Having trudged down a lengthy, rubble-strewn path in the baking heat to the train station, it’s safe to say I was in the right frame of mind to talk about THE ROVER. Director David Michôd and stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson were in attendance at a thankfully opulent and stress-free location for a quick chat with the world’s press. Laid-back, often amusing and crucially surrounded by free water, they gave us an insight into the making of the most intense Australian road movie since MAD MAX.
(Our questions/interjections are marked ‘THN’)
Guy Pearce: What are you guys doing in here? (Laughter)
Robert Pattinson: (Putting his shades on the table) Can’t wait to get to a level where I can wear sunglasses…
Journalist: During the day?
RP: During press junkets. (Laughter)
David Michôd: If I ever have a film at Cannes again I’m gonna do that, you get the big photocall and they straight away tell you to…
GP: Take your glasses off.
DM: Take your sunglasses off… The flashes are so intense, so next time if I ever have another film playing Cannes I’m going to be that wanker who wears the sunglasses. (Laughter)
David, after ANIMAL KINGDOM and THE ROVER, when are we going to see you do a romcom? You keep going to dark places.
DM: Yeah. I don’t know why. When I go to the movies I like to have powerful experiences, and for some reason that darkness and menace and sadness is, for me, a powerful experience. Those are the moments, as strange as it sounds, where I get most exhilarated when I’m in an edit room…That’s when I feel my spine tingling. Having said that I would love to have the experience of sitting in the audience watching a movie I’d made that was making people laugh hysterically. I don’t know whether I’m capable but I’d love to give it a try. Having said that…people keep thinking I’m being facetious when I say that I think THE ROVER is really funny. Everything that Rob does especially, in the face of Guy’s relentless abuse…
THN: I should say, in the screening I was at, there was one laugh, and it was when the little guy got shot. (Laughter)
Journalist: I thought your song in the car was really funny Rob.
Journalist: How was that?
RP: I thought it was so funny in the script.
DM: Did it feel funny when you were doing it?
RP: No. I mean, actually…I was trying to telegraph the next scene. I thought it was really brave having that in the script. It was actually a different song first of all, it was The Pussycat Dolls first of all.
David, did you pick that (Pretty Girl Rock by Keri Hilson) because it stuck out so much?
DM: I wanted there to be at that moment, in the film, a particularly dark juncture for Rob’s character, for there to be a moment that reminded the audience of the fact that his character was just a kid who in different circumstances would probably just be listening to music and thinking about girls. It felt very important to me that you just have that one moment. I can also feel it in the movie, just a moment of levity, because the movie can be a little bit…(chuckles) relentlessly grim.
Rob, how did you find working in the Aussie wilderness? Bit of a culture shock?
RP: Kind of. There wasn’t really anyone out there…
DM: There’s no culture…
RP: There was a pub. With an English person working in there. It was incredibly peaceful. You realize the value of your anonymity again and how priceless it is. But also an unusual place as well. A mysticism to the area. It’s not like just being out in nothingness, there’s an intensity to it as well.
DM: It’s corny but it feels weirdly, strangely spiritual. Just because you are surrounded by vast nothingness…And it’s fun being out there too. When you’re shooting in the city you leave work, you have to have a shower because you’ve probably got a dinner to go to. Being out there it was fun not caring about how filthy you were…about what clothes you were wearing.
GP: We were all in the same boat.
THN: Guy, on the subject of clothes, the look of your character is very ‘interesting’. There are certain scenes where you look like an exhumed corpse. How did the look of Eric come together and did you have much input into his overall image?
GP: Well, I mean David had pretty clear ideas about what he wanted, but we also then would discuss…I think the description of the clothes was there in the…To a degree wasn’t it…?
DM: Shirts, shorts and sneakers.
GP: I was excited about just getting to wear one costume for the entire shoot. There’s nothing worse than having to do a quick change.
THN: Did they mess you up a bit before you went on camera, or you just basically went…? (Guy indicates he looks like that normally).
GP: There was a lot of discussions about our haircuts and we tried something, and then David would go “Look it’s nearly, but not right”. I’m just trying to remember the process in the studio in Adelaide. At one point David’s saying: “I really want it to look like you found a blunt pair of old scissors and you just cut it yourself”. So I found a pair of old scissors and cut it myself. I think I might have been drunk.
THN: Well it was very effective.
GP: Absolutely. And you’ve got to take that leap sometimes, to really go to where…you sort of have these ideas about what you think it could be, and maybe it’s this and maybe it’s that, and you realize you’re still operating within some sort of conformity. And eventually you have to go “No, fuck it”, and hope people don’t freak out the next day when you go to work. We did laugh wondering whether people would take on our looks.
Was the atmosphere hushed between takes or was there levity?
GP: It depended what we were doing, but we had fun. We had a good laugh together on set pretty much. I mean, if we were doing a heavy, heavy scene it wasn’t really appropriate to ruin the mood. (Rob mimes interrupting Guy in the middle of a scene) “I’m just killing someone, hang on a second…”
There wasn’t a lot of background about your characters. Did you guys sit down and talk about it?
RP: I’ve suddenly remembered…Do you remember that conversation we had where I wanted to have the tops of his ears snipped off? (Laughs) I’d read this thing about thieves out in the Wild West…And I thought that would be such a great little bit.
GP: What, to be more aerodynamic?
RP: No, it was a punishment.
GP: Oh I see.
Robert, was there anything specific you had to do to get into character?
RP: There was one thing…I only found out later, I didn’t really realize I was doing it, but all the guns were controlled by an armourer, who was obviously very serious about guns, and he got so pissed off when I started playing with the guns…and I realized that was kind of what was getting me into character, annoying the armourer (Laughs).
THE ROVER is released in UK cinemas on August 15th.
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