Capone With PUSHING DAISIES Actor Lee Pace About Tarsem's THE FALL, And More!!
Published at: May 14, 2008, 2:59 p.m. CST by merrick
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
So who the hell is Lee Pace, and why is he so awesome?
For anyone who became as easily addicted to ABC's "Pushing Daisies," you already know the answer. But for the rest of the world, the name may not mean much to you. Pace is deservedly poised to become something truly wonderful in the acting world, I believe. And for those of you who think he is too meek and mild to be a contender, you need to see his work in director Tarsem's latest epic THE FALL. Even if you despise the movie, there's pretty much no way to escape strength of Pace's work in dual roles as a paralyzed '20s-era stunt man and a masked action hero.
When he was hired by Tarsem about four or five years ago to play Roy Walker, Pace had literally done one television movie, the extraordinary based-on-a-true-story SOLDIER'S GIRL, in which he plays a transgender nightclub performer who falls in love with a young soldier who is subsequently beaten to death. Pace's performance was so convincing that Tarsem wanted proof that Pace was really a man before he agreed to cast him.
Since then, Pace has a lead roll in the short-lived but much-loved series "Wonderfalls" and supporting roles in THE WHITE COUNTESS, INFAMOUS (the other film about Truman Capote, in which he played convict Dick Hickock), and THE GOOD SHEPHERD. More recently, Pace had a nice turn as one of Amy Adams' lovers in MISS PETTIGREWW LIVES FOR A DAY, and he'll be seen one more time this year opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar in POSSESSION, the remake of the South Korean film JUNGDOK.
But it's "Pushing Daisies" that has gotten Pace the most recognition, and rightfully so. The show is visually fantastic and populated by a terrific cast of character with his hapless Ned at the center of it all. The series will be coming back in the fall after abruptly getting its season cut short by the writers' strike, and Pace promises some slight, much-needed alterations to the critically lauded show.
But my discussion with him on this day focused on he remarkable work in THE FALL, a film that combines gentle realism with fantasy sequences that will remove breath from your body in large quantities. THE FALL has already opened in a couple markets and is opening wider on May 30.
When I spoke to Pace, I was fresh from a splendid and exhausting interview with Tarsem, and I may have still been slightly hyper from that experience (which I then repeated about a week later because he wanted to talk more).
So here's Lee Pace, a man whose career is on the rise after only five years of movie and TV acting under his belt. It's great to see a genuinely nice and talented guy get the kind of breaks and opportunities he has.
Capone: Hi, Lee. How's it going?
Lee Pace: Good, nice to meet you.
Capone: So I was talking to Tarsem earlier today, and he somehow managed to turn a 15-minute interview into a 45-minute interview.
LP: That's Tarsem! We shot this movie for four years, did you hear that?
Capone: Oh yes I did. He also told me that when he cast you, since no one really knew who you were and the only thing that anyone had ever seen you in was SOLDIER'S GIRL, that one of the first things he asked you was did you have a penis. Is that true?
LP: Yeah, he did, but that was after about a two-hour meeting. Hopefully he didn't need an answer to that question. That meeting wasn't going to go there.
Capone: THE FALL makes two films in a row for you where you play a version of the prototypical classic Hollywood kind of guy. Here you play a stuntman; in MISS PETTIGREW you play the suave jilted musician. What it is about you that screams that you'd be best for these period roles?
LP: I think it's my eyebrows [laughs]. Maybe not. I really don't know what it is. I enjoy doing it; I think it's kind of neat to be able to work out the time. With this movie, in particular, I think it's a really interesting time in Hollywood and the making of movies. These people who came down to Southern California and tried to figure out how to make stories and film them.
They just figured out that people would be really interested in watching these students, so they'd pay a guy 20 bucks to ride a horse off a bridge, or jump off a moving train and onto a car, or stand on top of a biplane. And that's what the movie business was then, and it kind of set us onto a road that we're on right now where movies are so action driven.
Capone: Even your role on "Pushing Daisies" and that lack of a physical relationship between the two leads, I suppose could also be seen as the classic look-but-don't-touch Hollywood love affair.
LP: It's old-fashioned, yeah. That's one of the things I love about "Pushing Daisies" is that it's kind of an old-fashioned romance, where you go through the whole movie, they spar, and you can see the connection between the two of them, and at the end you just get a little kiss, and The End. But on "Pushing Daisies," there's not even going to be a kiss. [laughs]
Capone: What was your introduction to Tarsem and his vision and the scope of this work? What do you remember about that first meeting?
