Guy Pearce Talks Lockout

The star of the new sci-fi thriller on perfecting one-liners, misogyny and the legacy of Memento.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Guy Pearce is usually in really serious movies. Even Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has some weight. In Lockout he gets to be pure action hero, in fact a bit more ramped up than the usual. He plays Snow, a wisecracking rebel sent to a space prison to rescue the president’s daughter. At a roundtable interview with Pearce we got to ask him lots of questions about Lockout, a few about the upcoming Prometheus and even the next film by Drake Doremus (Like Crazy) he’s in.


CraveOnline: Was chewing gum your personal choice for Snow?

Guy Pearce: I can’t remember now, but it might have been written in there, I think.


Do you see it as sort of an homage to Burt Reynolds?

Not specifically. I didn’t go back and look at any other films. Stephen [St. Leger], one of the directors, was talking about how he enjoyed these kinds of action heroes who do have a sense of humor and who don’t take themselves too seriously, I suppose. But we didn’t go back and talk about any specific characters as such from films.


Is there a certain trick to delivering the one-liners just right?

There probably is. I don’t know whether I’m able to do it because I haven’t seen it.


Did you work on the funny one-liners to make sure they came out right?

They’re all written in there. Some I needed to adjust a little bit to make them work for me, which I do on any film anyway, I find. If something doesn’t come out of your mouth right, you’ve got to acknowledge the fact that you’re trying to deliver an honest performance. If it doesn’t come out of your mouth correctly, then it’s not going to work. So no, not anymore than any other film really. I didn’t want it to be just a device or an aspect of the film. I needed it to be honest within the character. I needed to find somebody who was naturally like that, had reached a point in his life. I think that’s how I viewed it, that it was a guy who had done all this kind of stuff many times before. He’s sick of being beaten up. He’s sick of leading this kind of life and probably sick of being misogynistic. It was nice to work with Maggie [Grace), for example, who has such a mature level about her and was able to put him in his place when she could. He’s a bit of a smart aleck and hard to put in his place. I wanted it to feel like an honest character. I didn’t want to go “Oh, okay. It’s one of those movies. This is what they do. They deliver the sassy one line.”


Were you worried that the part where you hit Maggie could be perceived as misogynistic?

Not anymore than anything else in the film. As a singular action, I think it needs to fall within the realm of him as an entire character. So, if that comes off as misogynistic, then everything else should or probably would anyway. I think he’s generally kind of misogynistic. He loves women but he’s quite immature, so he doesn’t really know how the best way is to handle them. But, at the same time, there are also hints at how good he is at what he does. They’re in a life and death situation, so no matter how smart aleck-y he is with her, they’re in a prison with 500 other prisoners. And as much as he probably took a liberty there by doing what he did, I think ultimately he comes from a particular world where things have to be done in a particular way and it’s brutal. That’s all there is to it. Otherwise, you’re going to get yourself killed. I can justify it in that way as well. And that, probably also, is connected to being a misogynist on some level, but that’s just the world that he lives in.


We’re excited about your next space movie, Prometheus.

Yes. Everyone is very excited about that.


Do you feel any extra weight playing a character named Weyland?

I do on some kind of level. I’m trying not to take that on. There’s an extra weight added to that movie because everybody has such an expectation. And, it’s an interesting time at the moment because there’s a lot of discussion going on about what we can say and what we can’t say that keeps changing. I’m reluctant to talk about it really because none of that is established yet. But it’s an interesting thing to be part of, obviously because of Ridley and because of Ridley’s history with other films. I’m just going, “Whoa, this is a big beast to be attached to,” and I’m very curious to see it. I haven’t seen it myself, but the little bits that I have do look quite amazing, so we’ll see.


Was it still called Alien Prequel when you signed on?

It was never called Alien Prequel. It’s not an Alien prequel. It’s a stand alone movie. I mean, there are some characters that run through from that, but it’s not an Alien prequel as such.


You’re also in the next Drake Doremus movie. Are you working without a script in that?

We work with a 70-page treatment, so a story, and there are scenes and there are scene numbers and there is very specific direction in each scene, but there’s no dialogue. So we work with Drake to understand who these people are, to understand the situation they’re in, and to understand each kind of moment to moment, but the dialogue is up to us really. That, again, was an interesting experience. Improvising with an American accent is tricky.


What sense do you have of the legacy that Memento still has?

It’s a film that people respond to still in the same way that they did [in 2000]. A lot of people come up to me and say “We’re studying Memento in film school and it’s really incredible to watch it and dissect it again. Oh my God!” I’m constantly being made aware of, I hate to say this, but the importance of a film like that, and in saying that, I’ll add Chris Nolan’s name to that because he is a highly innovative filmmaker who I think always reaches a new height every time he makes a film. When Memento came out, it was quite cutting edge and affected people in a particular kind of way and it stands out. I mean, we had a 10-year reunion screening of it at the New York Film Festival a couple of years ago because it was released in 2000. So, even then, we screened it and we had a Q&A afterwards, and the audience was just as enthusiastic about asking us questions about it then as they were ten years before. Some poor people still hadn’t got the answers for ten years. [Laughs) “I’ve been waiting for ten years to find out what really happened. Is Joey Pants a bad guy or not?” It was fascinating really.


Are people still putting the scenes back in chronological order?

That’s right. It’s really interesting making films and actually seeing the life that they have in the subsequent years and seeing which ones stand up over time and which ones sort of fade away. Things like L.A. Confidential and Memento and Priscilla obviously hold up, I think.


I loved L.A. Confidential more after I moved to L.A. and I knew all the places. I’d go “Oh wow!”

I know. I’ll come across places when I’m here and go “Oh yeah, that’s right.”