Date: March 4, 2011
By: Brian Gallagher
Actor Lee Pace has certainly forged a diverse career in Hollywood, on both the big and small screen. He starred as Ned in the beloved but short-lived ABC series Pushing Daisies and has been featured in movies such as The Fall, The Good Shepherd, and last year’s Best Picture nominee A Single Man.
His next movie is the wonderful dramatic-comedy Ceremony, which is available on video-on-demand formats today, March 4, ahead of its theatrical release on April 8. Lee Pace stars as Whit, a documentary filmmaker who is about to marry Zoe (Uma Thurman), although a young writer named Sam (Michael Angarano), who Zoe once had a fling with, crashes the festivities to win her back. I had the chance to speek with Lee Pace over the phone, and here’s what he had to say.
I recently saw the movie and the first thing that came to mind was it felt like an indie version of Wedding Crashers.
Lee Pace: Totally, totally.
It was kind of like Wedding Crashers meets Aaron Sorkin, almost. Was that the kind of vibe you got when you first read the script?
Lee Pace: I hadn’t read anything like this before. I just thought it was cool and interesting. The story changes in such an interesting way, from beginning to end, and I just loved the character. I thought the character was a lot of fun and would be fun to play. There’s a lot of creative life you can build around a character like that.
What was great about your performance is that people who might not know your work, they wouldn’t know that you’re not British. It was a very convincing British accent you had here.
Lee Pace: Oh, good. I pitched (writer-director) Max (Winkler) that maybe he’s from New Jersey and he just puts on this accent because that’s who he is. He has created this persona. I just imagined this idea of this guy, who, when he’s 13 years old, sails around the world and has had this incredible life, this incredible fun life that he wants to share with everyone.
Was there a lot of work you had to do for the accent? Was there a coach you worked with or does it come natural for you?
Lee Pace: I worked with Kate Wilson, who does a lot of my dialect stuff. I worked with her at Julliard, she was one of my teachers there, and I’m confident in my British accent. I did a play where I was British and I did a movie called Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day where I was British. I’m pretty confident in my accent, but you always need another set of ears, to keep you from going off the rails. Also, he’s a Brit who lives in America. I don’t know if you know any Brit’s who live in America, but their accents tend to get even more pronounced. English people who live here, become ten times English. It’s always great to have an accent. It was all about having a good time with it, being open and free. I totally trusted Max to make the movie cool and I felt like I could play with the lines and make a fun character with it.
There’s quite a wonderful ensemble here, with Uma Thurman, Rebecca Mader, and Michael Angarano delivers such a wonderful performance in this. Can you talk a bit about the vibe on the set and getting the chance to work with these actors?
Lee Pace: We had a really good time. We actually stayed at that house. We all got along super well, but watching Michael, in particular, work on his character, was a real treat. We’ve never really seen him play someone like this. His whole physicality changed. From beginning to the end, he took on a persona that was just really exciting to watch. His posture changed, the way he joked changed, that arrogant know-it-all that Sam is. Michael is not that. He’s a sensitive, sweet, kind person and Sam is kind of a, well, dickhead (Laughs). He’s fun to work with. That scene in the buggy, we had the most fun shooting that scene.
Yeah, that’s a great scene.
Lee Pace: Yeah. We got there and the buggy didn’t work on sand, so we couldn’t drive it. That was Max’s idea, that we’d be driving in the whole scene. So we shot the entire scene, once, outside the buggy and then they got the buggy working by lunch. So, after lunch, we decided to try and drive, except the tide had come in and there was only about eight feet of shoreline to shoot it on, and it was continuing to come in, so we only had about three or four runs at it. I learned how to drive that nutty little go-cart, they strapped a camera to the front of the hood and we did it a few times, and that was that. It turned out pretty good. I figured that, in the edit, it would be one or the other, but Max figured out a way to do both.
My friend used to have one of those things. They’re a lot of fun.
Lee Pace: Yeah, totally fun, but I was driving so I could have killed us both (Laughs). I wanted to get the shot and I thought it was fun with the driving, but there are these big metal spikes that we were trying to drive through and with the ocean right there, if we would have skidded off into it…
Can you talk a bit about working with Max? He’s a young director with a very cool style. How would he compare with other director’s you’ve worked with?
Lee Pace: Director’s are all different. There’s not one of the same. What I loved so much about Max, and I knew it right from the first time I talked to him on the phone, was his confidence. He understands that he has a good movie and he’s confident that he can get the right people on board. He just doesn’t make compromises with people. I mean, he’s reasonable, and he sees things clearly, but he’s just so confident. When we got to set and we were shooting, everyone just felt like they could do their best work. There was nothing to try to get right, because we all trusted Max so much. We knew that we could try new lines, play around with the dialogue, and we knew that he would keep us on track and keep it cool. That was a great freedom, which is something that a lot of young, first-time filmmakers don’t have. They want to get it right, make the producers happy so they can make another movie after, so it has to be exactly right. Max is just so organic. Like the buggy scene that I told you about. He’s just like, ‘Well, if it doesn’t run on sand, it doesn’t run on sand. We’ll figure out another way to do it.’
It seems like he’s beyond his years.
Lee Pace: Yeah, totally. There are some directors I know that have worked on a lot of movies and they just live in constant stress. They aren’t going to make the day, or they aren’t going to get the coverage they need, or they don’t want to lose something that they love. I feel that Max never lost anything that he loved. He only shot things that he really thought were good.
As far as your character, were there any documentarians that you looked at, for influence? Anyone in particular?
Lee Pace: Oh, man. There are so many of those guys. The documentaries that drive me crazy are the ones where this privileged white guy goes off to some exotic land. The whole story of the documentary is about how he can confront the culture and it makes him learn more about the world. I think that is so not the interesting story here. The story is why are those people suffering in that way, or what is interesting about their lifestyle that is totally different from our lifestyle. He makes a documentary about him, the same way that Steve Irwin makes his documentaries about him, and Anthony Bourdain, Jacques Cousteau. The subject becomes the explorer.
Yeah, there’s a great line in there too where you say, ‘Who is that woman?’ ‘That’s my wife.’ It was just a great line. I was laughing hysterically.
Lee Pace: Yeah, that’s something we improvised. We were just saying funny stuff and Max came up to me and said, ‘Ask, ‘Who is that woman?’ I had no idea that he was going to say, ‘That’s my wife.’
Oh, that was improvised? That’s awesome.
Lee Pace: Yeah, yeah. We would do it once, then do it again and try different things. If it’s a TV show, for example, you have to get every line exactly right. It’s so cool to work like that.
I was wondering if you can talk about your role as Garrett in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Can you give us any details about the character? Is he one of the Volturi?
Lee Pace: No, I’m a good guy. I join Team Cullen. I’m only in the final movie. I play Garrett, who enters the scene in the last movie. I’m having a blast with it. Bill Condon is awesome. I mean, have you ever seen a movie of his that you didn’t like?
Lee Pace: That’s how I felt too. These movies are what they are. It’s not my kind of movie, but I have to say, working with Bill and having him show me some stuff, it’s totally my kind of movie. It’s really cool. It’s really cool and dark. He gets Kristen (Stewart) in a really great way. She looks incredible in the movie. She looks like a movie star.
Great. Well, that’s about all I have for you, Lee. Thanks so much for your time and best of luck Twilight and everything else.
Lee Pace: All right, cool. Thanks a lot. I appreciate talking to you.