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Interview with Guy Pearce

Guy Pearce interview

HBO

What does Monty see in Mildred when he meets her in the diner and asks her to come with him to the beach?

GUY PEARCE

There are a number of things he's attracted to. Firstly from a typical male point of view, he sees a very attractive and lively woman. Also, even though he's brought up in the upper echelons of class he probably likes to break those boundaries. (Later on we discover maybe that's not really the case when his hidden prejudices eventually come to the surface.) But he's a charmer  I wouldn't say he's a cad  but he's a well groomed and relaxed kind of guy, so he's fairly fortunate with the ladies. He probably throws that out whenever he can: "Hey, jump in the car and come to the beach with me." And every other woman might have said, "How dare you!" and turned her back on him. But this one morning, this woman who happens to be at a particular moment in her life says, "You better be careful or I might come with you." And I think he's taken by surprise, but at the same time, joyously relieved that there's someone spontaneous out there like him. She's clearly a smart lady, a very capable and forthright woman. Even in his cheekiness when he launches into his breakfast order and in a playful but condescending way says, "Did you get that?" and she repeats it back perfectly, he thinks, Oh I'm in for a bit of head sport here - this lady's a lot of fun. That's what I think is so beautiful about the writing of the book and the script, these subtle moments that are captured really well. That you can meet someone on the street and have an instant, open and honest connection. It's a delightful moment when they first meet.

HBO

Does he know he's in trouble financially when they first meet?

GUY PEARCE

No, I don't think he does. I don't think he accepts it when he is in trouble. I went to a private school and was surrounded by wealthy folk even though we weren't particularly wealthy. But there were people who I could relate to when I was playing Monty. There's a sort of security that's created when you grow up knowing money will never be a problem. And when it does become a problem, I think it's difficult for those people to believe it. It's a bit like trying to convince someone who's believed in God all their life that there is no God. Conversely, people who are brought up with no money, even if they make money later in life, still have a street-wise quality about them that always makes sure they're one step ahead of the game because they don't want to slip back into what they were brought up with. I find it fascinating the way aspects of our lives that we're brought up with can stick with us forever even if things completely change. And I think for Monty, he's generally quite relaxed about "Oh, this old mansion, we can't afford it anymore."

HBO

When do you think it does start to eat away at him?

GUY PEARCE

Strangely enough, I think it's her finickiness, her need for practicality. This is what I'm talking about&she is someone who was brought up in more of a working class life so being conscious and conscientious of making sure you've got a job and there's food on the table and the bank account is in order. Doing the "making sure" is something he's never done. It's an irritant for him particularly when she starts to say, "When are you going to work, and when are you going to do this and that?" I wouldn't be surprised if it's her instigation that starts to trigger some of those feelings for him of things not being A-OK. And once she does trigger that too much, he's like, "You know what? Maybe you're not the lady for me."

HBO

He has that line in their argument at the end of episode three when he says the fact that she wants to get his money's worth out of him means she's not a lady&

GUY PEARCE

That's right. And I think this is where the script and the book are really great. He sees her as being a bit of a penny pincher. He reluctantly understands why, but I don't think he's interested in bringing himself to that level and having a serious discussion about it. I think he sees it more as something to throw at her in an argument as a weakness or quality that's not particularly admirable: Look at you, you're trying to turn me into your chauffeur. It's demeaning to talk about money; it's demeaning to be so fussy about it. And it's easy for him to say that because he's been brought up at the other end of the sticks. If they had servants and chauffeurs, that's how it was. But for him to be put in that position is really inappropriate. It's very simple in a way, but it's a very complex situation they've got themselves into. Strangely enough, most women of her standing would have said "no" to him in that café, and he might not have ended up having a long-term relationship. But he's softening as well. They're both at points in their lives where things are changing. I just think she's far more aware of herself than he is of himself. He's just out to have a good time and it's taking someone like her to make him look at himself and he doesn't want to. He can in a self-deprecating, charming, let-me-show-you-I'm-taking-a-good-look-at-myself kind of way to lure someone in, but not in the way you might sit there with your therapist.

"When people talk about chemistry between people, we really felt it was there. And our past crushes probably did assist in our performances."

HBO

Yes, because the relationship with Veda and the things he shares with her about Mildred would come up on the couch.

GUY PEARCE

Of course! The interesting thing about he and Veda is he instantly reverts to being her age. He just wants to be a kid, when his parents had all the money, he could get whatever he wanted and never had to grow up or be responsible. So coming across Veda is exciting to him because he found another kid to play with. Clearly that relationship is destined for all sorts of fireworks.

HBO

Do you think he is poisoning Veda against Mildred in some way? Is that some vengeance on his part?

GUY PEARCE

I don't think he's that malicious or manipulative. I think it's a sort of blind ignorance. I think Veda will use whatever she can. She is far more troubled and therefore out to work out how to survive. Monty doesn't even know how to spell the word "survival," let alone understand what it means. He's just happy to go with the wind. Monty doesn't understand Veda's capacity as a feisty and intellectual being and doesn't understand when Mildred says "You're turning her against me." He's just happily floating around in the middle with blinders on.

HBO

What about that last line of Monty's in their final argument in the mansion when he says, "What this needs is the crime of rape."?

GUY PEARCE

It's awful isn't it? My wife was with me in New York for months when I was working through the script and I kept saying, "I don't know how I'm going to say this line." You really need to take yourself back to another period of time in order to take the curse away. It's still on it, but the curse that exists these days is so hefty that it was a real hurdle for me to get over, to be honest. Had it been any other project, I probably would have fought to get rid of it. But because the writing is so insightful and well observed, I really had to work to understand how it was okay. And it's NOT okay, but I had to get myself out of a contemporary viewpoint. But it's a tell, a sign of who he is. The power he feels as a charmer, as a man who can woo women and reach for the final result  to have sex  that is what comes to the fore at that moment. For a lot of guys, in the heat of argument there's something alluring about it. And it's a way out: Let's have the shag and forget about it. So there's an indication of misogyny, chauvinism, typical male stuff, which she even tries to give into. When I then go to her and start trying to caress her, she wants to let go and go with it. When we shot the scene, we discussed the idea of something not quite working for him  whether he couldn't quite get his fly undone or her dress unbuttoned quickly enough  we needed to find some little hurdle there for her to go, "Hang on a second, what am I doing?" and get out of there. She's desperate for passion and she might feel cursed about her sense of logic and reason  all those wonderful qualities that women have over men. So she probably in the moment tried to lose herself but couldn't.

HBO

Do you think he loves Mildred?

GUY PEARCE

I think he does. But only to the extent that he can. He probably has moments later on in life where he wakes up in the middle of the night and feels some guilt, but then probably thinks "Why did you have to be the way you were! I was really prepared to love you!" He's kind of chauvinistic in a way. Yes, he probably does love and care for her more than he might some of the ladies he'd been with in the past. But he's got a limited capacity for growth. And she requires a good listener and someone who's prepared to move with her. And he's not. So if that means he doesn't love her then maybe he doesn't. But he thinks he does.

HBO

Kate confesses to having a teenage crush on you.

GUY PEARCE

Well I've confessed about my crushes as well! And we share birthdays so we feel we have an odd connection as well. When people talk about chemistry between people, we really felt it was there. And our past crushes probably did assist in our performances.

Part 3