TWO BROTHERS - Q&A with GUY PEARCE
TWO BROTHERS focuses mainly on the tigers rather than the human actors. Did you have any reservations about playing second fiddle to the animals?
GUY PEARCE: Not in the slightest. That was one of the reasons I wanted to do the film. I liked the style and tone of the film - the fact that it is through the eyes of the cats and you get a sense of what they're experiencing. The people are more in the background. Obviously their actions are integral to the plot and they affect what's happening to the cats, but having them in the background leaves them being slightly cryptic, slightly unknown. That adds to the sympathy you feel as an audience member towards the cats.
Does the film's message about animal rights tally with your own views?
GUY PEARCE: Yeah, definitely. I'm not an activist as such; I don't feel comfortable in that role. But I do have strong views about doing the right thing by animals. I donate a lot of money to various animal charities and causes. Since making the film I've narrated a documentary about tigers, which is a way of helping because it sheds light on the plight of the animals.
Were you worried about working with potentially dangerous animals?
GUY PEARCE: I found it really exciting. It was such a buzz to be on set with tigers and also a bit bizarre, because all the actors were in cages to make sure they didn't get hurt while the tigers were wandering around freely. Normally it's the other way round.
Did they ensure the tigers were never hungry? Was that one of the safety procedures?
GUY PEARCE: The trainers understand their dietary requirements and make sure the animals are properly fed, but safety was more about keeping your distance in cages. I don't think the majority of the time when a tiger decides to attack you it's because it's hungry. It may just be really pissed off at you for, say, encroaching on its territory or threatening its young.
How do you feel about animals being trained to perform?
GUY PEARCE: As much as we want to relate to animals and interact with them, we can take it too far. There was a circus performer in Germany who had worked with lions for years. Then one day one of the lions whacked him on the side of the head and killed him.
As an actor who has shunned the showbizzy side of moviemaking, what are your thoughts on Los Angeles?
GUY PEARCE: My views have changed. I like the place now. I can deal with it. I realised that I had to learn to accept the place, if only because of work. When I first started coming to Los Angeles 10 years ago I really struggled with it. I hated everything about the place - the smog, the competitive nature of the industry, I didn't know anyone so I felt lonely.
So what's changed?
GUY PEARCE: I've managed to let go of my resistance to LA. I've met a lot of great, intelligent people, so when I come here now it feels friendlier and more familiar. I've also let go of my preciousness about work. I'd solidified in my head the idea that I only came to Los Angeles to work and that was all I focussed on, which is a really difficult way to exist here. Since then I've become more sociable.
Who do you socialise with in LA?
GUY PEARCE: I don't socialise that much - I'm a bit of a loner. I get a bit socially phobic. But I'll catch up with, say, Curtis Hanson [director of LA CONFIDENTIAL] or other people I've worked with.
Is there any pressure to follow other Australian actors into blockbusters, like Russell Crowe in GLADIATOR and Eric Bana in HULK?
GUY PEARCE: To some extent I've tried that already with films like THE TIME MACHINE. You do it and you learn from it. You ask yourself 'Is this really what I want to be doing?' The answer for me is no. I've experimented with big studio films for the sake of it and not had a fabulous time. I've gotten much better at turning big movies down in favour of something with a more interesting script.
You and Russell Crowe were both in LA CONFIDENTIAL. Did it not niggle you that his career took off so spectacularly, whereas yours has been a slower process?
GUY PEARCE: I didn't want my career to take off, not to that extent, so it couldn't niggle me. When I was in NEIGHBOURS I experienced that whole ridiculous thing of screaming teenage fans chasing me down the street for four or five years. It was horrible. I don't want that to happen again, so I was nervous about the idea of working in Hollywood. I didn't want some producer or studio to turn me into the hot new thing. They were talking like it was gonna happen, but I resisted it. I want to make interesting, small films. They pay enough. I don't need vast amounts of money and to get my name out there more. That would mean even less privacy.
Are you not tempted by the thought of a big star salary?
GUY PEARCE: I like having money, there's no doubt about that. But I feel uncomfortable if I've got too much. It doesn't feel very balanced.
