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Guy Pearce, 'Lockout' Star, On His New Motto: 'Deal With It, I'm Guy Pearce'

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GUY PEARCE
Open Road

Being the last interview on the schedule usually leads to one of two outcomes: Either (A) the interview subject is completely exhausted and wants nothing more than for me to leave him or her alone, or (B) the interview subject is completely exhausted, but there's an irreverent sense of casualness; an "Oh, screw it, I'm done for the day"-type attitude.

On Monday, I was Guy Pearce's last interview of the day -- and he fit squarely into option (B). (Related: don't be surprised to soon see Pearce wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Deal with it, I'm Guy Pearce.")

Pearce is promoting "Lockout," a futuristic thriller about a futuristic prison orbiting the Earth that gets taken over by its futuristic inmates. A futuristic rogue named Snow (played by Pearce) is sent to the orbiting prison in an attempt to rescue a futuristic First Daughter (Maggie Grace).

Here, Pearce discusses, well, a lot of things. Everything from piercing an eyeball with a needle (yes, that it a particularly squeamish scene in the film), to watching "Alien" as preparation for filming Prometheus," to (for reasons that are difficult to explain) the forgotten Russell Crowe-Denzel Washington gem, "Virtuosity."

(When I entered Pearce's Midtown Manhattan hotel room, he wasn't wearing shoes or socks.)

You're not wearing shoes.
I got hot in here before! So I opened the window and took my shoes off.

I suppose that helps?
I suffer from overheating quite easily.

What does that mean?
[Laughs] I don't know. I'm not sure. It just was really stuffy in here.

Did you overheat while filming "Lockout"? There's a lot going on.
I probably did, yeah. Although, it was cold-ish. It was leading up to Christmas in Serbia, so it was getting colder and colder.

What would have happened if you told the director, "You know what? I'm doing this scene without shoes. Deal with it, I'm Guy Pearce."
Well, I never wear shoes at home. Never.

I like how I just put words in your mouth. Unless you've actually said, "Deal with it, I'm Guy Pearce."
"Deal with it, I'm Guy Pearce." I haven't actually said that. No. I wouldn't have the chutzpah to say such a thing. But, please, by all means, that's a good heading: "Deal with it, I'm Guy Pearce." Do you think I could wear that as a t-shirt? Do you think I'd be accused of being arrogant?

You'd be on a lot of celebrity type websites with headlines like, "Guy Pearce says, 'deal with it,'" or "Dealbreaker!"
"Who the hell does he think he is?!" [Picks up my iPhone that is recording this interview] Hey, what app is that?

It's just called Recorder. It can record phone calls, too.
Andy Warhol would have been happy with that.

You played Andy Warhol.
I did. And he recorded every phone conversation he had from about 1965 on. He and Brigid Berlin.

He's like Nixon.
Exactly.

There's a comparison that you don't hear very often.
You know, that's true. And there are boxes and boxes of these tapes that I've gone through. And they're all at the museum in Pittsburgh.

What did you hear that you thought to yourself, You know, I would have never have expected to hear those words from him?
That's an interesting question. I think the thing that I got from listening to all of those tapes was his mood changes and the sort of power shifts between him and Brigid. As far as a specific thing, when Brigid told Andy about Edie Sedgwick's death, he just deflected that news for about the first four minutes of the conversation. And right toward the very end, after he annoyed the shit out of her, he said, "Wow, I really thought she was going to make it." And it was just heartbreaking because you know that he really felt something for her. And just hearing them play with their ideas was fascinating. Anyway, [laughs] I know that's not why you are here.

No, it's not. I'm sure Open Road will be happy to know that we are publicizing "Factory Girl." "Available at all home video outlets."
[Laughs] "'Factory Girl'!"

My first takeaway from "Lockout" is that I wish I had the ability to crack wise while I'm being punched.
Yes.