LP: I was sent a copy of his reel and a copy of PONETTE, this French movie.
Capone: Oh, he actually sent you PONETTE, because he mentioned that the little girl's performance in that film was the model for Alexandria in THE FALL. It's a terrific film.
LP: Beautiful movie. So I went into this meeting with him, and he talked to me about these locations he had scouted over all the time he'd been shooting commercials. He kind of walked me through what the story was and talked to me how he was going to work with Catinca [Untaru, who plays Alexandria], and how I was going to be in a wheelchair for the first two months of the shoot. And it was kind of one of these really exciting and inspiring meetings where you felt like you were really working with an artist who had a vision.
That was the big, mad, crazy meeting. And I just thought, "Who knows what this movie is going to be, but I think it's going to be fun to work on it." And he didn't disappoint. One of the things he said in the meeting was, "This is the type of movie they will teach in film school." And I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Every director says that kind of thing."
But when I watched it again last night at a screening, it absolutely is the kind of movie they're going to teach in film school. It's very layered and very complicated. Every time I watch it, I get more out of it.
Capone: There certainly is a lot of ground to cover with him after you've seen it. And as transcendent and striking as the visuals are, it's really that core relationship between you and this little girl that is the heart of the film, because it really does seem like when we see an exchange between the two of you that we're eavesdropping on a very personal, private, intimate moment.
LP: When we were shooting it, they would pull the curtain around the bed and cut holes in it for the camera, and she had no idea she was being filmed. She knew, but she didn't really know. She didn't care. She just cared about talking to me, and we got really close. I remember one day she was complaining about Tarsem, and everyone in the next room started laughing. And she looked at me and said, "What are they laughing at?" She had no idea she was being filmed; she had no idea that before every take they were actually clipped a mic on to her. She's just didn't know.
And it was really neat to be able to work with someone like that because it tests how willing you are to be honest you're willing to be with stuff. It's easy to fall into habits of acting, even with realism. You fall into realistic ways of acting. But when you're forced to work with a child like that, you have to really just talk, and you have to be as simple as you can be. And just ask a question and hope for a response.
You really have to be in character in a true way, because if you're not, then she's not. She's not going to respond to a false way of being.
Capone: There's not an ounce of self-awareness in her performance. She doesn't know which side is her good side or anything about lighting or angles. And as much as this is Tarsem's vision, you clearly had a lot of guidance to provide her.
LP: It was a big part of my job to just make her feel comfortable and make her fell that she could tell me anything. I say it like it was a chore, but it wasn't. She was a pleasure to fall in love with and to get to work in that way with, where it's just about being simple and being honest. And the other thing is, by the end of the shoot in South Africa, she figured it out. She figured out that there was a camera filming her and that she was adorable.
I think that's something a lot of actors go through, learning that they're adorable. And she became sort of a terrible actress, and she would act really princess-sy and kind of cutesy. And when we were shooting that scene about killing of the bandits and she's got the bandage around her head, I remember looking at her and being like, "Hey Catinca, you've got to act now.
You've got to look at me and love me and think about me dying and think about me trying to kill myself. You don't want me to die, do you?" And she'd be like, "No." So I was like, "You have to keep me alive. You have to do whatever you can do to keep me alive.
You have to really take this seriously because we're all gathered here to film your performance right now, so you have to do something." And I think that's when she gets really good in the movie, when it's not us catching her doing different behaviors, but when she actually kind of gave a performance in a way.
Capone: You're a classically trained actor with lots of Shakespeare in your background and other theater work. I had always assumed that that type of background would make an actor a little more rigged in the way that they perform. But clearly, it demands that you be prepared for anything and react more than act.
LP: We would do Shakespeare every year, and I loved working on that. But we also did Chekhov every year, and I think that's really interesting. It's a way of working that I find really, really interesting, to figure out ways to be as real as you can be and still be creative. It's like when you work on those great plays, there's no changing lines, no figuring out the way it feels right for you to do it.
So I know when I walk onto a set and the lines don't necessarily feel right the first time I do it, and I'm tempted to change things, I always remind myself to take a step back and say, "This might no be Shakespeare, but if I try to figure out a way to make this work then it's going to be better than my first instinct." I think it's kind of relying on the method--not The Method--but a way of working. I'm not a six-year-old girl who we're just catching my behavior. I've got to make choice about something. I've got to figure out a way into things.
I find that the best way into things is to open my heart up to it and allow it to be as truthful and honest as I can be, and I can make it. It's hard to do that; it's hard to open yourself up to something. With this movie, I was in a wheelchair and that was all about helping her performance and giving her the reality that we needed her to play in [Lee and Tarsem let the entire cast and crew believe Lee was actually disabled and wheelchair bound]. By the end of that two months, it absolutely affected my performance.
