CS Interview: Guy Pearce discusses The Seventh Day, acting and demons!
Guy Pearce has made a career out of playing complex characters such as by-the-book Ed Exley in L.A. Confidential, the troubled Leonard in Memento, the noble, albeit jealous Fernand in The Count of Monte Cristo and the vindictive Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3, among many others. His latest role in the suspense-thriller The Seventh Day continues that tradition but adds an intriguing twist to the proceedings as the actor plays a cynical priest who must overcome his personal demons in order to train a new recruit (played by Vadhir Derbez) to stop, well, actual demons.
Call it Training Day, except with Catholic ghouls instead of drug dealers.
“I think he’s very cynical,” Pearce explained about his character during an exclusive interview with ComingSoon.net. “He’s so ready for it to not work that he presents in such a way that he is like, ‘Well, if I have this almost death wish attitude, what else can they take from me? I’ve watched a child burn to death … so my soul has been destroyed, really.’ And you know, he says he has a score to settle, which I think is a sort of dangerous kind of journey that he’s on.”
In the film, directed by Justin P. Lange (The Dark), Pearce’s character, Father Peter, is introduced to his new partner via an Archbishop (Stephen Lang) in a scene you can watch in the player below.
As it turns out, Father Peter has endured quite a bit during his practice and harbors a great deal of remorse over his past failures. And yet, there’s something a bit off about the character.
“We start to look at that cynicism of Father Peter and go, ‘Well, does that make him a suspect sort of character?’ Should we actually suspect him of being not who he says that he actually is, which I think is a lovely device,” Pearce said, “because it then at least makes the audience feel like they’re on one level — they’re sure footed and they have their suspicions about him — but at the same time they go, ‘What’s it going to lead to if we’re right?’”
Naturally, considering the film deals with exorcisms and demons, The Seventh Day features plenty of scares. There’s an early scene involving an older priest played by Keith David in which a mother and father must watch helplessly as their child undergoes an exorcism that ultimately goes awry, to say nothing of an intense sequence involving a homeless man and a soup kitchen worker that doesn’t quite go the way one would expect.
Yet, Pearce was drawn more to the characters than the film’s scarier elements.
“I didn’t set out to make a horror film,” he said. “I didn’t set out to make a film that was scary, per se. I just want to find films where the characters feel that they’re real; and their journey is justified, and that they’re on some sort of path. And even if they don’t know what that path is, that we as an audience understand what that trajectory looks like.”
Pearce shares a majority of his scenes with Derbez and the two display natural chemistry that absolutely sells the situation. Where does that chemistry come from? When pressed to discuss his technique, Pearce explained that two actors should be able to hate each other in real life and still find the type of chemistry needed for any particular scene.
“I think that’s my respect for the craft of acting,” he said with a laugh. “Of course, you do whatever you can to make things easier for yourself. You spend as much time with each other as you can … we filmed in Dallas, and there’s nothing else to do except hang out with each other and start talking about the film and getting a sense of how each other works and what you might need from each other. So, I think you just start to build a relationship, not only with other actors, but with the director and with the producers; and you just start to connect with a team of people and make sure that you’re on the same page.”
One of the difficulties that may arise during a film production, Pearce explained, stems from an actor having a completely different perspective than everyone else on set.
“It’s just about making sure that you’re all on the same page, really. And that what the director is aiming for, you’re all kind of in agreeance with, because occasionally, you’ll be on a job and the director will say, ‘Well, clearly, I want you to do this and this and this,’ and the actor will go, ‘No, no, I don’t see it that way at all. I want to do that and that and that. And the directors, they’re going, ‘No, no, no, that’s another movie!’ Then you think, ‘Fuck, we’re in trouble now.’
“So, you never know how much people are going to want to impart their own perspective on stuff. Whereas, I need to make things feel authentic. I need to feel that I’m getting to do the most authentic version of what’s there are as I can. But ultimately, I want to be able to look at what’s there on the page and go, ‘Am I understanding clearly what it is you’re trying to present? Because if I am, then great, I’m on board. And I’m just going to do what you need me to do.’ Because that’s my job as an actor. I’m not here to rewrite the script. I’m not here to do a whole lot of new research and change things, because that’s what I feel like doing. I’m here to get on board and give you what it is you need. What you thought when you wrote this thing, you know?”
The Deeper Heart of the Story
Another interesting aspect Pearce looks for in a film revolves around the practicality of the story. He asks himself, how real is this? Or, is this feasible? In the case of The Seventh Day, a film oozing with religious overtones, he felt the story actually hit close to home.
“I believe in reincarnation,” he said. “I believe that when we die, our spirits possibly go off and join some other physical being somewhere else. Right. I’ve always got to believe that. And, you know, I don’t have a hard and fast belief about it. But I just think, ‘Wow, that could be really possible.’ I don’t disbelieve. I also don’t disbelieve that evil spirits could also infiltrate our physical beings on planet Earth. So, to me, I suppose it’s about being entertained, but it’s also about questioning that stuff. It’s about being able to watch [the film] and go, ‘Wow, that could actually be possible!’
“I suppose, on some level, that’s what you want from any film that you make — you want the audience to come away from it going, ‘Hang on a second. I have to think about this a little bit more, because I’ve been a bit blind to this in the past, and maybe it’s time to start thinking about this some more.’ I guess that’s all you can ever hope from any film.”
The Seventh Day is now playing in select theaters and on demand. Check it out today!
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