NEW YORK — Most action stars long to show their dramatic chops with weightier roles. But Guy Pearce was looking to do just the opposite.
The critically acclaimed dramatic actor of "The King's Speech," ''L.A. Confidential" and "Mildred Pierce" happily took a walk on the lighter side with his latest film, the sci-fi action thriller "Lockout" that comes out Friday.
"I think the thing I enjoyed about this one was that the character doesn't take himself too seriously and the film doesn't take itself too seriously," said the English-born Australian actor in an interview Monday.
In the film, Pearce plays a surly Secret Service agent who must break into a maximum security prison in outer space to rescue the President's daughter (Maggie Grace) from a group of demented criminals who have taken control of the orbiting jail house.
To look more like a bona fide action hero, co-directors James Mather and Stephen St. Leger asked the typically lean actor to bulk up.
Pearce rose to the challenge, taking up a strenuous workout regime that included weight training five days a week. Mentally, he said he approached the character with the same seriousness he devotes to all his roles.
"I have to find the reality of the character, the honesty of the character, you know every dimension that I possibly can find of the character and treat it with the same credence that I would Andy Warhol or Edward VIII," said Pearce.
The straightforward action romp may seem like a surprising choice for the Emmy Award winner, whose versatile career includes a drag queen in the "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and an amnesia sufferer in "Memento." But Pearce would disagree.
"It doesn't feel any more left field to me than some of the other choices I've made in the past," he explained. "I like the idea of keeping an open slate and seeing what the universe brings. And ultimately there's 7 billion people in the world and so there's a plethora of characters yet to be played."
Nicole Evatt covers entertainment for The Associated Press. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NicoleEvatt