I was really depressed being in that wheelchair. It was depressing having to lie to people about a motorcycle accident that I was in.
Capone: Did you feel like a big phony?
LP: It was horrible! And it made me feel really, really bad, really phony. And because I was in the vulnerable state of filming a movie, it weighed heavy on me. But it's fine. It's in the movie and I think it's a good thing that it's in the movie, that attitude.
Capone: Switching gears here, I'm going to imagine it was pretty disappointing having the first season of "Pushing Daisies" cut short by the writers' strike.
LP: It was, it was. I was having such a great time shooting the show, and it was disappointing. The good thing about it is that we've all had a bit of a break from the show, so we can take a look at it and kind of see what worked and what didn't work, and maybe adjust the things that weren't as successful about the show.
You know, it's a little weird, the show. There's no real model for how to make a show about a pie maker who touches dead things back to life [laughs].
Capone: It does break ground on that level, no doubt. You haven't started shooting new episodes yet, have you?
LP: No, we'll start in June and have new episodes in the fall.
Capone: Did you ever get a real explanation why ABC decided to hold the show for a relaunch next season rather than shoot a few new episodes to run right now?
LP: Oh yeah. There were a lot of discussions about that in February. Two things went into it: we're a really expensive show. It there's a lot of post on the show, about a month of post. So it was prohibitively expensive to get the show up and running for three episodes that we would have had time to film by the end of May.
Capone: Oh, it only would have been three? I know some shows managed to get four or five done.
LP: Yeah, but not for us, and they don't like to air new stuff through the summer. You don't get the kind of viewing figures that you need. And the other thing is, I think they want to be able to give it a big launch like they did the first time around, and do the billboards and make it not just like a regular TV show, but more of like an event.
And they'll be able to say, "Three-time Golden Globe nominee." They'll make it appealing for people to watch. But they don't have unlimited money. [laughs]
Capone: When do we finally get to see you in POSSESSION?
LP: I'm hearing from a couple of reporters here today that it's opening August, I've heard September, October. I have no idea when POSSESSION is coming out.
Capone: I have seen the original South Korean film. Are you playing the brother-in-law?
LP: Yeah, I'm the brother-in-law. Our movie is a little bit different. It's really sexy and romantic, as much as it is the suspenseful thriller.
Capone: That's what I was going to ask you next: were you playing up the romance more, or playing up the spookier stuff?
LP: The romance is definitely played up, and we actually shot two different endings, so that we could do one ending where it's a nicer--where they actually end up together. But the ending we actually use, it doesn't leave you hanging; it's a very definitive ending that we've got.
But me and Sarah [Michelle Gellar] got along super well and we had a really good connection, so I think that's one of the reasons the movie has got that romantic feel because we really enjoyed working together.
Capone: In TV and film, you've really only been at this five or six years now. It's all happened for you really fast, and it seems like you're always working.
LP: It feels like forever [laughs]. Even with this movie, I shot this movie four years ago and it feels like forever ago. And I watch it now, and I feel like I look like I'm 12 years old in it.
Capone: Especially with the swashbuckling vests you get to wear. How do you keep your head on straight while all of this is happening for you at the same time?
LP: From where I sit, I don't read any of the stuff or any of the blogs. I don't read it, so if there is something going on, I don't really know about it. All I know is that I'm busy and I'm grateful for that, you know? I'm grateful that I have somewhere to go to work, and I'm grateful that there's stuff to promote. And this movie, in particular, I love this movie. I'll do anything for it, and I enjoy talking about it.
Capone: You mentioned before about "Pushing Daisies" there were things they were looking to improve. Have you gotten a sense of where the show's direction might go or change?
LP: I know that's it's going to be a little more aggressive storytelling. It's going to be bigger arcs with the characters, which I think will be really good. I like Ned best when he's under pressure, when it's not too easy for him. When it was him and Chuck and everything was rosy and cute, I think it gets a little sweet. I think it's better if he's in the doghouse with Chuck, or when he's chasing the girl. I think that's really interesting.
Capone: Lee, thank you so much and good luck with this movie.
LP: I appreciate it, and I appreciate you writing something up on it.
Capone: And I know it's going to take me years to transcribe that interview with Tarsem, but I can't wait to listen to it again.
LP: I know. It'll be good. I love talking to Tarsem. He's really one of a kind. I love that. Cool, thanks again.