Guy Pearce on Playing History's Greatest Art Forger and Shooting Memento -

Guy Pearce on Playing History’s Greatest Art Forger and Shooting Memento

 Guy Pearce on Playing History's Greatest Art Forger and Shooting Memento

The weird thing is that he was thrown in court for selling these Vermeer forgeries to high-level Nazis, and he got through the trial. And then he died six weeks later of a heart attack anyway. It’s like, Wow. Okay.

As a big fan of HBO’s Mildred Pierce, I have to mention how excited I am to see you team up with Kate Winslet again next month for Mare of Easttown. That’s another project that got interrupted by COVID, right?

Because of COVID I did one day, one year ago, back in March. In fact, it’s coming up on exactly a year ago, because it was March 12. I did one day and they shut us down. Kate had been working for a few months by that point, but I got just that one day. And we didn’t come back until September. But we did get to work together on our birthday, on October 5, so it was a bit of a blessing in disguise, in the end.

Was it hard to get back into that character’s headspace after a shutdown that quick and sudden?

No, it was fine. It’s hard to get back into a headspace if you’ve completed a project, and you think it’s all over — and then you have to go back six months later and do reshoots. That’s much harder. But [on Mare of Easttown], I hadn’t even really gotten going. I was just waiting to go back when the time was right.

We’re also around the 20-year anniversary of Memento’s original release in the United States. Looking back now, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think back to shooting that film?

Just being inspired by Chris all the time, to be honest. It was a quick shoot. 25 days. Five weeks, five days a week. All the color stuff in the film was shot in the beginning, and the last two days was all we had scheduled for my black-and-white stuff in the hotel room. I was rehearsing that stuff on my own, in my hotel room, every weekend. Lots of props and notes and photographs and tattoos, so when we got to that last two days, I’d be ready.

I always joke and say, “I’m only doing this job until I can become a first A.D.” I’m very aware of time on a shoot. And I kept saying to Aaron Ryder, the producer, “We’re not gonna be able to get this done in two days, man. I’m telling you. This is a lot of stuff.”

And as we were getting ready, he came up to me and said, “I’ve got a present for you.” And I said, “Really? What is it?” And he said, “Day 26. We’ll shoot on that Saturday as well.” He took my warning. And three days was barely enough to get all that stuff done.

How did you end up booking that movie in the first place?

I read the script for Memento, and then I watched [Nolan’s first film] Following, and just went, “Wow, this is incredible. I really hope I get this film.”

And I heard these stories where actors go on and on about how much they want the film. And they camp out on director’s porches, just so they can prove that they’re the guy for the film, and so people say, ‘Wow, he’s so passionate about the project!’

I find that stuff hard. My argument is: You’re either right for it or not. You wouldn’t turn up at the meeting if you weren’t interested, right? I don’t feel like that stuff’s necessary.

But I did say it to Chris. And he is still the only director I’ve said this to. “Chris, I wouldn’t ever normally do this, and I’m so sorry to even say it. But I just want you to know that I really love this and I really want to do it.” And Chris — in his fantastically English way — responded [affects an extremely convincing befuddled Christopher Nolan impression], “Oh. Okay. Uh. Thank you. Right you are.”

And I felt like such a dick. But maybe it worked! And it might have helped that I was cheap, too.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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