In Lockout, the latest sci-fi action film from executive producer Luc Besson, the world’s most dangerous criminals are sent to MS One, a prison in Earth’s orbit that houses inmates kept in artificial slumber.
During a visit by the President’s daughter Emilie, played by Maggie Grace of Taken and Lost, an accident allows the prisoners to awaken and take control of the maximum-security facility. With the life of his daughter at stake, the President knows there’s only one man he can turn to: Guy Pearce’s Agent Snow.
An actor better known for dramatic roles in films like L.A. Confidential, Mildred Pierce and The King’s Speech, Pearce recently told a group of reporters he was drawn to the role by the film’s humor, describing Lockout as “a piece of entertainment.”
“I liked the sound of the character, and then I met with the directors in New York when I was doing Mildred, and they both said, ‘He’s a bit skinny, isn’t he?’” he laughed.
Assuring Lockout writers/directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger that he could buff up, Pearce said he then spent a lot of time on location in Serbia seriously “working out in a Belgrade gym.”
“I used to work out in the gym a lot when I was younger. I was a competition body builder when I was 16 for a short period of time, so the gym’s quite familiar,” Pearce said, explaining it was easier than he thought it would be to slip back into a workout routine.
However, the English-born Australian actor sheepishly admitted to hurting himself on set virtually every day.
“It became a bit of a joke between me and the crew. ‘Oh, what’s he done now?’” Pearce said, adding that when it came to the film’s wirework stunts, “It’s kind of awkward to be suspended by your groin for hours on end and supposed to remember what you’re doing at the same time!”
Laughing, Pearce confessed that as far as physical challenges went, the wirework was second to trying to move in the astronaut suits he and co-star Grace wear at the end of the movie.
“It was terrible trying to get those bloody things on. They took half an hour to get them on and half an hour to get them off. We were sort of drilled into them and drilled out of them,” Pearce laughed, shuddering as he demonstrated the drilling. “We couldn’t hear each other. We had to hold hands at one point, and all you could hear was the clack-clack of the suits. ‘Is that your hand? Does it look like we’re holding hands?’ OK, action!”
Despite the literal stumbles, Pearce thought physicality was a great tool to helping him get into the role of the wise-cracking American agent, a man the actor described as both “immature” and a “smart aleck.”
“I think it was important he look like a serious action hero even though he has this sort of slightly irreverent sense of humor about the whole thing,” he said. “That’s how I viewed it: This was a guy who he’s done all this kind of stuff many times before, he’s sick of being beaten up, he’s sick of leading this kind of life.”
Lockout isn’t the only science fiction film Pearce is starring in this year, as he’s also part of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. Pearce told reporters he initially was daunted by the idea of playing Peter Weyland, knowing how important the character’s company is in the Alien mythos.
“There’s an extra weight added to that movie because everybody has such an expectation, and it’s an interesting time at the moment because there’s a lot of discussion about what we can say, what we can’t say,” he said. “But it’s an interesting thing to be part of, obviously because of Ridley and Ridley’s history with other films, so, yeah, I’m just going, ‘Wow, this is a big base to be attached to.’”
“I haven’t seen it myself, but the little bit I have seen did look quite amazing!” the actor added with a laugh.
Pearce emphasized that Prometheus isn’t simply a prequel to Alien, and said rumors that the shooting title was “Alien Prequel” are false.
“It was never called ‘Alien Prequel,’” he said. “It’s not an Alien prequel. It’s a standalone movie. I mean, there are some characters that run through from that, but it’s not an Alien prequel as such.”
Despite starring in both Prometheus and Lockout, Pearce said he didn’t see this as a career shift toward more action or sci-fi films.
“If ever I do something unusual like a science fiction film or an action film or a comedy or something, then that to me feels like sort of a step to the side to do something different,” Pearce said. “In a way I don’t know what you would say is the typical film I’ve done. I suppose sort of psychological dramas. ... I don’t feel like I want to take on a new path or anything like that.”
Pearce recalled how similar questions where posed to him after he accepted a role in the 2008 Adam Sandler comedy Bedtime Stories.
“In 2007 I did a film about a massacre at a café, I did a film about this girl being murdered in Australia, I did Hurt Locker about the Iraq War, and I did a movie about terrorism. So when Adam Shankman rang me and said, ‘We’re going to do this crazy comedy with Adam Sandler,’ I said, ‘Yes! Bedtime Stories!’” Pearce laughed.
Beyond Prometheus and Bedtime Stories, the actor took a moment to reflect on the impact of one of his other famous films, director Christopher Nolan’s 2000 psychological thriller Memento.
“A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘We’re studying Memento in film school, and it’s incredible to watch it and dissect it again, and oh, my God!’” Pearce said. “So I’m constantly being made aware of the importance of a film like that.”
Turning back to Lockout, he told reporters that although the film suggests there are more adventures for Snow, there’s no talk of a sequel yet.
“I don’t know, it depends on how successful it is -- I’d have to go back to the gym!” Pearce said, groaning as he mimed lifting weights.
Lockout opens Friday nationwide.