guy pearce the roverGuy Pearce is one of those actors who disappears so completely into his characters that when he's not on screen, you tend to forget jut how phenomenal he is. Then he'll pop up in something -- say, "Iron Man 3" or the romantic drama "Breathe In" (that made the festival circuit for more than a year) and you think, Wow, Guy Pearce is really amazing.

You'll think that again this weekend if you go see David Michod's moody, gleefully bleak, deeply brilliant thriller "The Rover," in which Pearce plays a desperate man at the end of his rope, traversing a pseudo-post-apocalyptic wasteland (Pearce calls me out on using this term later) with a loser left for dead, played with surprisingly gritty textures by Robert Pattinson.

Pearce co-starred in Michod's critically adored first feature "Animal Kingdom," a sprawling (but intimate) Australian crime epic, and re-teams for a very different type of movie, one in which the brutality of the Australian landscape is only matched by the ruthlessness of the characters that inhabit it. We got to chat with Pearce about what it was like re-teaming with Michod for such a different movie, how their relationship has evolved in the years since, what it was like making such a desolate film, and, of course, manage to squeeze in some questions about "Iron Man 3" and "Prometheus." Blimey!

Moviefone: David said he wrote this script before "Animal Kingdom." When did he start talking to you about it?
Guy Pearce: I don't know when he started talking about it but it was definitely after "Animal Kingdom." He just called me and sent me the script and asked me to take a look. It was probably about a year before we made the film.

And what was your reaction upon reading it?
It was actually difficult to get my head around the character when I first read it because he's so stripped bare at this point, at the start of the movie. So it was hard for me to understand the character, so it was much more the world and this being David, as a filmmaker, was what I was drawn to, which was obviously enough to want to pursue it with him and work with him. I wanted to try and understand who this character used to be. That's when I was able to move forward and say "yes."

Did you have discussions about who this guy was in his previous life and did David disclose to you what this undefined apocalyptic event was that is referenced at the beginning of the film?
Well, it wasn't an apocalyptic event. It's really more about an economic collapse. People like to jump to that word "apocalypse" too readily I think. So it was something more relatable, really, about something that we could almost see, like the financial crisis that occurred in 2008 -- something the West wasn't fully able to recover from. So yeah, absolutely, we spoke about all that. For me, I needed to understand what kind of man my character was before all of that, just to try and understand who he then became. Obviously there's an event I talk about in the middle of the film... That really made my character feel like humanity has given up on itself. But that aside I feel like I had to get into the personality of his man. So we had conversations about all of that stuff.

Just watching the movie it feels like it was a tough shoot. Can you speak to the movie's physical demands?
It looks like a tough world to live in. It's hot and dusty and stuff, but we had make-up people putting dust on us and there were nice hotels that we stayed in that weren't on camera so, you know, like most movies it fools you into thinking what's on camera is the world you're living in. But it's pretty remote where we were, but it was also a bit of a tourist-y spot as well. There are enough motels for everyone to stay in. It was pretty hot and there were a lot of flies. But I've worked in the desert many times, so it wasn't unknown territory for me. I think it was more of an eye-opening experience for Rob.

Recently, you made a really wonderful appearance in "Iron Man 3." Are you under contract with Marvel? Or was it a one-and-done with you?
No, I'm not under contract with them. It was just a great character to play and a really interesting film, I thought. So who knows...

And another movie you were recently in was "Prometheus." What was that experience like, contributing to the "Alien" universe?
I was a big fan of the original film and I'm a big fan of Ridley's, so to ask to come partake in the reboot of that franchise, was really great. Actually I shouldn't call it a franchise -- just to be a part of a film that is connected to that original film was really fascinating and obviously to play a character that was so critical in the whole "Alien" world was an honor. I mean, it was tough, I had five hours of make-up everyday, but I only worked 20 days or something so it wasn't too grueling and it was certainly a very interesting experience and interesting to watch Ridley work, especially in that kind of environment.

There was speculation that you were cast due to an abandoned subplot where Michael Fassbender's character entered the dream world and talked to you as a young man. Did you ever film any of that stuff?
Well, it wasn't that I was brought on for that, I was brought on for the other stuff as well. But it was an idea that was tossed around and, in the end, I think Ridley thought that it'd take you out of the movie to suddenly see the character in this different way, particularly in the middle of a film. It was an idea that was there and they just thought it didn't need to come to fruition. It would have been interesting to do, obviously, but I also think the way they wanted to do it was pretty expensive.

"The Rover" expands to theaters nationwide today (June 20).

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The Rover
Based on 38 critics

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