Audiences have a strong awareness of Guy Pearce, but are they ready to see him as an action hero? In “Lockout,” Pearce plays disgraced special agent Snow, forced on a suicide mission to rescue the President’s daughter from a riot happening outside of the Earth’s atmosphere in the middle of a dangerous space prison. But while Pearce’s wisecracking Snow gives and receives his share of punches, the actor wasn’t entirely certain at first that this would be an action-heavy role.
“I didn’t see a genre-oriented film, I just saw this interesting story,” Pearce told us in an interview this week. “And [Luc Besson] said, the guys [directors Steven St. Leger and James Mather] are keen to have him be humorous. He’s a bit of a smart-aleck. And I said, 'Oh, okay.' So I walked away with the script, had a read and thought, this is actually quite funny. This wasn’t what I pictured. It didn’t really dawn on me until it was getting close that I realized, 'Oh, this is sort of an action film.' ”
Not that this prevented Pearce from signing up and relishing the physical challenge. “I found myself injuring myself on some minor level every week,” he says, “so there was always something that made me thankful for the weekend.” Much of this came from Pearce’s own territorial attitude towards stunts, of which he would always try to perform himself, despite the protestations of experienced stunt performers.
“I’m always saying, just to let you know, I want to do as much as I can,” Pearce says confidently. “And the stunt people always go, 'You don’t need to worry about that, we’ve got stunt guys.' And I’m like, listen, it’s important to me to do as much as I can. Because one, I’ll do it better than the stunt guys will, no offense, that’s why I’m an actor and you’re the stunt guys. And two, it will be better for the movie, because if you can see me doing it, if you can see me in close-up, then it’s better. And they’ll say, we just don’t know if you’re capable of taking a punch or flicking your head the right way.”
Pearce sighs, “You have this same argument on every movie, since stunt guys like to think only stunt guys can do stunts. So it’s a bit of a struggle every time. But after a week into it, they say, 'He knows what he’s doing, we’re good, we’re good.' Meanwhile some stunt guy is out of a job, because he’s just sitting there, giving notes. But I think it’s better for the film for the actor to do [the stunt].”
Pearce also felt at ease with Mather and St. Leger, despite their inexperience with feature films. The actor, who worked on the first films of directors like David Michod, Jeffrey Nachmanoff, Troy Nixey and Mark Fergus, notes that the definition of “experienced” has changed. “Some first-time filmmakers, they’ve made like 940 rock videos, 670 commercials, so they’re extremely comfortable behind the camera,” he says, noting he had familiarized himself with “Prey Alone,” the short film directed by Mather and St. Leger. “I’ve been interested in something before, then I’ve sat down with the director and thought, this is a good script, but I’m not sure this is gonna work as well as it should. But you just never really know. I like the idea of just biting the bullet and just going with it. As long as I’m responding to the character honestly, it works.”
Not that Pearce is solely in-demand with first-timers, he’ll be seen later this year in “Lawless,” his third straight collaboration with director John Hillcoat. “I play a cop that’s brought in from the city to wrangle those three guys. But he has his own rather obscure agenda. It doesn’t end well for us, as a group.” And while he showed up in the Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker,” he won’t be re-teaming with Kathryn Bigelow on her currently-untitled film about tracking Osama bin Laden. “That’s a total rumor. We never even had any discussions about it. I think that was the same as the story with Chris Nolan and 'Batman.'”
Most viewers will probably see Pearce in the upcoming “Prometheus” as Peter Weyland. An early clip already showcased his role in the events of that film, though it reportedly takes place forty years before the bulk of the film. Unfortunately, Pearce apologized profusely for not being able to reveal anything else. “I’m not in the film a lot, but obviously, Peter Weyland is extremely important [to the universe],” Pearce states. “But I can’t tell you anything.” When asked as to whether he survives forty more years within the film’s narrative to see the launch of the titular spaceship, he smiles and winks, “Potentially… not necessarily.”
“Lockout” hits theaters this Friday.