GUY PEARCE: ON PRISCILLA, MILDRED & HIS PRECIOUS SISTER


Australian actor GUY PEARCE can currently be seen smoking up the small screen in the HBO miniseries MILDRED PIERCE as playboy MONTY BERAGON, opposite KATE WINSLET.

GUY first got noticed as a flamboyant drag queen in THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT and has been working steadily since in movies like MEMENTO, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL and THE KING’S SPEECH.

GUY (who, let the record show, is completely unpretentious and charming) spoke to POPEATER about those racy love scenes with KATE WINSLET and the enduring popularity of PRISCILLA.

POPEATER: I’m loving MILDRED PIERCE.

GUY PEARCE: As soon as I knew it was KATE and TODD [HAYNES, the director]…I mean, how can you say no? They offered it to me and there was another film that I was potentially going to be doing that would have clashed with MILDRED PIERCE, so at first I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I then found out that I didn’t get the other film that was in the works so it worked out well. That other film didn’t end up being very good and I got to do MILDRED PIERCE. So I was very pleased.

POPEATER: Had you seen the original?

GP: I hadn’t. KATE my wife and I watched it, enjoyed it and let it go. It’s a classic but it’s film noir and very different to the book. TODD had talked me through what he wanted to do. He talked about the original film and how different this was going to be. How we were going to honour the book.

POPEATER: I was a little embarrassed to watch your bedroom scenes with KATE.

GP: [Laughs] Yeah, they’re pretty naughty. When you work with someone like TODD and KATE, they’re all about integrity. But there’s always that little voice in your head that says, “OK, here I go. I’m taking my clothes off.”

POPEATER: You don’t have to worry, my love. You are in very good shape.

GP: [Laughs] Well, I worked on it. I exercise a lot anyway. I’ve always been thin, so keeping him thin and appropriate for the period wasn’t too hard. Also obviously once you get a tan, everyone looks fifty times fitter than they really are. It was all about working on the tan.

POPEATER: You were a junior bodybuilder.

GP: I won the junior state championship when I was about 16. I just found the whole world of bodybuilding really fascinating. The idea of actually changing yourself was fascinating and then as I got older I concentrated on developing my mind and spirit rather than my biceps.

POPEATER: Ever kiss your biceps and say, “Check out this gun show”?

GP: No, I was always looking at my biceps wishing they were bigger. I was never quite the proud bodybuilder that I think some guys are.

POPEATER: You were in THE KING’S SPEECH. They’re sort of the same characters as we’re seeing in MILDRED PIERCE – spoiled, handsome men.

GP: There is a similarity in that both take place in the 30s. But they’re very different on one level in that Edward or David is born into this massive amount of responsibility and spends his life trying to avoid it. Monty has never really had to have any responsibility in his life. He’s lived the life I think Edward would have wanted to live, the wealthy playboy having fun and seeking pleasure.

POPEATER: Were you surprised by the success of THE KING’S SPEECH?

GP: I wasn’t after I’d seen it because I thought it was fantastic. To be honest I generally don’t think about how something will be perceived. I think whether it moves me and whether I can be successful playing the character. It’s not really till it’s finished and you stand back and you’ve had some months away from it and you can look at it like an outsider and go, “Wow, this is great.”

POPEATER: Still, did you think it would be an OSCAR winner and the film of the season?

GP: I can never really guess that sort of stuff and I’ve done films before that have been great and they haven’t had much of a release. I still think THE PROPOSITION is the best film I’ve ever been a part of and not many people seem to have seen it. It’s weird, the life of a film. You look at other films that have won the ACADEMY AWARD and you sort of think: Really? I think a lot of it is what culturally is going on. I saw BLACK SWAN and THE SOCIAL NETWORK. I thought they were both great. It just depends on what people are after.

POPEATER: You were in PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT. Have you seen the Broadway production?

GP: I went to the opening. It was fantastic. It was very emotional to be honest. We made the film about 18 years ago. It’s had a great life, that film. It holds a really special place in my thespian heart.

POPEATER: You must be a gay icon from that movie.

