that I've done. And that is the proposition. It's John Hillcoat film proposition that Nick Cave wrote, I think, obviously, even if I wasn't in that film, it would be one of my favorite films. It's so evocative and with Nick's voice throughout and mix music and just the way in which that film was realized, is really just incredible to me. And, and this one would be primarily because of this performance but Brando in streetcar. I mean, I Yeah, yeah, I can't as much as we love on the waterfront and, and other work of his early on. There's something about the looseness of him in streetcar. I, you know, so I don't even know if it's about that film. Obviously. It's a wonderful script. It was a wonderful play. But but I just can't ever let go of that film in my head because of what he managed to do on screen.
Alex Ferrari 43:19
And just as a last question about an actor to an actor, what is it about Brando that really draws every actor? I mean, every actor I've ever talked to, they're like Brando, or now they'd say, Meryl Streep or Brando, and I go, Okay, what was what was that Matt? Because he did it. Apparently. First. He was one of the guys who just did something and everyone was like, what's going on?
Guy Pearce 43:41
Well, he clearly is, you know, that clearly, there's some real raw emotion that is that is expressed. I think at the time of course, in the mid 50s. He brought sex to the screen, sure, in a way that other actors hadn't before he came onto the screen almost like for people to seeing a naked person on screen going, Oh, this is just way too much. There's a couple of things about Brando and I will liken him to Tom Hardy as well to meet Tom Hardy and love Tom Hardy. Oh, you know, it's a big call, I think to sort of put Tom Hardy in the Brando category, but I think completely deserving. And a couple of similar qualities. Brando is beautiful, as we know very masculine, extremely handsome, beautiful, very much show but also incredibly sensitive. There's a real delicacy to Brando and those things feel in Congress. And of course we all joke will mimic Brando and there's that sort of advice that he has. So he's not doing the big deep voice macho kind of thing. He's he's he's part man, part woman. And to me, Tom Hardy has similar quality time is extremely beautiful, but also kind of dangerous. So these these two elements are two It gets just that in itself. Just looking at Tom Hardy, his face is compelling. I worked with Tom in 2011. And then I went straight on and work with Michael Fassbender and just went okay, well oh no, yeah, yeah is the new generation of these two guys. Wow. So I put Michael Fassbender up with with Tom as well but very different actors but but to me, Tom embodies a similar kind of quality that Brando does, which is this absolute masculine kind of beauty, but just this extremely delicate sensitivity. And those things you just don't know which way any moment is going to go. And Tom of course is just wonderfully unpredictable and incredible.
Alex Ferrari 45:39
I mean, when he when he did that, when he did the war, the warrior is exactly what you're it's a complete example of what you're talking about because it's all testosterone all the time but man does sensitivity the emotion the the rawness, I mean, I saw that movie, I was just bawling at the end.
Guy Pearce 45:55
I mean, I think that's one of the things you know, that's one of the lessons as an actor I'm excuse me that I'm that I'm that I would advise, particularly male actors is find that vulnerability in yourself because that on screen is a winner. The what is not the best way to describe vulnerability, it's a winner, but just now,
Alex Ferrari 46:17
It's very, it's very articulate.
Guy Pearce 46:20
Winning winning move
Alex Ferrari 46:22
Winning man good the chicks love it.
Guy Pearce 46:24
Alex Ferrari 46:26
I mean, Guy, it has been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend. Thank you so much. Congratulations on your new film The Infernal Machine. And thank you for all the amazing work you've done over your career and entertaining us and helping us and helping us feel and helping us navigate life through story and through performing. Appreciate you my friend.
Guy Pearce 46:44
Thank you, man. Thanks for the good honorable questions and it's been great to chat with you as well and apologies for my lateness yet again.
Alex Ferrari 46:51
It's all good my friend.
Links and Resources
- Guy Pearce – Official Site
- Guy Pearce – IMDB
- Watch: The Infernal Machine
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