Actor relishes ragtag look in 'The Rover'

In “The Rover,” actor Guy Pearce is stuck in the same sweat-stained shirt, shorts and pair of shoes for the entire movie. And he loved every minute of it.

“It was fantastic. One of my personal hates on a film is costume changes, which are obviously necessary and they’re great for the movie. But it can be a bit of a drag sometimes,” he said in a phone call this week from New York.

“You have to run back and change your look and change your clothes, all that sort of stuff,” he said. “I just had a little personal moment of satisfaction every morning when I walked into the trailer and there was my same shirt, my same shorts and my same sneakers.”

What a difference from “The King’‍s Speech,” in which he played King Edward VIII and wore uncomfortable period boots with elaborate laces and vintage clothing that had been moth-eaten but was mended by the Oscar-nominated costumers. The older brother of future King George VI (Colin Firth) famously chose romance over rule in the best picture of 2010.

That was three years after Mr. Pearce disappeared into Andy Warhol in “Factory Girl.” He came to Pittsburgh to see The Andy Warhol Museum, spend a day with Andy’s older brother, the late John Warhola, and to visit key places, such as the family home and Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church on the North Side.

In “Iron Man 3,” he was a big-brained businessman with daring but dangerous plans for DNA research, while he burrowed under makeup in the sci-fi tale “Prometheus” and tattooed clues to his wife’s murder on his body in the mesmerizing “Memento.” He portrayed a straight-arrow detective in “L.A. Confidential” and wore skyscraper hair the color of blue cotton candy, bustiers and ABBA costumes as a drag queen in “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”

Does he try not to repeat himself when choosing roles? “I don’t know if I consciously try not to. I think I just gravitate toward a role that comes along that feels like something I’‍m interested in, at the time.

“I’‍m sure if there are elements that are similar to a character I’‍ve played before, I might try to find ways to make it not be the same — whether that’s about a different voice or whatever, but obviously there’‍s only so many personalities out there, so I might eventually get to a point where I feel like I’‍ve done everything that I can offer. I certainly enjoy a wide spectrum of behaviors and psychology and personalities. I’‍m always very interested in exploring new things.”

“The Rover,” opening today and teaming Mr. Pearce with Robert Pattinson, is set in Australia 10 years after a collapse of the Western economic system. It’s from writer-director David Michod, who also made “Animal Kingdom,” a sprawling Australian crime story starring Mr. Pearce as a decent detective in 1980s Melbourne.

Mr. Pearce spent only two weeks on the set of “Animal Kingdom,” but he was impressed by the finished project along with the director’‍s earlier short films.

“For ‘‍The Rover,’‍ I was naturally really thrilled and intrigued. I actually had a little bit of a tough time trying to get my head around who the character was, initially, because I think so much of the character is sort of stripped away by the time we find him at the beginning of the movie. … He was sort of an empty shell of a man.

“So I had to have a number of discussions with David, just to make sure I understood who the man used to be, for me to then be able to play the version that he’s become.”

Mr. Michod, he said, delivers “a very particular sense of style and tone and sort of rhythm and even down to the way he has his characters speak. There’‍s something unusual, I think, about his style which I think is evocative and works pretty well most of the time. As an actor, you really need to go with that style, to make sure you’‍re in the right movie.”

“The Rover” is set in a different, desperate time that bears some resemblance to today’s world where child soldiers carry guns or people live day to day in survival mode in many places.

“What was important for us to understand was, really, it may not take much for us in this supposedly civilized society to get to that point. Give it a couple of years and have the population increase by only a certain percentage and have global warming take over more than we can handle it.

“The disparity between the rich and poor, have that gap widen a bit more, and it may not be that far off. Once you start to question that stuff, it really became apparent what David was after. As opposed to it being a post-apocalypse, a world that’‍s so far off that we can’t even get our heads around it.”

“The Rover” delays the reveal about what sent Mr. Pearce’‍s character off the rails and also why he is so desperate to find his stolen car.

“I do see that he sort of keeps you hanging, not just for suspense sake. I suppose, in life sometimes, we can live in mysterious circumstances and with mysterious things for quite some time before answers are revealed.

“David has a really kind of obtuse way of looking at the world and it sort of comes out in his films and strangely enough, David is a really amiable guy, very easy to talk to. He’s not an odd character himself but I think his films have an oddness to them that reflects sometimes how odd life can be.”

Some scenes demand that Mr. Pearce convey his emotions wordlessly, telegraphing them through his face. Eyes in particular.

“I really enjoy that, to be honest. I think so often, scripts are sort of overwritten, characters are explaining things too much or just generally talking too much. So that was one of the things that I did really enjoy about this, particularly when I first read it was that so much of it was in the playing.

“I kind of prefer that, on some level. I’‍m often the actor who is stripping the line down, rather than trying to increase the amount of dialogue that I have. You can tell so much in one line, rather than in four.”

“The Rover” took the cast and crew to the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, about a four-hour drive north of Adelaide, and they worked their way to a spot nine hours from Adelaide.

“It’s a little bit of a touristy spot because the Flinders Ranges are very beautiful, and there’‍s a few motels dotted along the way up there,” he said.

“It’s certainly not uninhabited and unused to having people visiting, but you only have to be 10 minutes off the main road and there’‍s nothing around you except barren land and mountain ranges. It’s pretty spectacular. There’‍s really only one road up through there.”

It could be hot, dusty and dry, with temperatures reaching 110 degrees some days, but one photographer trekked into the remote region hunting big game: Mr. Pattinson of “Twilight” fame.

“I think one paparazzi turned up somewhere, a couple of hours north of Adelaide, and the crew made them realize that they shouldn’‍t have been out there. Really, because we were staying in the only hotel depending on wherever we were, any paparazzi who came out would probably have to sleep in their car anyway,” he said.

“Obviously, the locals in whatever towns we got to, came to take a look at Rob. He’‍s a pretty amenable guy himself so he was happy to have photos with them. Then, they left us alone. It was fine, it was great to see Rob walking the streets freely,” for the first time in years.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:​madaboutmovies.

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