The new film “The Rover” is set in Australia, 10 years after the country has collapsed and degenerated into barbarism.
English-born Australian actor Guy Pearce plays a drifter whose car is stolen and who’s determined to get it back, no matter what the cost.
Interview Highlights: Guy Pearce
On figuring out how to play the role
“I just thought it was interesting looking at how precarious our identities are, I suppose, and that all those things we take for granted in our structured lives in this sort of civilized world that we live in, how precarious that stuff can be. How a few wrong moves and a few disastrous things can really set us back, I suppose, and send us as human beings back to sort of survivalists and sort of almost tribal cavemen.”
On how working on the film has translated into his life
“I’ve not often been a man of many words. I’ve never considered myself to be overly articulate. I do feel more comfortable acting something out than I do explaining something or whatever. I think even on film, I’m the actor who’s saying, ‘Can I strip this down a bit?’ Because I often find that characters are often a bit overwritten. I think that you can say something in one line with a look that you might need three lines on a page for normally.”
On the dark nature of the film
“It is hard to watch. If it’s not your kind of movie, it’s not your kind of movie. I do think that it going to be kind of a divisive film because if you’re interested in working a little bit when you go and watch a movie, rather than just needing to lean back and have popcorn thrown at you, then you’ll certainly find something in this film. And I think that it’s relevant as far as looking at the way that our world is progressing. We look at climate change, we look at the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and we look at the fact that in certain countries, even in Africa to this point in time, we have kids running around with machine guns, and people are operating on a level of survival. It’s not so far off that other parts of the world might start ending up like this. On some level, the film is very bleak, but at the same time it’s not necessarily pessimistic. I do think there is a sort of reality and potential optimism to it.”
On his favorite movie of the past five years
“I went for a couple years of not actually watching anything. I recently watched ‘Life of Pi.’ I don’t know that I can say that its the best movie that I’ve seen in the past five years, but it’s certainly one of the most unusual. Some of the elements in there I just think are extradonary. I think some of it’s a little, not hokey that may be too strong of a word, a little button pushing. But some of the visuals and really what it taps into on an emotional level is just extraordinary. So that really kind of affected me, that film.”
- Guy Pearce, English-born Australian actor.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Actor Guy Pearce is known for disappearing into a wide range of roles - a drag queen in "Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert," a man who can't form memories in "Memento", Edward VIII in "The King's Speech." But in his latest film, Guy Pearce plays a man trying to recover his one possession stolen by men who are fleeing a crime.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROVER")
GUY PEARCE: (As Eric) I want my car back.
SCOOT MCNAIRY: (As Henry) Yeah, I can see that. You ain't getting it back.
PEARCE: (As Eric) I want my car back. If you don't give it to me now, I'm going to get back in that truck and I'm going to stay on you until you do.
MCNAIRY: (As Henry) What makes you think I won't kill you right here, huh?
PEARCE: (As Eric) Nothing makes me think that.
HOBSON: The film takes place in the bleak landscape of an Australia 10 years after the collapse. The movie is called "The Rover" and Guy Pearce joins us to talk about it. Guy Pearce, welcome to HERE AND NOW.
PEARCE: Thanks very much. Thanks for having me.
HOBSON: And when we say collapse, is that an economic collapse?
PEARCE: It's pretty broad, yeah. I mean, social, economic. You know, it's something - I think what's great is that he just left it kind of open like that. So it's not like a meteor has hit the planet and we have accept that something foreign has arrived. You know, it could be connected to the collapse of 2008, you know, which - and I think all of those things - economy, social elements all - are all related obviously, so...
HOBSON: Well, boy is it bleak. This is, you know, such a barren landscape. We're in Australia, just a dark topic.
PEARCE: (Laughing) It is a dark topic. It's funny though, if you talk to David Michod, our writer-director, he'll talk about this being, you know, far more positive and full of love than his last film, "Animal Kingdom." You know, I guess he was interested in looking at, you know, even in a sort of time or a part of the world that, you know, has really kind of fallen apart. That as creatures, as living beings, we still have this very sort of intimate need for communication and connection, you know.
HOBSON: Well, as an actor, what attracted you to the role?
PEARCE: Initially, it was David. Having worked with him on "Animal Kingdom" and being aware of his work, I, you know, I think he's a really interesting filmmaker and has a great ability to set a particular tone and, you know, has a unique voice. And I really wanted to come on board, but I had actually a lot of questions about the character because, you know, the character that I've ended up playing in the film is somebody who's really stripped of all humanity...
PEARCE: His morality, his ethics are all gone. You know, he's living in a world now that he believes has let itself down and has let him down. And so by the time we see him at the beginning of the film, he's really just a shell of the man that he used to be. So for me when I was reading this script, I really got no sense of who this guy was. So I actually had to have a lot of conversations with David to, sort of, understand who he was. And I just thought it was interesting, you know, looking at how precarious our identities are, I suppose, and that, you know, all those things we take for granted in our structured lives in this sort of civilized world that we live in - how precarious all that stuff can be. And, you know, a few wrong moves and a few disastrous things can really set us back, I suppose, and send us as human beings back to sort of survivalists and almost tribal kind of cavemen, you know?
