EXCLUSIVE: Guy Pearce on His 'Brimstone' Baby and Dakota Fanning's Most Adult Role Yet
By John Boone
Guy Pearce and Dakota Fanning's Brimstone is, to say the least, intense. The grim Western (in select theaters and On Demand now) sees Pearce playing a reverend out for revenge -- revealing anything else about his sinister man of God would constitute too big a breach of spoilers. Fanning co-stars as a murderous old-timey prostitute who's had her tongue cut out. "It's not a crazy, upbeat, feel-good comedy," Pearce deadpanned. "It's quite intense." The Australian actor called up ET to discuss working with Fanning, explain why people mistakenly thought they were actually filming Game of Thrones, and give an update on his next project, Alien: Covenant.
ET: I wanted to start by saying congratulations! This must be a special movie for you, seeing as not every movie ultimately leads to a baby. [Pearce and co-star Carice van Houten welcomed a son, Monte, in August.]
Guy Pearce: No, it's true. In fact, I've never done a movie before that's led to having a baby, but this one thankfully did. You know, it's a pretty exciting time. It's pretty amazing to have met Carice, and we're both really happy with our little boy. We have a little Brimstone baby!
I hope you take this as the compliment it's intended to be, but you are very creepy in movie.
Thank you! He needed to be extremely menacing and creepy. Without giving too much of the story away, there's clearly something very sordid going on between he and his daughter. And I think that the way in which he justifies his behavior through religion and the way in which he expects his daughter to submit and the way in which he creates his own reality and then again, justifies that by religion, I find so appalling and such an interesting thing to try to play. The character really came across as being very dominating and creepy and vile. Really vile. Obviously it's somebody with his own struggling demons, but I never want to justify a character's bad behavior. I want to try to understand it at least, and I want the audience to at least see that there is something -- even if there's just a little crack in the armor -- that shows [his] vulnerability. I think it's important, in order to believe it's a three-dimensional human being, even if they're acting in a sort of one-dimensional way.
You and Dakota share some intense scenes together -- either somewhat sexual or brutally violent, or some combination of both, simultaneously. How do you establish the trust with each other that, I assume, is necessary to shoot those scenes?
Well, I think whenever you step into a movie there is an automatic sense of giving over and trusting and wanting to let your other actors know that they're safe in your hands and they equally feel that you should be safe in their hands. I think there's something exciting about stepping onto a film set, where you're prepared to be vulnerable and everybody's prepared to support that. Particularly when you are doing things that are extreme, it does require an understanding that you're there for each other. And, you know, you've read the script, you talk about it, you get a real sense that we're aiming for the same thing and things sort of fall into place. I think it would be a difficult situation -- or a difficult person, that makes that impossible or makes that fraught with trouble.
Dakota has obviously done a number of adult roles now, but for whatever reason, a lot of people still hear the name "Dakota Fanning" and think of her as the child star and that little girl in I Am Sam. I think people will be very surprised seeing her in this.
I think so, too! And I think that people will be surprised by her performances for the rest of her life, because she's really good. She's a really great actress and brings this gravitas to the roles that she plays. She's only 21, 22 -- something like that -- and has a real maturity about her. [Fanning turned 23 in February.] It won't be long before people forget that she was a child star as well. She's only just gotten into her 20s. Before long, she'll equally be seen as an adult actor as much as a child actor.
I'm curious, because acting silently, playing someone who never speaks or makes a noise, seems like such a challenge. Would Dakota go method or stay mute between takes?
No. I think a lot of actors are actually really pleased to not have to speak and to rely on just performance. Dakota wasn't, you know, talking unnecessarily off camera, but we would chat about things. It wasn't always talking about work, by any means. It was a fairly intense environment, but at the same time, we knew we could have a laugh with each other. I think we kept things pretty quiet, generally. It was that sort of set.
When we were in Germany in the first part of the movie, when we were filming the summer section with Carice and Emilia [Jones] and Kit Harington, we were joking around more, even though it was pretty intense what we were doing there as well. But different times on a movie lead to different atmospheres and sometimes things are a bit more intense. A lot of the stuff with Dakota was in studio, so you're sort of quiet when you walk into the studio.
With Carice and Kit co-starring in this, it's become a bit of a Game of Thrones reunion. Were you a fan of the show before filming this?
I hadn't actually watched the show beforehand. So, I couldn't say that I was a fan, but only because I wasn't exposed to it. I've certainly had a look at it since then. But I'm not a big television watcher, so I've got a bit of catching up to do.
I got a chuckle out of it, because you shot Brimstone right around the time when no one knew if Jon Snow was actually dead or alive, immediately following that season four finale.
That's right! There were actually rumors going around at that time that what we were really filming was episodes of Game of Thrones and that I was in Game of Thrones. People got wind of the fact that we were in Germany with this Dutch director and Carice was there and Kit was there and that I was there, and they were going, "This has to be some secret Game of Thrones scenes!" Right in the middle of our shooting, which was in the middle of 2015, I think Jon Snow died on air, so yes, it certainly led to everybody going, "What's happening?!" [Laughs] It was amazing to be caught up in that whirlwind when I wasn't even on that show.
One of your next projects is Alien: Covenant, which we recently got a first look at. Do you think fans of the Alien franchise will be surprised by this installment?
I'm not sure how they'll be surprised by it, but I think Ridley [Scott] manages to create a pretty interesting story every time he goes back to that world. I can't obviously give anything away, but just know that [fans] will be extremely moved and find the film itself pretty powerful.