Q&A: Lee Pace

Source: Metromix Denver
Date: May 6, 2008
By: Brett Buckalew

With his gentle aura and distinctive caterpillar-sized eyebrows—perpetually arched in either befuddlement or fervent yearning—Lee Pace seems ideally suited to convey deep currents of melancholy.

That gift has served him well as a lovestruck piano man in “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” a lovestruck pre-op transsexual in Showtime’s “Soldier’s Girl” (for which he tweezed those eyebrows and earned his first Golden Globe nomination), and, most famously, a lovestruck pie maker blessed (or is it cursed?) with the ability to bring the dead back to life on ABC’s quirky hit “Pushing Daisies.”

Pace continues his run of tortured romantics with “The Fall,” a visually rapturous fairy tale directed by Tarsem (the music-video vet whose last film was the serial-killer flick “The Cell”). The actor takes on a dual role as Roy—a hospitalized stuntman who regales a five-year-old girl with an epic yarn about rebels facing off against a tyrannical governor—and his fictional counterpart, the gallant Black Bandit.

We took the chance to talk with the actor about how a certain body part helped him land the “Fall” gig, how he plans to avoid getting pigeonholed as the Pie Maker and his recent experiences with overseas mischief.

What drew you to an outside-the-box project like “The Fall”?
It was really complicated to set this meeting up with Tarsem. I was shooting a television show in Toronto called “Wonderfalls” that lasted for two minutes, and I was doing a play in New York. I was back and forth literally every other day, and my agents were like, “this guy Tarsem really, really wants to sit down with you.”

He pitched the whole movie to me, showed me some pictures, talked about how he wanted to work with the little girl, and mentioned that I would be in a wheelchair for two months. It just sounded like such a crazy, big adventure that I was like, “yeah, alright, I’m game. Sounds fun!” I’m really glad I did take that leap of faith with him, because it really has been a big adventure.

Did you ever ask Tarsem why he wanted you for this role?
Well, I don’t understand why, because the only thing he had ever seen me do was “Soldier’s Girl.” Somehow, he saw that and decided that I was a good fit for this! [Laughs] In that meeting, he gave me the pitch, and he was like, “I just wanted to make sure that you had a penis.” I didn’t have to show it to him or anything. He was like, “you got the part!” And that was it.

Since you shot “The Fall” before “Pushing Daisies,” did the pure fantasy of the film prepare you for working with the more surreal elements of “Daisies”?
Yeah, it did. “The Fall” was kind of like shooting two different movies. We shot all the reality stuff, and then we went away to shoot the fantasy stuff. And the reality stuff is what I know—it’s all about connecting, and just trying to get things simple and honest. But all the fantasy stuff, it was like these incredibly big pictures. There were times that Tarsem was on one mountain, we were on another mountain, and then there was a red carriage way down in the valley. I mean, it’s not a really easy way of working. But what I learned from this movie is that you just gotta be game for anything.

What kind of insights did you pick up from working with an imaginative, five-year-old co-star?
Catinca’s got a big imagination, and I think she just doesn’t edit herself. She doesn’t think about how she’s being perceived, really, and that’s kind of neat. I wish I had that again. Maybe if I work on it, I could get it back. [Laughs]

You mentioned the failure of “Wonderfalls” earlier. Did you feel like it was an uphill battle against the network while making the show?
We were all trying to do our best on it, but everyone knew that there was a fight with Fox, that Fox did not like the lesbian storyline. We were also on the same year “The O.C.” premiered. We would do a whole episode, and then the cast would ask [the network], “Is there anything we can do differently?” And they were like, “No, you’re great!” But you know that there were probably ten executives on the set of “The O.C.” debating whether or not Mischa Barton should wear espadrilles.

So has “Pushing Daisies” been a more positive TV experience?
Look, [the network execs] still have opinions. I think the idea of the show really works, and it makes people feel good, and the executives have got really great ideas. Everyone’s pitching in and trying to let it be as good as it can be, and part of that is making it maybe a little less weird. It doesn’t have to be so bizarre that it turns people off. I mean, it’s a pie maker who touches dead things back to life! It’s a weird idea already, so any way we can make it palatable is good, I think.

Has the show led to an increase in the leading roles you’ve been offered?
Yeah, when there was a break [due to the WGA strike], there was a lot of interesting stuff. But the parts that you want, you still have to fight for. I think that’s true for every actor. You start getting parts [because you’re] perceived a certain way. Ned is so adorable, he’s like this sickeningly adorable character. I love doing it with “Pushing Daisies,” but the kind of romantic comedies that came my way [as a result of playing Ned]… I was reading them and I’d be like, “no one is going to want to watch this movie! I will slit my wrists if I have to try to pull something like that off!”

What are you working on next? Are you still shooting “Daisies”?
No, we’re done right now. We only did the nine episodes, and then we ran out of scripts. We’re back to work in June. So I’ve been promoting “Pushing Daisies” all over the world. I went to London, and Australia, and South America, and Central America. I’m gonna go to Mexico next week. And that’s been really fun. But I have nothing planned right now, just the show.

Have you had time to look around every place you’ve visited on the promotional tour?
They give you a couple days off, to go look at stuff. So I brought my dad to Australia, and we went fishing. And I had a great time in Brazil.

Oh yeah? Care to elaborate?
What happens in Brazil, stays in Brazil!

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