Calgary Sun, 14 April 2001

Fame just a memory

HOLLYWOOD -- Guy Pearce can't remember a time when he didn't feel he was acting. "I feel I've always used acting in my life as a survival technique. It was born of my fear of being boring, uninteresting, of looking scared or of revealing too much of what I was actually feeling," explains Pearce.

As a young child growing up in Australia, Pearce had to deal with the death of his father and helping his mother raise his younger sister. To help him cope, Pearce turned to singing and acting.

By the time he was 11, he was starring in musicals such as The King and I.

At age 12, Pearce got into competitive bodybuilding, which eventually netted him a role on the popular Aussie TV soap opera Neighbours. By the time he was 19, Pearce was a teen idol. That's a wild memory. "I couldn't go anywhere without people screaming at me and rushing to get an autograph. More times than I ever want to remember, they'd be pulling at my shirt or sweatshirt so strenuously they'd tear them.

"Celebrity doesn't get any worse than that. I'm grateful those days are only a memory."

To topple his hunk image, Pearce agreed to star as a drag queen in the Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which led to his being cast in his first American film, L.A. Confidential.

He has also starred in Ravenous and Rules of Engagement and last year filmed a role in Kevin Reynold's costume drama The Count of Monte Cristo.

He is currently filming The Time Machine, which is being directed by its writer H.G. Wells' great-grandson Simon Wells. In the mind-twisting thriller Memento, Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a former insurance adjuster who is suffering from shortterm memory loss.

Leonard is on a mission to find and kill the man who raped and murdered his wife, and shattered not only his life but his ability to create new memories.

The film works backwards repeating scenes but adding new information with each retelling until Leonard and the audience learn one version of the truth about his deadly mission.

Pearce admits writer/director Chris Nolan "wrote the script to skewer the mind of the viewer. It had to be tightly written for it to work so what you see on the screen is exactly what was on paper."

Pearce, 33, recalls that one of the more arduous aspects of filming Memento was having Leonard's numerous tattoos applied each day.

Leonard has tattooed almost every part of his body with information he deems essential to his survival and his mission.

"It took more than two hours to apply the body art. I relished those few days when Leonard did not take his clothes off. If the tattoos were not visible, I didn't have to have them applied."

Memento was shot in 26 days in Los Angeles in the fall of 1999, and also stars Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano as two people who swear to Leonard they are trying to help him though they might be using him for their own unsavoury ends.

Pearce insists that he doesn't envy the career trajectory of fellow Aussie Russell Crowe, his costar in L.A. Confidential.

"I find that as an actor the more recognition I get, the more anxious I become.

"I don't see the value of celebrity for me. It doesn't fulfill me and it certainly doesn't make me calm."

He concedes that a certain amount of recognition is essential if an actor wants to be considered for high-profile studio projects. "It's a real quandary. I want people to know who I am so I can get the roles I really want, but when the spotlight gets a bit too hot it heightens my insecurities and incites a bit of paranoia."

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