GP: I felt like a bit of a gay icon at the time. At the after party I had every cast member coming up to me going, “Oh my God, you’re my idol. I’ve loved you ever since I was five years old.” All these 20 year olds in the show and I felt very old and very straight. [Laughs]

POPEATER: After seeing the film I have to admit I assumed you were gay.

GP: There was a lot of talk at the time because all three of us are straight. There were actually a few pockets of disgruntled queens who thought, “Come on. Why have you cast three straight guys?” I remember having a big think about that for quite some time and thinking I know it’s representative, but at the same time you’re discounting what it is as actors we do. If we portray the character successfully that should be what counts. Unfortunately what I learned is that every film you make, there’s some small pocket of people pissed off.

POPEATER: You live in Melbourne.

GP: In the community where I live people come up and say, “Hey, saw that film you were in. You were great,” or “That was crap.” But it sort of feels like community stuff. I don’t have people chasing me in the street. I wouldn’t want to live in LA. I don’t have the urge to live in the industry and be in the middle of it all the time. I don’t want to leave mum and my sister behind.

POPEATER: Your sister is developmentally disabled. I always think people who have siblings with special needs are special themselves, more in touch with their emotions and other people’s emotions.

GP: I did some therapy to talk about the effect of having a sister with special needs and what effect that might have had on me. You subconsciously pick up on all the attention that goes to the sibling with special needs. As a kid there’s a part of you going, “Hey, what about me?” In a way when you do grow up with someone with special needs you are so attentive and you kind of forget a bit about yourself. Here I am as an actor and well known and people think, “Oh you must be so up yourself. You get all this attention,” and I’m like, “No, no. I’m constantly the one saying, ‘Please, I don’t want a fuss.”’

POPEATER: So you’re not an egomaniac.

GP: I don’t reckon I’m up myself. I reckon I’m more down on myself than up myself. I end up feeling guilty sometimes for my success. I feel bad about being showered with praise. In the back of my mind I think about my sister struggling.

4 Responses to “GUY PEARCE: ON PRISCILLA, MILDRED & HIS PRECIOUS SISTER”

  1. you look at other films that have won the ACADEMY AWARD and you sort of think: Really?

    thank you. i say that every year. *ha ha ha*

    anyway…

    ms. m, are there roles that you wouldn’t know it was guy if you didn’t see the credits/read review? seems he changes his look/voice a lot.

    he’s an actor, not a movie star…

  2. you look at other films that have won the ACADEMY AWARD and you sort of think: Really?

    thank you. i say that every year. *ha ha ha*

    And I’ve said that more years than I can remember, considering that I’ve watched the OSCARS since I was a little kid in the 90s. Not that the BEST PICTURE choices are always godawful. Sometimes their selections are quite acceptable.

    Just not to my particular taste.

    Once in a while the film that I was really rooting for makes their Top 5. But it rarely wins. If you take the last two decades into consideration, I’ve only agreed with the ACADEMY four times: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE ENGLISH PATIENT, CHICAGO and THE DEPARTED.

    But a quadruple play is better than a kick in the pants with a frozen boot.

    ms. m, are there roles that you wouldn’t know it was guy if you didn’t see the credits/read review? seems he changes his look/voice a lot.

    Yeah, GUY takes his art seriously. I have watched a number of men play Edward with varying degrees of success. When I saw THE KING’S SPEECH, it took me a couple of scenes to realize that Edward was actually GUY PEARCE. I’m not obsessed with the Royal Family by any stretch of the imagination. But it seemed like a very authentic portrayal to me.

    he’s an actor, not a movie star…

    Now that sounds astoundingly familiar – as an inverse expression.

    Hmmm…

  3. Now that sounds astoundingly familiar – as an inverse expression. Didn’t PETER O’TOOLE say that in MY FAVORITE YEAR…?

    of course i haven’t seen that. sneaks out of the room…

  4. of course i haven’t seen that. sneaks out of the room…

    Well, you should take a look at it some time. It’s hysterically funny and Mr. O’Toole is fabulous in it. It’s one of the greatest comedic performances that was ever committed to celluloid.

    But when do you listen to me, my darling boy??? I’ve told you repeatedly to watch BONNIE & CLYDE and GONE WITH THE WIND.

    Maybe one day you’ll get around to some of my cinematic suggestions.

    Ha ha. Here’s hoping.

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