EDITOR’S NOTE: While Time+Tide has been dominated by news from the 25th SIHH this last week, it would be remiss of us to not post something a little bit ‘strayan this Australia Day. So here you go – One of the greatest Australian actors, and one of Australia’s most loved watches.
Australia has some actors on the world stage. Far more than we rightly should, given our small population and proximity from Hollywood. Few make us as proud, as often, as the great stayer, Guy Pearce, who first came to the world’s attention in the movie that made both his and director Christopher Nolan’s star rise, Memento in 2000.
In typical Pearce form, when the movie is mentioned he jumps to say how fortunate he was to be involved. To work with Nolan. To be gifted a character like Leonard Shelby. If you haven’t seen the film, make sure you’re feeling sharp (it’s not a good movie for the hungover or foggy-headed) and get ready for something totally, blindingly original.
“Chris was so brilliant at articulating what he wanted,” Pearce says. “And what was great about working with him was that it was his second movie and you’ve got this low budget film that just felt like a normal movie, there were no visual effects as there are on films he makes these days. But still all of us on set were very aware of his technical ability and his filmic genius. It was so intimate and he was so emotional and so honest about what the emotions we were trying to get across via the character. He was in touch with what we wanted the audience to feel, which is all the stuff I respond to as an actor.”
In watch terms, Pearce is a Rolex: dependable, versatile and beautifully polished. Both in his external appearance, his lines, his delivery. But also internally, in the way that there is so much technicity behind what you’re seeing on the surface. The movement behind the face is first class, and individual, and it never misses a damn beat. His choice of watch, however, is also appropriate. Like the Grand Carrera, Pearce is a modernised classic who today, like his timepiece, is dressed in black, despite the Aussie summer.
T+T: Tell us about your TAG Heuer Grand Carrera Calibre 17 RS2 Automatic Chronograph?
GP: I’m really attached to my watch. I try to wear it in movies I’m in but it’s not always appropriate!
T+T: What was the last movie you wore it in?
GP: I wore it in a movie called ‘Results’ that I shot in Austin Texas earlier this year. I’m playing an Aussie fitness instructor and the director went, ‘The whole look, it totally works!’ It’s like a macho sort of watch, it suited the character.
T+T: How often do you wear it?
GP: Pretty much day-to-day. I really like the strap, the fact that it’s soft and it’s leather… I find that metal bracelets sometimes can dig into you.
T+T: What do you like about it?
GP: I don’t know, I just love the simplicity of it. But it also reminds me of my Dad’s old aircraft watches that had a couple of different functions. It feels nostalgic to me. I’ve grown very attached to it over the years.
T+T: We spoke about Nolan earlier, what kind of a relationship do you tend to have with directors you work with?
GP: It varies. I didn’t even think about whether Memento was going to be successful. I just said to myself, I’m loving every moment of this you know, really loving every moment of it. Even when we had awkward times, little hurdles you get to and you say ‘shit, sorry, I thought you wanted this, but you’re actually wanting something else, we’ve got five minutes, how do we sort this out? How about such and such.’ And he’ll go oh yeah, what about that plus that, ok great, let’s do that. So a really brilliant guy. Incredibly inspiring. And that’s what it is, it’s about being inspired by people. I’ve worked with directors before where I’ve basically said to them, do not fucking talk to me, because everything you’re saying is the opposite of what I’m instinctively feeling. And you are like kryptonite to me. It’s an awful thing if you get to that point and that’s only happened once or twice.
T+T: What do you do if you’re committed to a movie and you realise you’re not gelling with the director? That must be tough…
If I suddenly realise that I’m smarter than the director or we’re on different wavelengths or our communication skills are not working, you get to a point where you have to go into survival mode as an actor and an artist.
T+T: You have to salvage what you can from the situation for the sake of the movie and your performance?
GP: Exactly. You kind of go, if I try and give you what you want it’ll just box me in more and more and more, so I’m just going to have to block you and do what I know is best. But, as I say, it’s only happened once or twice when I’ve had to say no, I’m fucking doing what I want to do and I have to do what I want to do, I’m really sorry.
T+T: You’ve talked about Philip Seymour-Hoffman being the best of the best, what made him great?
GP: There was something extraordinary, utterly extraordinary about his… I can’t even put my finger on it. That’s the thing about him. I just found him compelling and unpredictable. The utter confidence. You look at Capote for example, and it’s easy to argue he’s the greatest actor of all time. It’s the commitment. The funny thing about him is that he’s actually not that transformative. Its’ not like you don’t recognize him… but you do go, ‘you are completely and utterly committed to this’.