guy pearce lawless image Guy Pearce Interview For John Hillcoats Lawless

Acclaimed director John Hillcoat (The Road, The Proposition) delivers a thrillingly vivid slice of American outlaw history in his epic gangster tale, ‘Lawless.’ ‘Lawless’ is the true story of the infamous Bondurant Brothers: three bootlegging siblings who made a run for the American Dream in Prohibition-era Virginia. Based on author Matt Bondurant’s fictionalized account of his family, “The Wettest County in the World,” the film gathers an ensemble of gifted, dynamic new-generation stars – Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan – alongside two of the finest actors of their generations, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman. A riveting, intense story of crime and corruption, loyalty and love, brutality and tenderness, ‘Lawless’ is a rich addition to the American gangster canon. Look out for the film in cinemas August 29th in the US and September 7th in the UK.

How do you think Nick Cave’s writing lends itself to this story?

Guy Pearce: Oh, very much so. In our story, ‘Lawless,’ Nick Cave adapted to the book into this film. It really follows the crime and the violence that occurs, that surrounds this Bondurant family. But also the love stories that occur, with Mia Wasikowska and Shia LaBeouf’s characters falling in love with each other, and Jessica Chastain and Tom Hardy’s characters falling in love with each other. So in typical Nick Cave fashion you’ve got extreme violence and really gritty existence, then on the other hand it’s extremely romantic. I guess the flower amidst this chaos that’s going on.

What was it like playing Charley Rakes, this memorable, slithery, brutal character? He seems to have a warped sense of himself and the world around him….

Guy Pearce: There was just a quality to this character where I felt he was so caught up in his own sort of judgment of the world, his own distaste and disgust of everything around him that his vanity really played a big part in him. I thought he had a really obscure view of the world through that. There was some things that I wanted to do that just expressed this kind of obscure vanity that this guy had. So the look of the character and his disdain for everything around him ended up, therefore, being the character that I played. We really wanted to create somebody who was extremely creepy, extremely caught up in his obscure view of the world, and just someone who was memorable.

One of the things I guess our director John Hillcoat was interested in, in making this film, and looking at, was the coming together of the city gangster genre, as well as the western. Seeing those two worlds collide. City and country kind of meeting. So, one of the ways which we expressed that is through my character Charley, in his absolute distain for these, as he sees them, “Disgusting people, who live in the dirt. Everything‘s filthy.” He arrives like a fish out of water with everybody looking at him like, “Who is this guy who wears perfume?” He’s dressed the way that he is, yet at the same time he’s incredibly violent and incredibly corrupt. He’s not a cop that has an honest perspective on criminal activity, he himself steamrolls in and tries to take over.

How was it for you and your character going up against Tom Hardy and his Forrest character?

Guy Pearce: It’s so brilliant that Tom Hardy is playing the role, because he is the most exciting actor I’ve seen in a long time. He is just extraordinary. And he brings a weight, an integrity and a power to the screen that is incredibly compelling – and I have to go up against this guy (laughs). The first scene that we had together was me feeling like I’m running rings around this man, not being intimidated by him. And that was very difficult, because he’s like a mountain, a mount emotionally and physically. I think that will translate on screen and people will really see the power of Forrest Bondurant.

Guy Pearce in Lawless Guy Pearce Interview For John Hillcoats Lawless

The ensemble cast for ‘Lawless’ is quite spectacular, what was the experience like for you on the film?

Guy Pearce: One of the things that’s really special about this film are the performances: Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke… It was a cast that was clearly spectacular by just reading the names on the page, let alone seeing what they did on set and how that’s transformed on screen. So they bring a powerful kind of reality to the screen, which is what I personally think is ultimately what makes people remember films and draws them to films. It was fantastic, so much fun.

Having worked with director John Hillcoat on ‘The Proposition’ and ‘The Road,’ what do you think it is that draws actors and the audience to his films?

Guy Pearce: With John, everything is incredibly evocative, and that’s just his style. It’s why I’m drawn to working with him and I think that’s why people are drawn to his films. I think in this case, with ‘Lawless,’ it might work even more so perhaps than past films, because the actual film is kind of conventional, in a way. In the way that we can relate to this story that’s going on, it’s a family versus authority. It just happens to be set in the past. It was great seeing John play with the actors as well, he’s so tactile with his emotionality. He gets so excited when he sees a dynamic being created (laughs). It’s a very inspiring experience working with John Hillcoat, there’s no doubt about it. He doesn’t leave anything untouched.

You share some great scenes in ’Lawless’ with Shia Labeouf and Jessica Chastain, how was it working alongside them?

Guy Pearce: Shia’s fantastic, he’s hilarious and you forget how young he is. He’s got a wonderful energy about him. He’s got a great whit and really just a great ability to say things how they are. I’d never known Shia before, and I know people that have worked with him, and somebody asked me if he’s still really caffeinated, and he kind of is. Shia has a natural buoyancy which is really infectious and really great to be around. And he’s funny, he’s a funny, fun guy.

Jessica Chastain is such a natural, it’s completely effortless and therefore disarming. She’s disarming as an actress and she’s disarming as a character on screen. She’s also really warm and open and lovely, I mean, as soon as she saw me she was like, “Oh my God, can I give you a hug?!” I was like, “Sure, give me a hug!” (Laughs). She’s clearly a fan of other actors as well, and it was a lovely experience. And I think John Hillcoat inspires that kind of connection between everybody anyway, because he’s a loving and warm kind of guy.