Because in real life all I would be saying is, "Please don't punch me again."
I wish I had the ability to crack wise, generally. You know, without getting punched. There's no way I could do it while getting beaten up. Definitely. But, clearly he's a guy who, at heart, is pretty tough. So, you know, I thought it was a nice way to start the film. But it's a bit contradictory because, for the rest of the film, anytime he hurts himself, he goes, "Ow!"

I can't remember the last time I had to cover my eyes during a scene. But there's a scene in this film where I was like, "Nope. I'm out."
Oh, the needle in the eye?

Yes.
Yeah. I remember when we were shooting it, I was going, "Oh my God." The thought of it and you have to be careful with that stuff. Because we're all in close proximity and I'm there with a needle, leaning over Maggie Grace, going, "Be fucking careful, man." I was thinking that when they handed me the prop that it was going to have a metal frame that sat on her head and I put it inside a thing. But ... no, no. Freehand. All freehand. Yeah, it was pretty gross.

I never thought I'd say, "Guy Pearce, Action Star." You haven't done that before.
I don't think I have.

I mean, films like "L.A. Confidential" have action. But that doesn't count.
No. Most things I do are dramas. But I really didn't look at this as an action movie when I took it on. It seemed like a feasible idea, even though it's got a heightened sense of reality. But some point in it, I'm not really sure, I was going, "OK, I know how they're going to view this." And the directors did say to me that they wanted to get back to those early '80s style action films.

And it felt like that.
Yeah, but I needed to make it credible. I needed to find some integrity in this guy as a real person, I suppose. Not just delivering the one-liners.

And you're not just doing an American accent. You're doing an action star accent, almost.
Really? The deep voice, yeah.

I've never heard your voice sound like that before.
That's good [laughs].

You're smiling. Do you like hearing that?
Yeah! Absolutely. I'm constantly trying to be as original as I can. Even in the face of doing something like this where, clearly, we're paying homage to Bruce Willis and his folk.

If you wanted to pay homage to Bruce Willis, you really should have lost the shoes. Like in "Die Hard." So you kill two birds with one stone.
Yeah, absolutely. But, then, I am trying to be original.

So not too much of an homage.
No. And I didn't want to look at any of his films at the time. I didn't want to then find myself running away from things that I was seeing in my mind. So, it was better for me not to take anything on at the time. And, you know, just treat this as originally as I possibly could, I suppose.

Based on the Oscar wins for "The Hurt Locker" and "The King's Speech," I was surprised you didn't show up in "The Artist."
[Laugh] I know! Well, yes, who would have known? Someone joked to me, "With all of the different accents that you do, you couldn't have been in a silent movie."

That would have driven you nuts.
Though, it would have been nice to appear in "The Artist" -- to get three in a row.

When you were in "L.A. Confidential," you and Russell Crowe were fairly new to American audiences. As evidenced by the last question, you've had a great career since. But did you ever look at what happened to Russell immediately after and think, Well, that escalated quickly?
It didn't surprise me at all with Russell. He's just got great power and he's an incredible performer. So I wasn't at all surprised. And just because we happened to be in the same movie together didn't make me assume that we should have the same career.

You were on an episode of "Neighbors" together, too.
Well, I was a regular ...

Yeah, he only did one episode.
But based on the performances that I had seen him do in the movies that he had done in Australia ... and "L.A. Confidential" was his sixth American movie. It was my first. So, he had done "The Quick and the Dead" and all sorts of other things.

And "Virtuosity."
"Virtuosity"! That's right. SID 6.7, I think was his character name.

It was. Nice job.
So, no. It didn't surprise me at all. I thought that if anyone was going to take on Hollywood, this is the guy to do it. And whereas I went back into my hole and sort of tried to find interesting stuff for me to do.

When was the last time you watched "Alien"?
I watched it again just before we shot "Prometheus." I just wanted to remind myself of that world. But I haven't watched the other three.

It's probably not needed, as far as "Prometheus" is concerned?
No, but I'm curious. Because everyone keeps talking about them now and I'd be curious to go back and remind myself. Particularly number two with James Cameron. But I think, from memory, they get worse and worse as they go on.

Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter

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