Guy Pearce Talks Making PROMETHEUS, Viral Marketing, Working for Ridley Scott, and Briefly Mentions IRON MAN 3

     May 31, 2012


One of the coolest bits of viral marketing has been what 20th Century Fox has been doing for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.  Over the past few months, the studio has released a TED talk starring Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland, a fantastic video featuring Michael Fassbender’s character, and Noomi Rapace’s character sending a video message to Weyland expressing that she knows where answers can be found to some of life’s biggest questions, and pleading for Weyland to fund an expedition.  While none of the videos are in the movie, they all make a lot more sense once you’ve seen the finished film.  Speaking of the finished film, I saw Prometheus yesterday and it’s great.  While many summer films dazzle with action set pieces at the expense of story, Prometheus asks big questions and it’s the type of film that studios rarely make.  My recommendation is to not read any reviews and just go see it.

Yesterday afternoon I got to participate in a roundtable interview with Guy Pearce in London.  He talked about how he got involved in the project, what it was like to work for Ridley Scott and the rest of the cast, the viral marketing, who he based Peter Weyland on, and a lot more.  In addition, with Pearce playing geneticist Aldrich Killian in Shane Black’s Iron Man 3, we tried to find out how he got involved in the project.  But try as we might, all Pearce would give up is that he starts filming in a few weeks.  Hit the jump for more.

Warning:  Slight spoilers are discussed in the following interview.  Nothing that will ruin the movie, but if you’re trying to avoid spoilers, you might want to read this after you’ve seen the movie.

guy-pearce-imageQuestion:  Can you talk about your character’s legacy? Obviously it seems like you wanted to have a son and you couldn’t have a son, so you created David (Michael Fassbender). Can you talk a little bit about that?

Guy Pearce: Yeah, I mean obviously we know from the previous films that Peter Weyland’s… or we don’t know, but we know that Peter Weyland is obviously somebody whose corporation has just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger and he is somebody who I suppose has an absolute and natural desire to explore and to create and to sort of delve as deep as anyone could possibly delve. That, as we see, takes the company into the far reaches of outer space. So that as an idea was really fascinating for me really as a person to take on and nerve-wracking obviously as well, because Weyland is mentioned in the earlier films and I have sci-fi geek friends who have said, “[gasp] You are playing Peter Weyland? Good luck!” So there’s an expectation I suppose, a kind of pressure, but once Ridley and I had a few chats about the personality of the guy, the emotional… His ego, his attitude, then that’s what I was really interested in rather than the legacy as such, really just understanding the person, the man. I suppose creating David is one of the ways in which we get a sense that he… It just has sort of an endless perspective on what can be achieved and creating a robot or android like David is just a remarkable fete if anyone were actually able to do it.

Something that’s been really cool has been the viral stuff that’s been released along the way. When did you get involved with the viral stuff? Was this stuff that you filmed back when? Or did you film this recently when they started thinking “Oh, we could do this.”

Guy Pearce: It was always spoken about early on and we were actually going to shoot it right on the tail of the movie, which I think was… In fact I think they wrapped after I did. They had more stuff to do after I finished, because I really just came in for three weeks or four weeks or something like that about a year ago. It’s actually quite a good turn around, this film. (Laughs)

guy-pearce-Prometheus-peter-weylandYou were done with your parts before Comic-Con, right?

Guy Pearce: When’s Comic-Con?


Guy Pearce: Yes, that’s right. So I did mine I think… I did a couple of films really back to back. I did Lawless I think in March and April, and then I think I came here in June. I did basically May and June, so yes Comic-Con and then I think we did the viral stuff maybe at the end of July or August, something like that.

So it’s been in the works for a very long time?

Guy Pearce: Yes. I can’t remember exactly when we did it. In fact, I might have done it… I did a film for Drake Doremus in August and then I came home and I did Jack Irish, so no I think I did it before I did Drake’s film. I’m sorry, I can’t remember exactly when we did it, but it was talked about while we were making the movie.

A lot of us think it’s really cool shit, like the way you did that. Were you like “This is a very interesting speech?” Can you talk a little bit about what you took away from it when you finally saw it?

guy-pearce-Prometheus-peter-weylandGuy Pearce: Well it was fascinating. At first I wasn’t sure about it, because I thought “Oh, okay…” Well firstly I thought “Well this is a lot of dialogue to have to learn.” Originally it was in a short space of time. I think I was given it a week before we were originally going to do it and I thought “Wow, this is like a five minute monologue.” It was a lot longer what we filmed than what ended up on the actual internet. So it was a lot for me to learn and then it got put off and we did it a few weeks after we were originally going to do it. I thought it was fascinating. It was beautifully written and really just to give me more of a sense of… to be able to articulate Peter’s attitude and vision was exciting. It was exciting to be able to portray that and I suppose portray that in the version oh him that we see as opposed to the version of him that we see in the film. So it was fascinating, really. Then  of course I was fascinated to see what Michael was going to do and what Noomi’s piece was, etc… I mean I don’t know that it would be something I would wish on every film. You would kind of hope that all of that stuff would end up in the film rather than just extraneous kind of stuff, but I think for this it’s kind of interesting.

