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Guy Pearce Dishes On His Roles In Bloodshot, Iron Man, And The Seventh Day - Exclusive Interview

Guy Pearce burst onto the world stage with the one-two punch of the Oscar-winning neo-noir crime drama L.A. Confidential and Christopher Nolan's psychological thriller Memento, which quickly catapulted him into the ranks of the Hollywood elite. His career has included everything from Best Picture winners The Hurt Locker and The King's Speech to big-budget superhero films Iron Man 3 and Bloodshot.

In 2021, Pearce tried his hand at horror with a starring role in The Seventh Day, the tale of two priests fighting demonic possession. As Father Peter, Pearce plays a hardened priest specializing in exorcism who takes a young apprentice (Vadhir Derbez) under his wing. Together, they embark on a hellish journey to stop an evil entity from consuming a young boy. The Seventh Day is currently in theaters and on demand.

In an exclusive interview with Looper, Pearce sat down to discuss his latest role — including his own personal beliefs on the occult and the horror movies that have left an impression on him — and reflect on his villainous characters in Iron Man 3 and Bloodshot.

Guy Pearce reveals the Seventh Day scene that spooked him the most

I watched The Seventh Day, and it was very compelling and went to an unexpected place. What drew you to your character?

Very scary, isn't it? I mean, it was a combination of things. It was the combination of the story in itself and also that you get the sense that the character has been through the sort of drama that he's been through. But also, in talking to Justin [Lange], who wrote the script and directed the film, just getting an idea of how he would make the film. So all the elements together made me want to sort of jump on board. But I do think that there's something vulnerable about my character, even though he's also got this very kind of cocky, arrogant side as well. I'm always interested in characters that present one thing, but really have something else going on at the same time. So I think that was probably the basis of it, to be honest.

It was a short scene, but what was it like working with Keith David?

Well, I have to be honest... all the actors on the film were really fantastic. And I think that for all of us, any actor that comes onto a film, we're always instantly sort of going, "Okay, do you understand what it is we're doing? I think I understand this. Do you understand that? Yes? Okay." Et cetera. And Keith was really pretty honest and sort of vulnerable and clear about what it was he was trying to present, and vice versa. And Justin, our director, who is such a sweet, sensitive soul, brought people to the project who were also quite sensitive. So I think that we just connected in a way in which we also connected through Justin.

Any spooky stories from the set? Anything that made you think "This is hitting a little too close to home?"

No, not really. I watched the film only last week and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, this is a whole lot scarier than it seemed when we were making the film." I'm aware, obviously, that with sound effects and score and general editing, et cetera, that things are far more effective in the finished product than they are while you're there making it. But I was quite surprised at how scary the film actually appeared because it certainly didn't... I mean, there were times when we would walk onto set, when we do our final sequence where we're sort of trying to exorcise the demon from the young boy, and I walked onto that set and saw all the windows boarded up with tape and going, "Yeah, okay. Okay. This is pretty spooky." If you walked into this for real, it would be fairly confronting, I suppose. But nothing beyond that, really.

Right, the taped up windows is kind of an image that sticks out in my mind too...

Yeah, because you just instantly go, "So if there's no tape, then what's going to happen?" The glass is going to come flying into the room, I suppose.

Guy Pearce reveals his favorite horror movies and how he feels about demonic possession

So now how does one prepare for such a role? Did you watch horror movies, go to church, anything like that?

No, nothing so interesting, I'm afraid. It's really just about making sure that we understand the script, what Justin is wanting, and continually communicating with him about that. I guess you start off bigger and you just work your way smaller and smaller. You have an idea of what the whole film is about and then you sort of start to break it down and go, "Yeah, but when we get to this point, are we talking about blood is actually, like, going to come out here or are you going to cut away? Or is his hand going to go over my face? Like, what exactly are we going to see here?" And then Justin would say, "No, no. I want blood to be spurting out of your mouth at this point." And you're like, "Okay, okay. I've got it."

So, yeah, I always feel like you start off on a bigger, broader canvas and then as you get closer and closer — and of course on the day when you're actually filming — you go, "Oh, you want the knife to actually go into the guy's neck? I see, I'm sorry. I thought that maybe it was just like a swipe past the neck, but no, you want to see the knife go in the neck. Right. Gotcha." You're sort of breaking it down on different levels at different points in the process.

Do you personally believe in that stuff? Ouija boards, demonic possession, etcetera?

