Guy Pearce says surprise phone call from Nick Cave brought him out of ‘crash-and-burn’ breakdown

Actor said he was ‘stoned, exhausted and questioning it all’ before musician rang

Ellie Harrison
Saturday 12 November 2022 09:52 GMT
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Guy Pearce has opened up about a “crash-and-burn” breakdown he suffered in 2001, and how a surprise phone call from Nick Cave helped him get his life back on track.

After his break-out role in Aussie soap Neighbours, which he starred in from 1986, Pearce was constantly in work throughout the Nineties, with roles in LA Confidential and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, to name a couple, before he made his most famous movie, 2000’s amnesia thriller Memento.

In a new interview inThe Times Magazine, Pearce discussed how, in 2001, he had a breakdown.

“A big crash and burn,” he said. “It was a confluence of things. The pressure I started to feel about working in America and the whole making hay while the sun shines philosophy. And of course, as an actor, you never usually work back-to-back unless, of course, you’re in a soap.

“All the time you have off between jobs, it revitalises you. You get to be yourself again and recharge, all that sort of stuff. But you don’t realise that until you start doing movie after movie after movie and you’re f***ing exhausted. Plus, I was smoking way too much pot.”

He said he was “stoned, exhausted and questioning it all”, adding: “I was 31, 32, 33. I realised I was being horrible to everyone.”

Pearce told the publication he took a year off “at the end of 2001” and retired to his sofa to smoke more weed. He said he might never have acted again had the Australian musician Nick Cave not called him about a script he had written for western movie The Proposition.

“I was at home with my mate, getting stoned again,” recalled Pearce. “The phone rang. I just let the answering machine answer it. I wasn’t looking at scripts. Scripts would arrive and I just put them in a pile in the corner. I’d said to my agent, ‘I don’t f***ing want to read anything.’ I wanted to get away from all of this.

“And Nick rang – I didn’t know Nick – and left a message saying, ‘Er, yes, Guy, it’s Nick Cave calling. Look, your people seem to think that if I call you directly, you’ll perhaps take notice.’”

Guy Pearce in ‘The Proposition’
Guy Pearce in ‘The Proposition’ (Palisades Tartan)

Pearce explained that Cave told him he’d sent him the script, and the actor went mad trying to look for it. He read it the next day and “something opened up” in him.

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He said: “I realised that, in fact, I’d had enough time off and I’d also had enough time thinking about what I needed to think about. Which really was: is this valid, this job? Am I any good at it? Am I OK with it? Can I live my life with this job?”

Pearce went on to star in the movie as an 1880s outlaw. He’s since had roles in the films Factory Girl, The Hurt Locker, The Road and The King’s Speech, as well as in TV shows such as Mare of Easttown.

His newest TV project is A Spy Among Friends, an ITV drama co-starring Damian Lewis and Anna Maxwell Martin.

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