I wanted to ask about working on a Ridley Scott movie, because obviously you’ve been acting for a while and he’s been making movies for a while. Have you ever auditioned for anything he’s done before?

Guy Pearce: No. He came to a screening of Hurt Locker. I think that was the first time I met him, a couple of years back. We had a lovely chat, just a brief chat, and I think there might have been jobs in the past where my agent might have said, “Ridley is doing… If you’re going to be around, it might be good to go and meet,” but I can’t remember. Maybe Black Hawk Down, but nothing that I have auditioned for or nothing that ever got close or even seriously considered or even things that came my way. I was in L.A. at some point or other months prior to shooting this and Chris, my agent, was keen to try and make this happen, make Prometheus happen. So he set up a meeting with Ridley, but it was more a general meeting. It was kind of just to really say hi again and for Ridley to talk about the various things he’s got going and as we know Scott Free has produced millions and millions of things, you know? So we probably talked about Prometheus as much as we talked about anything else.

guy-pearce-Prometheus-peter-weylandSo you didn’t come in for any specific character? It was just a general…

Guy Pearce: No, and at that point I don’t know that anybody was cast, so I reckon it might have even been eight or nine months before, because as I said we shot it like May, June, or July I suppose. So it would have been in the middle of the year before. So no, I think Chris, my agent, was really just going “Let’s just get you in front of Ridley and see if he thinks there’s something.” And Ridley was a fan of King’s Speech. So we actually talked about that a lot and you know I think he probably thought there was something in what I had done there that might actually work for Weyland, but he didn’t talk to me about Weyland at all and then we suddenly got an offer. So you would have to talk to Ridley probably more about his process about how he came to the people that he came to, but it was a fairly cryptic one as far as… It wasn’t like I had conversations with him about this role for a while.

What did you think then, in terms of how the character is described and how you are?

Guy Pearce: Ultimately I always try to take on a character that’s nothing like me, but I think he’s a really compelling character ultimately. He’s somebody who is financing these missions and is also somebody who has a vision of humanity and the world and technology and everything as he does, it’s just an incredible personality really and obviously I’m not in the film there a lot, but I thought it was a combination of things. Really just the chance to work with Ridley as well of course… I probably would have done any role in the film that Ridley had asked me to do if I thought I was right for it, to be honest. Every time you say yes to a film there’s a certain percentage of your yes that has to do with the director, a certain percentage to do with the story, a certain percentage with the character, the location, etc… And not to take anything away from the character that I was playing by any means, because it’s a fascinating character, but you know to work with Ridley was a great honor and exciting. I know Russell would probably laugh at that, because he’s worked with him five times. (Laugh) But for me just to get a little snippet was very exciting, yeah.

prometheus-international-posterTake me through the moment you first saw yourself in the makeup.

Guy Pearce: Well it’s just bizarre. I mean it’s really bizarre. It’s similar… All the help you can get when you’re putting a character together… I mean quite often the discussion you have about character sometimes in that physical sense is costume usually. When people say “When you saw yourself in the dress and the high heels and the drag queen makeup, did you see yourself as that?” You go “Yes.” It really helps. It really informs you, because you see the different person. You can look in the mirror and not see yourself anymore, so it was fascinating and it’s tricky though to make that stuff work. You’ve got to work with a prosthetic in a way that makes it look real, so trying to be successful with that is…

Did you scare your wife and kids?

Guy Pearce: Well I don’t have kids, thankfully, but yeah I sent my wife some photos, which she was like “What this time?” (Laughs) But Ridley had sent me some photographs and drawings and ideas about how he thought he should look anyway, beforehand, so I was getting close to understanding how I was probably going to look. I did think “Why didn’t he just cast Ian McKellan?”

[Everyone Laughs]

Guy Pearce: Not to… Ian, if you are listening, not to suggest that bad by any means.

When you talked to him about the psychology of this character was he referencing any kinds of captains of industry in history or now?

Guy Pearce: He referenced Rupert Murdock, funny enough, but not in a way… really not as a personality, but more just as somebody who has an empire, really. Even Branson he referenced and obviously Branson is a totally different personality. So as I say, not a personality reference, but really just these kind of guys who have built and built and it just sort of seems endless and really I mean when you think about it Peter Weyland is far beyond what those two guys are combined at this stage, a multi-trillionaire.

prometheus-david-Michael-Fassbender-posterDo you question that maybe you were cast, because he wants to do more stuff with your character in the past some time in the future?

