There is a curious sense of ownership from forty-somethings over the cast of shows that were big when they were kids. Here in the UK the late ’80s and early ’90s were awash with the antipodean soap suds of Neighbours and Home and Away. After school we cornered the TV and watched on in eager anticipation as our onscreen heroes grew up with us. As our heroes left the soaps, many scored a well worn groove by leaping to Top of the Pops stardom along with the occasional phone in on the Saturday morning shows. For Guy Pearce however, the end of his three year stint on Neighbours pointed to a very different fate for the actor.
In all Pearce appeared in just four shy of 500 episodes, and like many headlining soap stars of the day there was little doubt he’d crop up again somewhere in the future. Thankfully he didn’t fall down the nearest pop superstar hole, to emerge decades later on the ubiquitous Where Are They Now snarkticles. No, a few years out of Erinsborough, Motorbike Mike went to Hollywood, and hasn’t looked back.
Since his breakout role as Ed Exley opposite Russell Crowe in Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, Pearce has built a reputation for picking unusual and challenging roles. There is a delight to seeing him on screen as it fills one with the sense that he saw something worthwhile in the script, and that we as an audience might too. His turn as Leonard Shelby, the fractured leading man of Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento cemented his place in Hollywood, and pointed the way forward.
Throughout his career he has gone backwards and forwards in time, been driven to cannibalism, played Andy Warhol, been a thorn in the side of Tony Stark, built androids who would turn against humanity, and survived the end of the world and so much more.
Today sees the release of The Last Vermeer, Dan Friedkin’s dramatisation of the 2008 book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez. Pearce leads the film alongside Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps. It tells the thrilling story of the Dutch folk hero Han van Meegeren, an art forger whose storied life, including his swindling of millions from the Nazi Party, is told with impressive brio thanks to a captivating lead performance from Pearce.
The film is as complex as the paintings its title brings to mind. Part biography, part legal thriller, it is at its heart a detective story with truth beneath its showy, morally complicated layers. The film is worth watching for Pearce’s ebullient leading role, into which he pours every ounce of bravado, charm and energy. His is a crucial role, and he balances the outrageous with just enough self-awareness for us to warm and then be won over by his character. The film is gorgeous too, Amsterdam shines under the lens of Remi Adefarasin, whose work on the Elizabeth films is rightly lauded.
It’s a very fun film, and well worth your time. The Last Vemeer is available to Rent on Digital today and comes highly recommended.
With one of his latest films already on your watch pile we would suggest these other film featuring the actor. They have been chosen to exemplify the actor’s range, and fit perfectly into the Guy Pearce puzzle of which The Last Vermeer is merely the latest piece.
Charlie Burns – The Proposition (2005)
Written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat, The Proposition is a brutal, scar-ridden Australian Western which sees brother turn against brother following the murder of a family in the Outback. Pearce has the meatiest role here among actors such as Ray Winstone, Emily Watson and Danny Huston. Smaller roles from the likes of David Wenham and John Hurt help the cause too, but this whole film centres on Pearce.
The emotional violence matches the physical throughout, and Pearce’s Charlie Burns conveys a fearsome determination and the sole bright spots amid a sallow, bleak world. Pearce would reunite with Hillcoat for a crucial cameo at the end of his next film, 2009’s The Road.
Fernand Mondego – The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
I defy you to watch the first few scenes of Pearce’s portrayal of Fernand in Kevin Reynolds’s 2002 adaptation of the celebrated Alexandre Dumas novel and not absolutely hate him. It takes a skilled actor to draw such ire from an audience and Pearce’s Fernand has it here in spades.
The whole film turns on the actions of Pearce’s ghastly antagonist, with Jim Caviezel’s heroic Edmund looking to usurp and defeat his hated opposite number. It’s an incredibly entertaining film with Pearce’s performance contributing heavily to that enjoyment. There’s also a very young Henry Cavill, years before he donned the Superman tights and cape combo.
King Edward VIII – The King’s Speech (2010)
While this is clearly Colin Firth’s film, Pearce turns up in an important role. As King Edward VIII, Pearce’s scathing and malicious take on the infamous monarch stands starkly opposite Firth’s gentle and hesistant King George VI. Pearce’s role is minor in the grand scheme of things, using video game vernacular he is the mid-level boss which Firth’s character has to overcome in order to advance and rise to face his greatest challenge.
Pearce’s cruel mocking of poor Bertie’s stammer is just another twist of a kinfe that has been thrust into the future King’s soul since birth. Yet, Pearce rises to the occassion as he is given more to do, and is able after all the petty visciousness to ellict sadness and then pity from an audience who had already written him off as an oily tick. And quite right too.
Eric – The Rover (2014)
Mixing up previous success of The Proposition and The Road, The Rover came from Animal Kingdom’s David Michôd and placed Pearce in the Australian Outback a decade after a global economic collapse. Pearce plays Eric, a former soldier who has seen the country he fought for devolve into lawlessness, culminating in the loss of his family. It’s a meaty role and Pearc’s stone cold anger and determination to carry on what decency he can in this new world is palpable.
With Robert Pattinson playing alongside him in fine form his is a bleak but soulful depiction of a world where normality has vanished, taking most of the evident humanity with it. We spoke to to both actors for the film in 2014, here’s the interview.
The Last Vermeer is available to Rent on Digital Now.
Extra Credit – More Pearce Please
If The Last Vermeer and others on this list have you craving more time with Mr. Pearce we would heartily recommend you checking out this others.
Antonia Bird’s gripping horror film mires itself in the darkest humour, with Pearce getting his teeth a meaty role alongside Robert Carlyle.
Breathe In (2013)
Pearce stars opposite Felicity Jones in this Sundance favourite. It tells the story of a music teacher falling for a young foreign exchance student. Pearce would appear in director Drake Doremus’ next film, the intrguing Equals.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Come on… if you’ve not seen this then you haven’t lived! Get it watched right now!
Snow – Lockout (2012)
This is a curio from the back catalogues of both Pearce and director Luc Besson, famous not least for the ruling in the French courts that it was plagiarising The Escape from… films. It is a fun film however, and Pearce’s cocky definace in the first scene really sets the tone.