Audience Magazine, 10 June 2001

Still of the Week
by John Teegarden

The third in our series, “Before They Were Stars”: Guy Pearce.

So did you remember that Pearce, the straight-arrow hero of L.A. Confidential and memory-challenged hunk of Memento, first attracted international attention playing a drag queen? He was the flamboyant "Felicia" in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). Don’t believe me? The evidence is above, where he is pictured, plumed and spangled, flanked by old pro Terence Stamp on the left (Billy Budd, The Limey) and fellow Aussie actor Hugo Weaving at right (Proof, The Matrix). If nothing else, Priscilla — the fashion-conscious comedy about two drag queens and a transsexual who travel into the nether regions of Australia to put on a drag show — proved Pearce’s versatility. Felicia’s ambition is to climb a well-known mountain in her most glamorous gown, causing one of her compatriots to observe skeptically, "Just what this country needs, a cock in a frock on a rock." (The titular "Priscilla" is their shocking-pink bus.)

This talented Guy was born in 1967, near Cambridge, England. He moved to Australia with his family, where he’s lived since 1971. His father, who was a government test pilot, died in a plane crash a few years later. Pearce’s youthful passions are said to have included song-writing and body-building (he was a teenage winner of the "Junior Mr. Victoria" title). Reportedly young Pearce made his acting debut at the age of nine playing the Dormouse in a school production of "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland". His pre-Priscilla résumé also includes a tour of duty on a popular television soap called "Neighbors", a year starring in a touring production of "Grease", a mini-series version of "The Man from Snowy River", and several films I’ve never heard of, like Heaven Tonight (1988), My Forgotten Man (as Erroll Flynn, 1989), and Hunting (1991). There’ve been a couple of career missteps since Priscilla — the ill-starred cannibal comedy Ravenous (1999) and jingoistic Rules of Engagement (2000). But judging from L.A. Confidential (1997) and especially this year’s brilliant Memento, it’s difficult to imagine he doesn’t have a starry bright future ahead. Sorry, girls, the still fit and trim Mr. Pearce is married—to his childhood sweetheart.

Pearce on having tits:
"Since Terence was playing a transsexual, they wanted to create boobs that moved, like boobs do. They tried balloons first, but they were too thick, so they used condoms. They filled them with water and they had to keep them in the fridge because they kept bursting in the heat. And no one was able to hug Terence when he had his boobs in because they kept popping. I, on the other hand, just had the traditional drag queen plastic boobs that you stick in your bra. It was fun having boobs. We played with them the whole time."
—Cleo, 1994

On why he acts:
"Part of me wants to tell stories that affect people emotionally. In a sense, I don’t know my own identity; pretending I’m someone else helps me solve these questions. It helps me feel real."
—Vogue Australia, 1996

On fame:
"It’s odd. It’s one of those things that happens in life, and you say, 'Oh, that’s pretty cool.' I enjoy the challenge of the attention to a certain extent. Ask me in a couple of years if it’s all out of control. I’ll probably say, 'I hate the [expletive] journalists!'"
—Dallas Morning News, 1997

guy edward pearce