Guy Pearce knows a thing or two about portraying obsessive characters – most notably, Leonard Shelby from ‘Memento’, who is so concerned with his faulty memory that he tattoos what he knows his body.

While his character in new thriller ‘The Infernal Machine’ isn’t quite to that level, he’s certainly not what you would call calm and collected.

Pearce here plays a reclusive and controversial author called Bruce Cogburn. He wrote a novel titled ‘The Infernal Machine’ twenty years earlier, which inspired a mass shooting committed by Dwight Tufford (Alex Pettyfer). After the book was pulled from shelves because of its connection to the tragedy, Bruce retreated from society, holing up at his home in the Southern California desert.

But when he begins receiving mysterious letters from a fan named William Dukent, Bruce embarks on an intense search for the man behind the letters. His quest draws in a former student of his named Elijah (Jeremy Davies), as well as a local police officer named Higgins (Alice Eve).

Co-writer/director Andrew Hunt stepped up from making short films for this feature directorial debut, based on a podcast called ‘The Hilly Earth Society,’ written by Louis Kornfeld.

For Pearce, a big part of the appeal was working with Hunt. “Andrew’s a wonderful writer and it just felt very clear to me on the page when I was reading the script who this guy is. I didn’t have to go and seek anybody that I knew or knew of to find him,” the actor told Screen Rant. “It was clearly there, which to me is the best way to start work. If I’m having to go and find some inspiration, it’s because usually there’s something missing for me in the translation of that character on the page, but I felt like it was all completely there.”

And when it came to portraying Cogburn, Pearce was able to empathize with him. “I think I always have to as an actor. You pose the question better than most people. They usually say, ‘Do you like the character?’ or ‘Did you not like the character?’ To sympathize I think is a more appropriate view of a character when you’re playing them because even if the character is behaving in a particular way that is pushing out and avoiding vulnerability and avoiding responsibility, you still, as an artist playing them and hopefully as an audience watching them, should find some sympathy for them, I think. One — just because that’s humanity, and I think how we should function in the world is to have empathy for others.”

Despite its California setting, the movie was shot entirely in Portugal at Moviebox Studios and on locations in and around the town of Loulé. And if that act of deception isn’t enough to make you worry about conspiracies, we don’t know what is.

‘The Infernal Machine’ is scheduled for release on September 25 in theaters and on digital.