An Interview with Lee Pace for Body Body Body
Lee Pace ventured from Middle-earth (as Elvish ruler Thranduil in Peter Jackson Hobbit movies) to stars (like Ronan the Accuser in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) during his big-screen career. But with his last film, Body Body Bodya daggers-drawn character study helmed by Dutch director Halina Reijn, Pace finds itself in a slightly more conventional setting.
The bloody and darkly comic murder mystery is set against the backdrop of a ‘hurricane party’ at a remote mansion and centers on a group of lifelong friends, save for two significant others: Bee (Maria Bakalova) and Greg (Pace), the latter is Alice’s (Rachel Sennott) new boyfriend. As the bodies pile up, paranoia and recrimination spread. The audiovisual club recently spoke with Pace about his work on the genre film, the pleasures of growing old, his past and present work in television, and more.
The AV Club: Greg is older than the other characters in Body Body Body. What kind of conversations did you have with Halina about her? Was it all there on the page or did you find another backstory?
Lee Pace: It’s been so long since we’ve shot [that] I don’t remember at all what was on the page and what we interpreted. What I found interesting about Greg was that he was an outsider in this group, that he didn’t understand the same codes and customs as this group of friends from a very particular generation. And yet he can’t resist it in any way, he can’t wait to meet them where they are and to make this trip with them, he shows himself for that. He wants to spend this carefree weekend with them. He just met Alice, but it’s that first spark of romance and there’s nothing sexier and better than that. He’s just having a good time and along for the ride and happy to be there and not looking for drama. So when they start to get addicted to drama and chaos, I think he definitely finds himself thinking, “I don’t know if that really interests me.” I don’t know if I want to play this. I don’t really understand it. I don’t want to make that choice for myself.
AVC: Is the game played in the film reminiscent of board games you might have played in real life?
LP: There was a game that I played with my friends in the past, different groups of friends, called Mafia, which is kind of similar to this. You are playing with a deck of cards. If you draw a card, you are mafia, if you draw a card, you are a policeman, if you draw another card, you are a doctor. And then everyone closes their eyes, you kill someone, and then you try to figure out who the mobster is. And what’s interesting about the game is that it never stirs people up. This causes a fight. People sometimes take gambling too seriously and feel hurt if they are accused of lying. It’s hard to let it be just a game. It gets personal, especially in a group of good friends. So that felt true to me when I read this script – that every time you play this [type of] game, it gets messy, always.
AVC: There are a lot of deep resentments towards the fundamental relationships in the film. Did this trigger any 20-something memory threads for you? And have you given much thought to how the internet and social media intersect with toxic relationships?
LP: I think I see the behavior that gets really out of control in the film as an immaturity that I think social media is encouraging. Not standing on a soapbox or anything because I think that can do a lot of different things. But I think [social media] can mesmerize people into a Peter Pan syndrome, where you live in Never Ever Land forever, it seems, because it feels like the most perfect place. But it’s actually very nice to get older, to have a step back from things and to realize that you have to let things go, that you don’t have to pursue everything that displeases you, that don’t have to take it all personally – they probably didn’t mean it that way, you shouldn’t care so much. There are a lot of skills that you learn growing up – and you interact with people on a physical, person-to-person basis, as opposed to podcasts and digital spaces – that teach you a lot about how to live a good life. life.
AVC: You graduated from Juilliard. How does classical training intersect with genre cinema like this?
LP: Well, it’s all stage work, isn’t it? That’s the best answer I can give. Like the gymnasium scene in Body Body Body where they come in – he doesn’t understand what the problem is, and it goes from there to him thinking they’re still playing a game of thinking, “Oh, something’s going on”, to then, “They’re just fucking with me is all they do, so of course they’re not serious right now, they’re fucking with me”, to “It’s actually dangerous and I have to defuse it”, at the end So it’s accented, yeah, but it’s still just stage work, and you find that with whatever you do I’ve done my fair share of green screen work with realities very high to be on the deck of spaceships and intergalactic space battles and battles in the middle earth, some pretty extraordinary situations, and it’s all imaginative play. So the job that you do is to create an imaginary reality behind that so that you can understand the stakes and what the character is fighting for and what their obstacles are, and play the scene.
AVC: This film is both a thriller and a horror film. Are there any formative memories of films of these genres when you were a child?
LP: What comes to mind when I was a kid, and I’m talking about the early years of high school, is that we were always trying to sneak freddie movies in the Blockbuster rental pile for the weekend. My mother didn’t like people looking at these things. You know, hellraiser, the most violent movies we could find. But that’s not it, this film is not that kind of thing. There is an evil in these films that I don’t think this film is about. None of these characters are bad, they’re just chaotic. But also Index is one of the most brilliant films of all time, and there is such a brilliant whodunnit surrounding this film.
AVC: You mentioned your work in The Hobbit and MCU franchises. These films will live on as theatrical experiments, but COVID may have accelerated some changes in filmmaking. What do you see this future as: are we heading into an era of mega-budget deals and some such stuff?
LP: I saw Nope on the big screen recently and I was so glad I saw that. I think there’s something about leaving your house. I love going to the cinema, having some popcorn and watching a movie that excites you. I’m from New York and it’s a very New York thing to do: go out, meet your friends at the movies and talk about the movie after it’s finished. There are many things you can watch on your screen at home, but it’s a different pleasure, isn’t it? With this film, we had a screening last night in Fort Greene Park and I saw the film several times but I wanted to watch it with an audience because I wanted to know where they were laughing, how they reacted to certain scares. I found it really exciting, I wanted to be part of it. Scary movies and thrilling movies are good for that. So I’m not worried, I think [theatrical] will come back. Yeah, people’s screens are great these days, their sound systems are really good, their kitchen is only a few feet away. But I don’t know if human nature wants to be locked up. I don’t think that’s really what we want to be.
HOW ARE YOU : grow daisies and Stop and catch fire were well-reviewed and fan-adopted series, but also quite underrated, I think. I understand that as an actor you jump from show to show, but do you manage to separate the actual creative experience from the commercial reception of a project?
LP: You know, I get better with age. You can’t predict how the audience will react to something, when they get it. With these two projects, audiences finally found it, it just wasn’t necessarily when it aired [Laughs]. And that didn’t necessarily stop us from making the best show possible and working on it in the best way possible. And what I’m particularly proud of Stop and catch fire is that I feel like I have such confidence in what we wWe’re trying to unlock with this show that we’ve never felt the need to make any adjustments to our process or the show in order to attract an audience. We were too interested in what we were working on, and so we kept digging deeper down that path and developing what we were trying to develop. And I think the result is really something special that I’m very, very proud of. And that’s a real lesson for me to keep your eyes on your own paper, do the best job you can do, stay true to what you’re doing, and keep showing up and doing the thing.
AVC: What awaits you? I guess more recently you may have finished more FoundationIs it correct?
LP: Yes, we just finished the second season of Foundation, and it was a ton of work. It’s bigger than the first season and I’m so proud of what we’ve done. We’ve achieved things that when I read them were like, ‘That’s impossible, there’s no way we’re able to do that’, and we’ve worked hard on them. I’m just extraordinarily proud of what we’ve done. So I’m really, really excited for this to come out. And in the meantime, I’m just reading scripts and enjoying being home. That’s a big part of it too – you can’t always learn the lines and sit in a makeup chair. You have to live life. [Laughs]