Heads up for future film historians: Guy Pearce keeps the scripts for all his past projects on a shelf in his home, and they sound fascinating. “I end up sticking things all over the script, like a school project,” he tells Consequence via Zoom. “People laugh at me all the time about it, but I say to them, ‘Go into the art director’s room or go into the makeup trailer and look at all the pictures all around the walls of the world [we’re making].’ I need to create the world that we’re in on my script as well, like in the binder. Because it just keeps me in there. It’s great.”
He explains his process like so: “I love visual stimulation. So if I can find images — if it’s a historical character then obviously there’s a lot of great historical stuff that I can plunk on the script as well. And then it’s a nice memento at the end of a project. I’ve got a shelf at home that have all my jobs all lined up next to each other. So I’m a bit of a hoarder when it comes to that stuff.”
He laughs. “Other actors say, oh no, I just throw it out when I’m finished. I’m like, ‘How can you do that?’ It gives me some sense of identity, I suppose. And you get things along the way, you know, you get call sheets and you get cards from producers or you get whatever other stuff you get along the way, and it all goes in there. That all becomes a bit of a museum piece.”
Pearce’s script collection, at this point, includes projects like The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, L.A. Confidential, The Hurt Locker, Iron Man 3, Mare of Easttown, and of course Christopher Nolan’s breakout film Memento. His newest release is the thriller The Infernal Machine, in which he plays Bruce Cogburn, a reclusive writer who finds himself being targeted by a mysterious stalker.
Much of The Infernal Machine is set in the American southwest while shot in Portugal, the lonely rural backdrops enhancing Bruce’s isolation, while also giving the production a good excuse to avoid large crowds and other scenarios that have been more complicated to film since the beginning of the pandemic. But as Pearce explains below, that didn’t have too much to do with the conception of the project…
So something that struck me while watching The Infernal Machine is that the way the project is structured — it felt like a really great way to shoot a movie during the pandemic that doesn’t feel like you’re watching a bunch of characters in their apartments on Zoom.
I mean, by that point, I had done a film in Bulgaria just before that with Liam Neesom. Even what we’re shooting now we have restrictions on set — everyone’s still wearing masks, people are isolated in different groups. We’re all being tested all the time. And that has obviously been going on now for, as we know, two or three years.
It’s been getting a bit softer as it’s gone on. When I did Mare of Easttown, my first day was the day that everything shut down, on the 12th of March 2020, whatever it was. So we all went away for six months, but it was only six months before I then went back to America, and we shot the rest of Mare of Easttown then.
There were obviously super strict pandemic restrictions going on then — people in gowns, and there was the green zone and the red zone and the yellow zone and people couldn’t cross from one zone to another. It was really quite full on, and I was only there for a week. So anything post-Mare of Easttown has felt a lot easier.
But I suppose in a way to answer your question, yes, we were fairly isolated out there doing The Infernal Machine, but at the same time, it also felt pretty normal. Certainly by that point, we’re just going, “Okay, we all just have to wear masks. Don’t hover about in big groups together, please don’t go out socializing on the weekends—” Which I don’t do anyway when I work. So it kind of felt normal-ish — certainly more normal than, as you say, making a movie where everyone’s in their bedrooms on calls. [Laughs]