I don't not believe it. I never followed any religion when I grew up. I'm a big believer in spirituality and the idea that there are spirits that keep us alive and keep us moving and keep us functioning, and I really believe in reincarnation. I really believe that when our bodies die and stop that that spirit moves on to somewhere else and perhaps enters another body. I've always believed that, and I still do. So I don't disbelieve the idea of demonic possession. I don't disbelieve that a negative energy could enter somebody's soul or somebody's body and kind of take over and force them to do whatever it wanted them to do. I don't know enough about it to genuinely go, "Yep, that's not true." I sort of sit here going "It's all possible as far as I'm concerned."

What is one of your favorite horror movies of all time and why?

Evil Dead was a fairly effective film. I remember that pencil going into the ankle at a certain point. And also American Werewolf in London. I remember going to see that at the cinema when I was about 12 or 13, and there was something about that film that just felt — even though, of course, it's people turning into werewolves — real to me. And of course, as a kid growing up in the '80s, we were exposed to all the Friday the 13th and Halloween films as well. I saw all that stuff, but they all felt like they were part of a genre, whereas American Werewolf in London and another film that I saw called Death Ship...

I'm not familiar with that one...

Check it out. These people on a boat cruising across the ocean and they come across an old warship. They're getting a bit of a signal on the radio. It seems like an abandoned old warship with nothing going on, but they, of course, board the ship and find that it becomes quite the horror story. That really stayed with me. Yeah. Death Ship and An American Werewolf in London, those two films. And what did I say at the beginning?

Evil Dead.

Evil Dead, yeah. The pencil in the ankle.

Guy Pearce reflects on his villainous roles in Iron Man 3 and Bloodshot

Now, you've been in so many different types of films — from Memento and L.A. Confidential to Iron Man 3 and Bloodshot and now The Seventh Day. Is there a genre or project you'd like to jump into that might surprise people?

Romantic comedy. I don't know. I'm not really the romantic comedy type, I suppose. But I don't really look at films from a genre lens. I tend to look at a story and go, "This person is doing this... is it believable that they go from there to there to there to there? Yes. Okay, great. Let's do that film." Whether it's a science fiction story or whether it's an action film or whether it's a psychological drama or whatever it happens to be, I'm more intrigued by the plot and the kinds of characters that they are rather than types of films. So if a romantic comedy came along and I was intrigued by the story, I'd probably do it.

Circling back to Iron Man and Bloodshot, in both of those you played kind of a mad genius villain. What was it about those roles or those films that drew you in?

I think it's that idea that somebody has really brilliant ideas and that they're really on a fine line. They're really on a very precarious fence as to whether or not those ideas will be used for good or evil. Funnily enough, people sort of reference Bloodshot with Iron Man, as you have done, and quite rightly so. But I actually see more of a connection between Memento and Bloodshot because there's something about Bloodshot that is this idea of going back into memories, and whether or not you can change memories, and whether or not memory is really reliable. 

So I sort of find a connection between those two films, but as far as sort of the idea of science fiction and somebody who's clever enough — that Elon Musk-type character, I suppose. He goes, "If I invent this, then therefore I can change the course of history. What does everybody think about that?" I find that really fascinating because we tend to accept the idea that the cause of history changes organically because of cultural shifts or industrial change or bigger commercial and socioeconomic ideas, sort of steering things in one way or another. But the idea of one person being able to go, "Actually, I've got a brilliant idea. I can take it over here or I can take it over here." It's really intoxicating as an actor to play a role like that because then you get to play the ethics of it, the morals of it, whether or not it's good or bad. So, yeah, it's good fun stuff.

Might you reprise your role in the Bloodshot sequel or would you be open to it?

Well, if Vin [Diesel] gives me a call, I'd certainly be open to it. Yeah, totally. I had a great time on that film.

Any funny or interesting stories you can share about working with either Robert Downey Jr. or Vin Diesel?

Both of them were hilarious in that they live in their own sort of universe and that they have a ton of trailers. They have their own sort of food truck and their own personal trainer and their own gym and their own trailer for family, et cetera, et cetera. And that's just another world from what I'm used to. But they were both delightful, like absolutely delightful people who would say, "Guy, come on in and have lunch and spend some time." They really just want to get to know who you are, I think. So in the face of the kind of worlds that they live in, to be able to sort of experience that with them and share that with them was really quite a treat, to be honest. Obviously I worked with Robert in 2012 and I worked with Vin in 2017 or 2018 or whenever it was, and I adored both of them. And Vin and I, in fact... we don't share birthdays, but we're born in the same year. So we're both '67 babies.

The Seventh Day is currently in theaters and on demand.