‘The Rover,’ David Michod’s highly anticipated follow-up to ‘Animal Kingdom,’ is set in a world ten years following the collapse of the western economic system, where Australia’s mineral resources have drawn the desperados and dangerous to its shores. With society in decline, the rule of law has disintegrated and life is cheap. The film follows hardened loner Eric (Guy Pearce), who travels the desolate towns and roads of the Australian outback. When a gang of thieves steals his car they leave behind the wounded Rey (Robert Pattinson) in their wake. Forcing Rey to help track the gang, Eric will go to any lengths to take back the one thing that matters to him. ’The Rover’ opens in the US on June 20th and in the UK on August 15th.
You really get a sense of the heat in the film, and the exhaustion that the characters are likely feeling. How was it immersing yourself in in the true environment of ‘The Rover’? I imagine that allowed you to slip into character more efficiently?
Guy Pearce: It was great being out on location, and the heat obviously was a big part of what it was we were experiencing in the story anyway. So it was grueling and it was hot, but it was mixed with those incredible locations we were in. So it was all a part of the experience we were in. It’s kind of amazing being out there. It always helps to be in real locations. That extreme heat, those flies, and that vast expanse of desert – it just adds to it, like you’re putting on a costume. It takes you there.
Robert Pattinson: I genuinely couldn’t have answered that better (laughs). But I’d never shot like this anywhere before, there’s nothing for miles and miles. It’s fun to work with a crew in a tiny little town where everybody’s hanging out with each other all the time. You develop a great bond, and I haven’t had that for a while. You don’t get that with big studio movies.
So much of the film is within a precise balance of mood and atmosphere. How do you stay on top of that while shooting?
Guy Pearce: I’d worked with David before, but that aside, I’d seen David’s work as well and I know Rob had. Obviously I’ve seen ‘Animal Kingdom,’ I’m in it, but I’d seen David short films as well. So…. not to suggest he has a tone that he sets and it’s gonna be the same on every film, but in looking at the script and seeing those films and talking with David before we start, I really got that sense. One of the things I really respond to is the tone of a movie, whether it’s a comedy or whatever it happens to be – not that I do too many comedies (laughs). I think it’s one of those things you really absorb and you feel through your skin. So in a sense that enables you to understand the rhythm of the character. It’s the kind of stuff you are aware of to a certain degree even if you don’t necessarily talk about it everyday.
How do you see this relationship you have with Guy’s character in the movie? How does it relate to your own life experience?
Robert Pattinson: I think loyalty is probably the most important trait in a friendship. And I was really lucky to have pretty great friends growing up. All of my closest friends I’ve known them for at least 10 years. And it’s an interesting relationship in ‘The Rover,’ as Rey’s loyalty is so easily swayed. By the time he gets back to his real brother at the end of the movie, I kept thinking how to play it when he first sees him again. It’s almost like he’s forgotten who he is, he’s forgotten what that relationship was. That’s why he’s so conflicted at the end.
Simple and naive, Rey’s too young to remember a time when things were anything other than what they are in ‘The Rover.’ And although he’s described as halfwit during the film, your character seems pretty self-sufficient to a point. How did you prepare for your role?
Robert Pattinson: I’m not entirely sure he can really get around by himself particularly well (laughs.) As soon as he’s on his own for one second – that one moment he’s sitting under that tree at the beginning – he has absolutely no idea what to do. It’s just a fluke that he sees the car there. I think if his brother’s car didn’t end up being there, he’d just sit under that tree and die (laughs). But I think he responds to things out of instinct. In a lot of ways, he’s basically been kidnapped by this guy. It’s not like he’s done anything for him. He could easily get another car (laughs). But how did I prepare for it? It was the script. It was all in the script. When I first read the script, it was quite instinctive I think.
The film is set in a world of survival pure and simple, where it’s kind of shoot-first-or-die. How familiar were you with firearms, and was it awkward for you?
Robert Pattinson: I’ve done a couple of gun things. I’m quite anti-gun, especially for idiots like me to have them. I was actually supposed to do another film, playing a soldier where I did some stuff with guns. But I’m not particularly familiar. I don’t think I did any particular training either. Rey’s supposed to be pretty rubbish, but he ends up being incredibly accurate (laughs). The training, I didn’t like it at all. I don’t like the feeling of it. Obviously, you get a little thrill, the power trip of it. I felt a little silly holding a gun, though. Especially while shooting targets. You just have this bang-making machine (laughs)… after a while, it just loses its luster.
Guy Pearce: For me, I’ve done tonnes of movies with guns and I’ve shot a lot of people, and I’ve been shot a few times. I too have a real issue with guns. I find… they should be banished from the earth. They’re awful things. I feel really comfortable with them now, as a prop, because I’ve done so many things with guns. They’re fascinating as well. There’s this incredible thrill and power you feel as you have one in your hands because of that understanding of what you’re capable of doing with this thing is off the charts. It’s ridiculous, and it’s enticing, and it’s awful all at the same time. It just astounds me that so many people own guns in the world.
I imagine you were intrigued by the violent but complex nature of your role…?
Guy Pearce: Definitely. Strangely with this character and this movie, he’s cut off emotionally from a lot of things. I kill a number of people in the film, and there is a certain level of difficulty and regret that he feels, but at the same time there’s an ability to just kill another one, if he has to. It’s kind of a horrendous line that he treads, I think.
Eric’s really a shell of a man when we meet him in the film. He’s experienced harrowing personal events along with the evident demise of humanity. He’s a man questioning his own moral standing but feels he can’t answer that. Society has proven to be questionable itself, so he has no real marker to be able to gauge this anymore. On some level Eric has reached a very calm state. But it’s also clear that he’s lost and has come to the end of his metaphorical road. He has one last thing to do before possibly ending his life, and that task has been stifled by the theft of his car.
This is an abandoned world and there’s a lot of silent moments, but what were you thinking of during those moments… so much isn’t said? Did you come into it thinking a lot about your character’s backstory…?
Guy Pearce: For me, if there’s any backstory that’s not necessarily what I’m thinking about. That’s stuff I know that works for my character and gets you into a place of confidence to be able to go and play the character. It’s interesting as an actor, because you’re half thinking about what your character should be thinking about, and you’re half thinking about the technical stuff… I do sometimes. The camera position, and which way is going to evoke more of the appropriate emotion – if your heads down or across. I like not to think about that stuff too much, but sometimes you can’t help it. And whether or not you’re thinking of that or whether or not you’re just kind of conscious of that on some sort of level… and it changes all the time. But I think, particularly with a movie like this – it’s so subtle, but heavily laden with deeply rooted emotional stuff. You’re just trying to be in that stuff and sit in that emotional place, because that’s what’s going to translate the most honestly I suppose.
Robert Pattinson: That first moment, looking at you when you’re asleep in the chair. I suddenly remember that because I kept trying to play being stuck between two channels. It was interesting being in those moments, because it’s about not trying to think about anything at all (laughs) – being stuck between channels.