Nothing will prepare you for an eyebrow-less Guy Pearce in the new movie Lawless, which hits theaters on August 29.
Apparently it was Pearce's own idea to shave those hairs right off his handsome Aussie face for his role as the exquisitely violent Special Agent Charlie Rakes in the film, which also stars Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf. Set in Prohibition-era Virginia, Lawless is the tale of a trio of bootlegging brothers (Hardy, LaBeouf, and Jason Clarke) and the well-manicured, sadistic city slicker (Pearce) who is brought in to lay down the law and put them out of business. Based on a true story, it is gangster cinema at its finest—doused in vats of moonshine.
Details spoke with the eternally charismatic Pearce about his role in Lawless, playing Andy Warhol, and whether he prefers indie flicks over mainstream movies.
DETAILS: Your character in Lawless is all about mastering his look. What would his grooming regimen consist of?
GUY PEARCE: I would imagine it's a fairly extensive routine. He has a very strong sense of vanity, as well as a disdain for things that smell, things that are dirty, and things that are extraneous. Obviously clipping eyebrows, shaving right to the bone, keeping his hair as slicked back as possible…I would imagine he's not flippant about how he does it and that things are pretty much in order in his morning grooming.
DETAILS: He would have been the perfect poster child for antibacterial soap.
GUY PEARCE: Except that he might have killed the person he was making the poster with, perhaps.
DETAILS: What kind of cologne do you think Rakes would wear? (Though it does contain alcohol, so would he even use it?)
GUY PEARCE: [Even though he was] trying to shut down a bunch of bootleggers, he was probably a bit of a soak himself—drinking a martini or a Drambuie in the evening. He did things in a way that he felt were far more sophisticated and culturally focused than these backwoods heathens around him. Rakes would be one of those guys going through the old catalogs you would see at the early part of the century, ordering colognes from Europe and the Far East—I'd imagine he would have exotic taste.
DETAILS: Your character is basically the Devil incarnate: He's a man who wants to be feared and revered.
GUY PEARCE: I don't think he has any concerns about being taken seriously—anyone who he thinks is beneath him, he doesn't care about at all.
DETAILS: Is it true that it was your own idea to shave your eyebrows?
GUY PEARCE: It was. After I'd read the script, I remember talking to [director John Hillcoat] and saying, "Look, I just feel things that are extraneous to this character should be gone. Nails must be clipped, nose hairs must be gone—even eyebrow hairs." John was a little nervous at the beginning, but once we talked it through and put it into context, he was more than happy to go with it. He didn't want me to look weird and unusual just for the sake of it. It needed to feel authentic.
DETAILS: In 1994, you played the drag queen Felicia Jollygoodfellow in the Australian hit The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It almost feels like there's a tiny bit of that character in your portrayal of Agent Rakes.
GUY PEARCE: [Laughs] Well, he is very camp. I don't know if he'd be a cross-dresser, necessarily, but we did wonder if maybe he had on women's underwear. Again, that's one of the choices we discussed—finding the balance between someone who's both effeminate and extremely violent…and being able to make those traits work together without being over the top. For him, it's all about power.
DETAILS: Speaking of odd characters, you played Andy Warhol in Factory Girl. Only a few actors have dared to take on that role—you, David Bowie, Mad Men's Jared Harris (a.k.a. Lane Pryce)…
GUY PEARCE: Jared Harris is great! I'm a massive fan, I think he's fantastic. We've built a good, strong tradition. I wonder who's going to do it next.
DETAILS: You're in the midst of shooting Iron Man 3, and earlier this year you appeared in Prometheus. We've always known you as sort of the indie-film guy—has something changed for you recently?
GUY PEARCE: It just feels like one of those odd coincidences. I don't feel I'm making a conscious effort to go more commercial. I'm probably more open to films like this than I was a few years ago, but at the same time, if you had come to me 10 years ago to do a prequel to Alien, I would have done it. I think my desire to do Iron Man really stems from the fact that those films work so well. I'm sure I'll do just as many odd, unusual indie films too—I've just finished [director] Drake Doremus' latest film.
DETAILS: I saw it listed on IMDB as "Untitled Drake Doremus Project."
GUY PEARCE: Right, so if anyone can come up with a good title, please let us know!
—Susan Michals is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles and a regular contributor to Details.com. You can follow her on Twitter @Susan_Michals.