HOBSON: But the thing is, we the viewers can't have those conversations with David about who your character is and what's going on. You have to portray all of that and without very many words.
PEARCE: That's right. Correct. There weren't a lot of words. And I - the thing is, I think I understood the film on the same level that I do now. I just needed to sort of check in with David and make sure I was on the right page. You know, really just make sure that what I was getting was what he was initially, sort of, indicating.
HOBSON: But I kind of wonder if after an experience like this, where you do have to communicate so much with emotion but without words, you're able to do that in your own life more than you were before?
PEARCE: Well, I've not often been a man of many words. I've never considered myself to be overly articulate, so I do feel more comfortable acting something out than I do explaining something or whatever, you know. So I think even on film I'm the actor who's saying, can I strip this down a bit because, you know, I often find the characters are a bit overwritten. You know, I think that really you can say something in one line with a look that you might need three lives that are on a page for normally. So I'm happy in a silent world - well, not a silent world but one that relies on - I'm in a pretty physical actor I suppose anyway, and I just don't - I don't struggle that idea of emotional expression just because there aren't words to explain yourself, you know.
HOBSON: Well, let's listen to a scene from the film. You meet Ray, who's played by Robert Pattinson. His brother, Henry, is one of the men who stole your character's car. The gang left Ray behind when he got shot he goes looking for them and he finds you instead. Let's listen.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROVER")
ROBERT PATTINSON: (As Ray) It's my brother's car.
PEARCE: (As Eric) Who's your brother?
PATTINSON: (As Ray) Where is he? Where's Henry at?
PEARCE: (As Eric) Who's your brother? Where is he? You tell me where he is or I'm going to kill you.
HOBSON: You two develop this bond, even though neither of you really wants to admit that's going on. But can you talk about that relationship?
PEARCE: Yeah, it's an interesting one, because, you know, clearly as we hear in that clip, all I'm interested in is finding his brother. He has, as you indicate, stolen my car and in that car is really the one thing that my character has left to do in his life before, you know, my understanding is that really that he would take his own life. And so really I sort of hijack this kid - I kidnap this kid in order to find his brother. As the film develops and as I sort of indicated before, that in this kind of very bleak landscape, this desire for us - just by the sheer nature of spending time with another person - this desire to connect is really palpable. It's like he's a puppy dog that's been found by some old grumpy dog, and the puppy just follows along behind, and, you know, eventually the grumpy old dog starts to feel some empathy for him, you know.
HOBSON: Now as we have said, there's a lot of devastation in this. Everyone is very brutal to each other. What would you tell somebody about why they ought to go, not just see this film, but stick with it from beginning to end because it's hard to watch.
PEARCE: It is hard to watch. And I think, look, if it's not your kind of movie, it's not your kind of movie. I do think it's going to be kind of a divisive kind of film because if you're interested in working a little bit when you go to watch a movie, rather than just needing to sit back and have popcorn thrown at you, then, you know, you'll certainly find something in this film. And I think it's relevant as far as looking at way that our world is progressing, you know. We look at climate change, at the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. And we look at the fact that in certain countries even in Africa at this point in time, you've got kids running around with machine guns and people are operating on a level of survival. You know, it's not so far off that other parts of the world might start ending up like this. So, you know, on some level the film is very bleak but at the same time it's not necessarily pessimistic. You know, I do think there is sort of a reality and a potential optimism to it.
HOBSON: Guy Pearce, before I let you go, I want to ask you a question that I've been asking actors when we have them on, which is - what's the best movie you've seen in the last five?
PEARCE: Wow, that's a big question. That's funny because I went for a couple of years of not actually watching anything so I - I recently watched "Life Of Pi." I don't know that I can say it's the best movie I've seen in the last five years, but it certainly is one of the most unusual and some of the elements in there, I just think are extraordinary. I think some of it's a little - not hokey - that might be too strong a word, but it's a little button pushing. But some of the visuals and really what it taps into on an emotional level is just extraordinary. So that really kind of affected me, that film
HOBSON: That's Guy Pearce. The new film is "The Rover," which is out in theaters this Friday. Guy Pearce, thanks so much for coming in.
PEARCE: Thanks for having me.
HOBSON: And Robin, having asked that question I don't even know how I would answer.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
I was going to say, that is a great question.
HOBSON: It's a tough question to answer. Yeah, you really have to think or you just have to blurt out an answer that you then decide a few minutes later is not really what you would've said. HERE AND NOW is a production of NPR and WBUR Boston, in association with the BBC World Service. I'm Jerry Hobson.
YOUNG: I'm Robin Young. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.