Guy Pearce on “The King’s Speech,” and the Oscar race – EXCLUSIVE

By Sean O’Connell Meet Guy Pearce, the man who would be king.

While most of the attention swirling around Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” involves lead actors Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, admirers must admit Firth wouldn’t have a chance to occupy the throne if Pearce – playing older sibling King Edward VIII – hadn’t abdicated.

It’s a minor role with major implications to the plot of “King’s Speech,” which Pearce and I discussed as the film continues to surf a wave of enthusiasm through awards season.

Hollywood News: Congratulations on the film and the recognition it is receiving.

Guy Pearce: Thank you very much. I do feel a little like with “The Hurt Locker” where I am slightly embarrassed to receive any accolades for the film, as I’m really only there for a few minutes. But I’m happy to take them, and I’m really happy to be involved with a great film again.

HN: How much attention do you pay to the awards race?

GP: It’s hard to ignore it. And you are always trying to ascertain how good the work you have done is, and how good the film is, so it certainly plays into trying to understand that. But at the same time, the true test for me is just watching the film myself and gauging it in the same way I’d gauge a script. I saw this film and came out thinking that Tom just did such a wonderful job.

HN: Your character, David, is painted with villainous brush strokes. But would you consider him to be a bad guy?

GP: Well, look, I’m the wrong person to ask whether someone is considered good or bad. [Laughs]

HN: Why is that?

GP: Because I could never see people in that clear delineation. With every character, I think there are good people who do bad things and bad people who do good things. It’s messy and it’s complex. For someone like David, he never wanted to be king. He resented the structure of the royal existence. There was a deep paradox happening with his parents and the expectations of the royal life. And falling for a woman like Wallace Simpson wasn’t done conspiratorially or anything. I think it was a very honest and loving relationship. But I think that if he really wanted to be king, he would have stayed king, and they would have worked it out.

HN: That’s so interesting. You could rewrite “The King’s Speech” to make it the story of David, and we would be championing this guy for giving up a position of power for true love.

GP: [Laughs] Yes, that is interesting, isn’t it. But if you could talk to English people from the time, they certainly don’t see David as a romantic figure as Americans do. I think they feel that he left them in the lurch at a crucial time in history, and handed over the weaker brother.

HN: You mention historical references. How much does it help you, as an actor, to be able to sit in a period biplane or drive an antique car to better inform the character?

GP: That’s so funny you mention that. I sat with a friend of mine in London when I saw the film, and it was just the two of us. I’m not sure at what point I come into the film minute-wise …

HN: I can tell you. It is around the 35-minute mark.

GP: Great, so the film had probably gone on for, say, 30 minutes when my friend turned to me and said, “Are you in this film?” [Laughs] And I said, “I am.” Then I heard the biplane, and I said to him, “Just tell me what you think of this for an entrance.” And when he saw that it was me, he just sort of turned and rolled his eyes and said, “Oh God, here we go!”

But it was impressive, and I think that was David, in a way. He led an impressive life. He was charming. He was dashing. He spoke well, and he looked great, but he just didn’t want the responsibility of being king. It is great as an actor, though, when you have a costume that determines the way that you will walk and props that determine how you’ll move. It really does inform you in a major way.

HN: Several pundits writing about “King’s Speech” have made the assumption that it’s an actors’ showcase, and anyone could have directed it. Tell me why that’s untrue.

GP: Oh, it’s completely untrue. It could easily have become wordy and dull. Look, I think Colin and Geoffrey’s performances would be wonderfully engaging no matter what. But Tom had a very specific eye on the script, in terms of what was working and what wasn’t, as well as a keen eye for his visuals. The thing about this film, to me, is that it treads a beautiful line between a very serious, poignant and real story as well as being incredibly entertaining and engaging, delightful and funny. You sit there tapping your feet from start to finish, as if you are listening to a lovely orchestra playing. That skill is something that a lot of other directors are nowhere near able to achieve.

Some films are all about entertainment but they lose the gravitas. Other films get very heavy, arty and serious and they are horrible to watch because they aren’t entertaining at all. And look, I can love films like that. Don’t get me wrong. But Tom has the incredible skill of having a foot in both worlds. Frankly enough, it’s not unlike Chris Nolan. I saw “Inception” just recently. Chris has this great ability to give you that visual ride that you want, as well as incredible performances and intellectually thought-provoking storytelling. Tom has that, as well.

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