Guy Pearce: I don’t know.  I hope so. (Laughs)

There’s obviously a lot of mystery, which we don’t know about that he could explore?

Guy Pearce: To be honest I would doubt it, because I don’t know that he’s thought about other versions of this film yet, but you would have to ask him.

I know with Alien they planned a trilogy from the very beginning and I was curious whether or not there has to be something here.

Guy Pearce: I’m not sure to be honest. I haven’t spoken to him about it. I would certainly welcome it obliviously, but no I haven’t had any discussions about that.

Charlize Theron is clearly nothing like the character she is portraying, so was it a case of when the shutter went down she flipped back to being herself? Was it a fun place to work?

Guy Pearce: Oh yeah. It was a great fun place to work in, because actually Fassbender is hilarious. Have you interviewed him yet?

No, we were told he was bringing up all sorts of strange stuff on his computer.

Guy Pearce: (Laughs) Probably. He’s hilarious and Noomi… I’m not just saying this. I know people say this all of the time, but it really was a lovely group and everyone was very excited to be doing it and Charlize… She’s like an Australian, she’s got a fairly foul mouth on her and so she’s good fun to be around really. It was difficult for me though to really join in, because I was buried under what I was buried under, so I was trying to not suffocate ultimately.

How long did it take to put all of that on you?

Guy Pearce: Five hours and an hour to get it off.

prometheus-poster-ridley-scottWhat was the hardest thing to train yourself how to do, like emoting, acting, speaking, etc…

Guy Pearce: Ultimately the movement and to try not to over do it, to really actually go “Okay, well…” I found myself following old people around London.

[Everyone Laughs]

Guy Pearce: Yeah, weird, right? Well just understanding the difficulty that sort of older people who are struggling physically are going through. Trying to get that stuff right, I think… And I’m not sure how well I did that, but trying to get that sort of stuff right.

A lot of us are looking forward to Shane Black’s Iron Man. Can you talk a little bit about what made you get involved in that franchise? And when do you get to film it?

Guy Pearce: All I’m going to tell you, because I never talk about anything before I do it, is that I start in a couple of weeks. I’m sorry, but that’s all I’m going to say.

Are you a fan of Shane Black, though?

Guy Pearce: Well I’m not “not a fan.” I only know one of his films.

You mentioned earlier the categories in which you put things, like “I’m doing this project because of the director…” How does Iron Man fit into that?

Guy Pearce: I’m not talking about that.

[Everyone Laughs]

Guy Pearce: Nice try. I just can’t talk about things before I do them, because just for me… I give energy away before I’ve put energy into the job. I can’t do that, so sorry. It’s difficult for me.

memento-movie-image-guy-pearce-01As an actor though… A lot of actors I have spoken to will, as soon as they get a script, will start breaking it down and they will do as much preparation for this… for all of your roles… Are you the type of person that as soon as you get the script you are breaking it down? Some people wait until the last minute and then put all of their energy in.

Guy Pearce: Well it depends on the job I think. Sometimes I read something and I go “This needs me to not touch it until we get close” and other times I really need to go “Okay, I’m going to have to pull this apart and I’m really going to have to put together a voice and a physical movie,” so each job requires a different response I think ultimately and they completely vary depending on the character and the style of the film, etc… I mean I experience a particular thing when I’m offered a script that doesn’t have its funding yet and people will say, “We want you to do this. It doesn’t have the money yet, but we want you to agree to it. If you agree to it, then we will try to go raise the money.” And you go “Okay,” generally I agree. “I like you. I like the script. I like the role. By all means, go forth and prosper” and then you don’t know how long it’s going to be before they come back to you and say “We’ve got the money.” I made the mistake once years ago on a film at home that didn’t have its money yet and I kept looking at the script and I kept it very present, like we were about to start it in the next few weeks or few months or something and I kept it present and months went by and then nine or ten months went by and then eighteen months went by and two years went by and then I kind of put it down and forgot about it and then two and a half years later they said “All right, we are ready” and I went “Didn’t we make that movie?” I really emotionally felt like I had done it and I had to pull out  and they were furious and I said “Well I’m really sorry. I’ve made a terrible mistake. When I said yes to this in the first place and you said you didn’t have any money I should have taken that script and put it on the shelf and forgotten all about it,” which is now what I do if something doesn’t have its money yet, because you do invest and you live it and once you’ve got the ball rolling and it’s up and running, you need to then go and then make it. So it’s a tricky juggling act and in a similar vein, even when something does have its money and it’s ready to go, it might not be ready for six months or it may be ready next month, because you come on really late, so it’s different in every case.

[Everyone thanks Guy for his time.]

Guy Pearce: no worries. Thanks guys.

For more on Prometheus, here’s 4 Clips and Almost 5 Minutes of Behind-the-Scenes Footage and my other interviews from London:

And here’s a few more recent articles:


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