Guy Pearce was a teenage bodybuilding champion before joining the cast of Aussie soap Neighbours but he couldn’t be further away from Ramsay Street starring alongside Robert Pattinson in his new film The Rover. An existential take on Mad Max, it reunites Pearce with David Michôd, the director of awesome crime saga Animal Kingdom. Pearce talks dystopian road rage and recording his own album Broken Bones.
NME: Did it take much persuading from David Michôd to sign up for his outback thriller?
"I don’t remember if we’d said, ‘Hey, I’d love to work with you again’ when we were making Animal Kingdom but when David called to say he had another script he wanted me to read I was naturally thrilled and said, ‘Sure, absolutely, I’ll take a look.’ We ended up having a number of great chats about it. David’s a very gifted filmmaker and Animal Kingdom proved that."
NME: Michôd wrote the part of Eric with you in mind for the role. It’s a dark road movie and we meet him alone in the outback where we’re told it’s a decade after ‘the collapse’ has wrecked western economies. He’s a man of few words so how did you build a sense of your character’s identity?
"Obviously I had to understand who Eric was, the man himself, his personality, particularly who he used to be. By the time we meet him at the start of the movie he’s a completely broken and stripped down version of who he was, an empty vessel whose lost all faith in humanity because he believes humanity has lost faith in itself. He’s ditched his moral compass and has given up on anything ethical or humane. As the world around him has crumbled, his internal world has crumbled, and even though his ambiguous nature appealed to me it was difficult for me to fully grasp him without going back over his history."
NME: When he forms an uneasy alliance with Rey (Robert Pattinson) he’s a man full of rage who simply won’t accept that his last possession in the world, his car, has been taken from him…
"David made it clear to me Eric’s at the end of the line and that he has one last thing to do before most probably taking his own life. As an audience you don’t know what that is and I found that fascinating, that and as a viewer you have to hang on through this story as more is disclosed and more about this man is revealed, not only to the audience but to himself."
NME: In the film, Eric says, “You should never stop thinking about a life you've taken. It's the price you pay for taking it..." Would you call him a bad guy?
"I don’t play a bad guy. He’s a man who’s turned bad. He’s certainly had some shit happen to him and he’s done some horrendous things, but his struggle with the lack of justice in this current world is a bigger reflection, I think, on the deeper morality that lives within us all, that’s there underneath."
NME: In the film, Australia has become a resource rich third world country where the desperate flock in the hope of trying to find work in the mining industry. There’s extreme poverty and law and order has broken down. There seem to be parallels between The Rover and the world we live in…
"What’s so devastating is that there are parts of the world where people live exactly like this now. You only have to look at the news to see people without hope, wandering the streets with guns, nowhere to live, no work, and you just go, ‘How on earth…?’ What’s fascinating to me about our ‘supposedly” civilised existence is how tenuous and how precarious it can be, this unspoken support we have for each other – even sitting here now chatting to each other - that we kind of take for granted, could be undone very easily.
A couple of events could go really wrong and the next thing you know, you’re thinking about survival in a very different way, trying to find food, a place to live, with a gun and with the police after you. It’s really interesting to me how fragile and brittle we are."
NME: You’ve been on a roll in the last few years working with Tom Hooper on The King’s Speech, Ridley Scott on Prometheus and scene-stealing from Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man 3. Have you got a grand career plan?
"I definitely feel in the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate to be part of some really great projects, but, you know, it comes and goes. I also tend to disappear for a while at times which isn’t really conducive to a consistent career. You have great periods where fantastic things come along, and then quieter times, but I also like to get away from it all too. I’ve just taken the last year off, really, so now I’m trying to find some work and get back into it. I do get concerned about it sometimes but don’t ever want to take something that’s uninspiring just to pay the bills."
NME: During your year off you’ve been working on album of your own music. What can you tell us about Broken Bones?
"I don’t know how to describe it… Broken Bones is just stuff I like making really, like anyone, just to get it out of my system. There are quieter songs and others that are noisier. A friend described it to me recently as ‘adult alternative rock’. I’ll take that. It’s pretty much all about the overwhelming nature of emotions. As well as being released on CD and digitally we’re going to do a limited vinyl run. I grew up in the era of vinyl so I couldn’t pass that up!"
The Rover is in cinemas August 15th