Guy Pearce and Jeffrey Walker.
Guy Pearce is bemused when asked how he will cope when he makes his feature film directing debut on Poor Boy, a paranormal mystery-drama about a man who inhabits a child’s body.
The actor points to the experience he gained from working in 60 films and TV shows and learning from such legendary directors as Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Curtis Hanson and Todd Haynes.
The qualities he most values are being able to communicate – and staying calm and level-headed.
“I have seen people on sets who are fairly hot-headed and it often doesn’t end well,” Pearce told his close mate Jeffrey Walker, who directed him in Jack Irish, in an Australians in Film webinar today.
Written by Matt Cameron and based on his play of the same name, Poor Boy follows a boy who announces to his family on his seventh birthday that he is a stranger named Danny – a grown man who died seven years earlier.
Pearce did not reveal who will play the boy or his 15-year-old sister in the Screen Australia-funded film to be produced by Aquarius Films’ Angie Fielder and Polly Staniford.
“It’s a really delicate film as far as the dynamic between the characters; it’s about the intimacy of one’s psychology,” he said. “I will have a gentle and communicative approach on set.”
Originally it was due to shoot in 2018, with Pearce and his partner Carice van Houten starring alongside Frances O’Connor, Richard Roxburgh, Callan Mulvey and Sarah Peirse.
The actor made his Hollywood debut in Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. Asked what he learned from Hanson, he listed patience, a sense of mutual trust and the director’s ability to talk to each actor individually.
He won an Emmy for his performance opposite Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce, the HBO miniseries directed by Haynes, whose enthusiasm and understanding of the material impressed him.
Christopher Nolan and Guy Pearce during the ‘Memento’ shoot.
Pearce jumped at the chance to work with Nolan in Memento after reading the script and watching the director’s debut film Following, a thriller about a young writer who is befriended by a thief.
“The film tapped into all of my own internal workings,” he said. “I had never done a film where the finished film is so much like the script. He edited that before he made it.”
He doesn’t remember much about working with Kathryn Bigelow on The Hurt Locker because he spent only three days on set as his character Sergeant Matt Thompson is killed on page three.
He does recall it took a lot of persuasion from Bigelow before he accepted the role. She won him over by telling him audiences had to believe his character was the lead before his demise.
Of Ridley Scott, who cast him in the Prometheus sequel Alien: Covenant, he said: “What a legend. He’s very down to earth, an incredible communicator who has a lot to say about a lot of things.”
Scott hails from the North-East of England so the actor found his accent a bit hard to follow at times, although Guy’s mother came from the same area.
Walker asked Pearce, who has signed to star in the second series of the ABC/Easy Tiger’s Jack Irish when it’s safe to shoot, how he chooses his roles.
He replied: “Follow my instincts.” Also, he draws on his experiences of growing up with his sister Tracey, who has an intellectual disability.
“Watching Tracey trying to fit into this world and how people responded to her has played some part in my view of the world and my journey in expressing myself,” he said.