Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

A quick word with Guy Pearce

A quick word with versatile Australian actor Guy Pearce who, having piled on the latex for last year's Prometheus, appears in the forthcoming Iron Man 3 as brilliant scientist Aldrich Killian, a possible rival for the affections of Gywneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts and a possible nemesis of Robert Downey jnr's Tony Stark

Guy Pearce says the opportunity to work with Robert Downey jnr and Gwyneth Paltrow was his main reason for signing up for Iron Man 3. Photo / AP
Guy Pearce says the opportunity to work with Robert Downey jnr and Gwyneth Paltrow was his main reason for signing up for Iron Man 3. Photo / AP

It that sounds vague, well, TimeOut only got to see 20 minutes of the new film - but hey that's more than Pearce has.

We've seen the scene where your character turns up at Stark Industries. Have to say, you've got interesting hair ...

Ha ha ha. Is that when I am flirting with Gwyneth?


If you see me at the beginning at the movie my character is a very different person and a very different looking person altogether. [He's] quite crippled and a really awkward, really unattractive, difficult person to be around. He's created this product that you can take and heal all your ills. So he's come out the other side looking tanned and blond and dashing. So it was fun to take it to the nth degree.

You seem to be having to deal with a lot of makeup in recent years.

No more than on Prometheus, obviously, but I think one of the fun parts about this job is being able to change your look as much as you can. Hopefully it can make people delve into your character a bit more. I just really enjoy finding a look that suits the film that is different from what we have done before.

From the little we've seen, it seems the scale of Iron Man 3 could be bigger than the previous ones and is maybe more of a match for The Avengers movie ...

Well, look, potentially. Because I haven't even seen that 20 minutes.

Hey, you're really good in it

Thanks very much. Great. There are a lot of visual effects and we did some stuff up on some cranes and almost like oil tower platforms, and some of that was in the studio and some of that was out on location. You just know in the background they are going to make the world seem 50 times bigger than it really is and have 20 more explosions going on. Really you don't know until you've seen the film. The trailer certainly looks pretty big.

How do you adjust yourself as an actor when you are in a movie like that?

Well, it's kind of fine really because my focus is on whichever person I am dealing with at the time - whether it is Robert or Gwyneth or Rebecca Hall or whoever. And so you kind of know this stuff is going on behind you. But the job I need to do is to be as realistic as I can be with the people I am interacting with. You also don't want to end up in the wrong movie. You don't want to be too small when the picture behind you is massive and you could have hammed it up a bit more and vice versa. But it is always pretty interesting watching the finished film and going, "oh wow that looks like I am on the moon. How amazing". Really I was in a studio in Bentley.

Your character appears in the Iron Man comic books. Did you go back to them?

I did to a certain extent and they had taken a few elements from different stories and combined them. Sometimes I find if you go back and you wade through all the original source material it can actually be a little disconcerting - "You've taken that bit out but I reckon it's great!" - and you know for a fact they have spent the past two years doing that themselves. The last thing they want is someone like me [having my say]. If the script works as it is, great. I'll look back at the source material just as a matter of interest but then I will put it down pretty quickly.

And in the Marvel world, there really is no definitive version ...

I'm not really into comics to be honest. The big reason for me doing this film was I really enjoyed the chemistry between Robert and Gwyneth in the first two. And I actually thought Robert's irreverent performance and lack of being earnest was really engaging and fun. Fun not in a flippant sort of way. He took you somewhere and made it enjoyable.

Yeah as far as the superhero thing ...

... he kind of reinvented the genre. So to be part of that and actually be on set and working with him and dealing with his banter and actually trying to top each other was great fun.

Didn't he drive you up the wall?

No he didn't drive me up the wall. There were times when I might have learned something and it gets changed on the day and you have to relearn it very quickly. That is not my favourite way of working. He is so inspiring because he always has great ideas. So you can't help but go "that's a better idea, let's do that".

Most of the time he is very quiet, he's really sweet. He's lived a pretty hard life and I think he is very grateful for the place that he is in in his life now. He's very sensitive to the people around him, so I was imagining he would have been a bit full-on as well, but it was just the opposite. He was great.

And that Gwyneth Paltrow ...

Yeah, whereas she ...

Obviously really horrible to work with too ...

No she was delightful. She's a funny lady. She's done it three times before so she was like "We know what we are doing, let's go".

One burning question: What was Prometheus actually about?

Ha ha ha. Well I guess it was looking at the origins of man, I guess ...

Oh, okay ...

... and these creatures that supposedly created mankind. I think people struggled with the opening a bit because it wasn't very clear what that guy - that engineer - was doing on that cliff edge when he spilt that thing into the water. I think they could have made that a bit clearer.

You certainly earned your pay on that one.

Aw yeah. Look, it was a great gig to be on but it was pretty tough being in that makeup I have to say. I couldn't eat or drink all day and it took five hours to put on.

I'm sure your character's [zillionaire Peter Weyland] speech at the Ted conference [which was an online trailer for the film] is being studied by the Bill Gateses of the world as a model.

Hopefully not too closely. I'm not sure if my Ted manner was acceptable. But for Weyland he was a fairly arrogant man I guess. Full of ego and chutzpah.

That seems to be a sort of character you almost specialise in. Whatever do people see in you?

Someone like Weyland?

Well, even your character in Iron Man, brilliant man and arrogant with it.

I don't know because I am clearly not brilliant and try not to be arrogant. I suppose I am fairly aware and intimidated by people who are brilliant and arrogant. I think playing them is very interesting on some kind of level. I went to a, well, not toffee-nosed, but a private school growing up. There were a few elitist arrogant people there and I've probably got some of them in my system I need to get out.

You took notes.

Very much so. I didn't take notes on the subjects we were supposed to be studying but I took notes on the people in the classroom.

Who: Guy Pearce
What: Iron Man 3
When: Opens Wednesday April 24

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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