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With The Hard Word, it was the tone of the script that rang his bell, Guy Pearce, tells Andrew L. Urban. Happily, he says, the tone was retained to the finished film. But now it’s time for a breather.

Guy Pearce is everywhere you look in cinemas just now (early to mid 2002), from the past (The Count of Monte Cristo) to the future (The Time Machine) and Down Under (The Hard Word), so it’s not surprising he wants to take the rest of the year off. “I’m a bit movied out so I’d like to go back to writing music and being me,” he says from his Melbourne pad, having also just finished a season on stage in the classic Tennessee Williams play, Sweet Bird of Youth.

"this film maintained that tone and that dry humour"

“But of course if something came along that inspired me…” Well, yes, of course. But doing nothing for an actor like Guy doesn’t quite mean nothing, anyway. “I’ve still got publicity things to do, even if I’m not working on a film.” Like our phone interview. And while it can be a chore, he is enthusiastic this time because it’s about The Hard Word, and he really enjoyed that experience. “I really did…when I first read the script, I responded to the tone of it. Now, due to the many constraints of filmmaking that doesn’t always translate into the finished film. But this film maintained that tone and that dry humour…”

It’s a timely Australian story. The brothers Dale (Guy Pearce) Mal (Damien Richardson) and Shane (Joel Edgerton) are hardly out of jail when they’re into their next robbery – and as usual, no-one gets hurt. Their lawyer Frank (Robert Taylor) is part of the finely tuned criminal system, as are some bad cops like O’Riordan (Paul Sonkkila) and Kelly (Vince Colosimo). But when greed and sex – in the shape of Dale’s wife Carol (Rachel Griffiths) - fire up people like Frank, who knows where the once nice ‘n easy business will end.

In the final analysis, The Hard Word is a great escape movie with a wealth of characterisation to make it stick to you for a while. And some disturbing aspects to take to heart. 

It was a script that “took me over and allowed me to swim with it…I really didn’t need to invent anything. I didn’t have to be a writer,” says Guy. The tone was the key, “and that’s what I had to rely on. I don’t want to feel as if I’m in a different movie every day.”

Apart from the script, the film had another attraction for Guy; its producer, Al Clark, with whom he worked on Priscilla. “Al rang me in L.A about two years ago and told me about it. I have great admiration for Al and his take on things, and I’m always keen to work with him, and especially back home.”

"I’m better a expressing myself through a character, not by articulating things"

Clark was clever, says Guy, in surrounding first time director Scott Roberts “with an experienced and dedicated cast and crew…Martin Connor (editor) and Brian Breheny (cinematographer) were especially important and helpful,” he says. Scott Roberts himself was not 100% confident with the actors, Guy notes; “it’s like me trying to do interviews…I’m better a expressing myself through a character, not by articulating things. It’s doing something in a different way. 

“It’s a beautiful script, but Scott felt diffident and was inexperienced in getting the words off the page. What to work through…so in a way it was good for us to go back to basics. We gave him options, and at first he’d accept anything we did, but we said ‘no, no no! don’t accept anything’. Anyway, it turned out to be a really positive experience, and a good change after the $95 million Time Machine…also with a first time director, of live action feature. That was too big and too many directors,” he sighs wearily.

Published May 23, 2002

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... in The Hard Word

... in The Count of Monte Cristo

The Time Machine

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