Guy Pearce seems to have one of those careers other actors dream about. Respected by many, adored by some, working constantly, and while in public, mostly undisturbed when grabbing a coffee. There's always the occasional soapbox admirer preaching that he's not a big enough star for his body of work, and they're not wrong, but this is someone who stepped away from easy fame when he left his feature role on Australian TV's Neighbors after four years.
Curled up on a comfortable couch inside the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, his shoes kicked off, he looks plenty happy. There is fading black nail polish on his hand, a remnant from a rock gig he played with his band, contrasted by his sharp Tag Heuer Grand Carrera Calibre 17. His day to day look isn't really dictated by anything but comfort. "I don't usually wear anything but Birkenstocks," he explains.
This would seem to counter his policy on job selection, though, usually seeking anything but comfort from roles he signs on to. His recent credits are as varied as can be: mad scientist Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, apocalypse survivor in The Rover, and as a positive-thinking fitness guru in his latest, Results. Coming up, he'll play F. Scott Fitzgerald in Genius, and will re-team with director Drake Doremus on the futuristic thriller Equals.
It's this desire to constantly transform that enticed him to become an actor in the first place, and his dedication to the craft has even prevented him from getting a tattoo, which may shock fans of Christopher Nolan's Memento, in which Pearce plays a man in search for his wife's killer while struggling with short term memory loss, leading him to permanently ink the clues on his body. Pearce instead lives vicariously through the tattoos of his wife, Kate Mestitz; though if he were to change his mind, he has an idea already picked out: a giant dragonfly on his back. This is not a man who makes small moves.
In the movie Results, your character is guided by visions that seem to influence his decisions. Have you ever tried visualization yourself?
I'm a pretty pragmatic person. I don't necessarily believe in visualization but I do remember reading that the Dalai Lama once said, "You have to fake it until you make it." There is some truth in constructing in your mind where you want to be going. Not just job prospects, but your life over all. I went through a period of about 15 years where I was a real miserable bastard. I got to a point where I was grumpy with everyone, and I decided that I needed to sort it out. I started talking to a therapist, and I remember one day on the couch I was telling him this story about how I was doing Priscilla [the 1994 comedy] and in the scene we were filming I had to laugh a lot. Before the scene I was in a really bad mood, but when the cameras were on I was forced to laugh, and after filming that scene I was in a really good mood. I told the therapist that I had learned from that experience and I started laughing before I got to work each day, even though I was in a bad mood, because I didn't want to bring people down when I arrived. He told me that it was incredibly valuable. You aren't born a grumpy person. It dawned on me that changing your direction in life is something that you can't visualize per say, but you can do little things to help your state of mind.
You have to play the owner of a fitness gym, and have always been pretty fit, what was your regime getting ready for this?
I love to run. I'll do an hour of a long walk with the dogs that turns into running. I have Basenjis. They can keep up. They can run all day. I'll try to make it more running than walking and the terrain is pretty flat out in Australia. Then if I'm not filming anything I'll go to the gym and do a little circuit of light free weights. I won a bodybuilding competition when I was 16. I'm comfortable in the gym; I know how much I can push it. I don't need a trainer. For this, I ramped up the regimen a little, I have the muscle memory still and I can pretty easily get that body back. About a month of serious working out and I can puff back up. I feel a bit schlubby at the moment because my band did a tour in January and February and tour living is a lot of drinking and bad eating habits. I've been feeling a little big in the belly, and that's when I don't really feel good about myself, when I let the core go. I don't mind if my arms aren't as buff or muscular. It's harder as you get older to get your center back. I'm 47 now, and it gets harder as you go. I think 20 minutes of Pilates and some core workouts is all you need for the day.
How have you adjusted some of the routines from when you were younger?
The older I get, the more I have to be careful about the amount of weight I do, to avoid injuring myself. Particularly around the knees and shoulder, you can strain easily. I love getting into Pilates and yoga, which I've done sporadically for a few years. I used to do a lot of stretching in my bodybuilding days. Then learning yoga about 20 years ago was a whole new education. I can do a couple of yoga poses. I did some rehabilitation Pilates when I hurt my back in 2006. I had to do a movie playing Houdini, where I was hanging upside down.
How crucial has Pilates been to your overall health?
It's been life changing. I used to have tons of lower back problems, but since I've been doing Pilates it's been so much better. It's completely solved it. Because you put all of this focus on your core and your spine is finally off the hook.
We just past the 15-year mark for Memento. Do you still get a lot of fans asking you about that role?
It's kind of funny when people get the chance to ask me about it, you can see this desperation in their eyes to know what Leonard did in the end. They just yell out, 'What happened?" All I can say is sorry; I couldn't even remember if I tried, it was so long ago.