Does it strike you that maybe you've chosen a strange career, considering the fact that you don't want to be famous and aren't motivated by money?
GUY PEARCE: It all comes down to why I do it, and it's about the form of expression rather than the by-products of success. It's trying to find the balance. I've certainly got an ego and I certainly can get greedy, but I'm also aware of when I'm getting egotistical and when I'm getting greedy so I try and keep everything in check. I think I'm capable of that. I've had enough success to help me get over some of my insecurities, but I don't need big stardom. That would only send me crazy. It's like drinking coffee. I'm not a coffee man; I can't handle it.
Do you see any of the old NEIGHBOURS crowd?
GUY PEARCE: I haven't seen Kylie for ages. I catch up with Jason Donovan every now and then. We have a laugh about how crazy it all was.
Are you competitive?
GUY PEARCE: I feel like I must be, in a way, but why can't it be fair? Why does it have to be about outdoing someone, you know? Why can't it be 'I'll give you this and you give me that'?
Does that mean you find it hard to go after a part you really want?
GUY PEARCE: I take an honest approach. I'll go and meet a director and talk to him about how I think the role should be played. When I spoke to Chris Nolan about MEMENTO I just said 'I really love the script and I'd like to do the movie' and he gave me the part. You hear about actors banging on directors' doors going 'I'm the only person for the role' but I can't do that. I'm not that desperate. My attitude is 'If I'm what you want, great'.
What are your views on hunting?
GUY PEARCE: I suppose it depends on your reasons for hunting. There are understandable reasons for it but, when it's done simply for sport, there's a lot of ignorance involved. People need to waken up to that. When I was a kid my stepbrother would take me fishing, but there came a point when I thought: 'This doesn't feel right. That poor fish looks like it's having a horrible time.' He said 'Fish don't feel any pain', but it looked like it was in pain to me.
Are you a vegetarian?
GUY PEARCE: No, but I'm gearing towards becoming one. I don't cook meat and I don't eat meat at home, but I will treat myself to it if I go out to dinner. I know I can get protein in other ways, but it's a bit of a habit, like I should eat meat because I'm so skinny. Then I remind myself about tofu.
How did your dad's death affect you?
GUY PEARCE: I'm not a psychologist and I'm just theorising here, but I do wonder whether my stoic, let's-get-on-with-life attitude after Dad died forced me to kind of act like everything was PK. Maybe that's how I learned how to act.
When did the acting bug bite?
GUY PEARCE: My mum used to take me to the theatre and I flipped out. I loved it. In a way I was envious of the actors. I wanted to be up there on stage affecting people the way they were affecting me.
Most of the actors you play on screen are pretty intense and also pretty miserable. Are you like that off-screen?
GUY PEARCE: I have my darker moments, definitely. I'm always struggling to keep my head above water. Being happy is never an accident for me - it's something I have to work at. I get frustrated easily. I've started to learn to meditate to slow myself down and it's been fantastic. I've got a great deal of sadness in me that is connected to my dad dying. I feel a real empathy for people who are sad and so I relate to characters who are unhappy and dark. I'm not great at playing happy, floppy people. I'm not great at being happy and floppy full-stop.
Is acting like therapy for you?
GUY PEARCE: Yes, it is. I look at acting as therapy. Every time I do a job it helps me work through stuff. As I become more stable, I wonder if I might lose the urge to be an actor. I may not. The desire to experience playing other people will probably always be there. But my desire to sort of sort myself out through acting may not be so full-on.
What would you do if you walked away from acting?
GUY PEARCE: I'd probably make music. I'm very serious about it. But I'm not so sure about the whole thing of getting a record deal and getting an album in stores. I think it's important for me to record an album and solidify something rather than keeping everything in demo form and never doing anything with it. Then if I was to release it I'd do it through the internet and give the money to charity. How many demos do I have? Zillions! I'm 36 years old and have been writing songs for years. I guess I should just release a box set and get it all out there in one go.
Question & Answer Text Copyright Pathé Distribution