It’s Pearce vs. Pierce when award-winning Aussie actor Guy Pearce and Hollywood veteran Pierce Brosnan face off in the intriguing, whip-smart psychological thriller Spinning Man. STACK spoke with director Simon Kaijser about this character-driven, contemporary film noir.
Based on George Harrar’s prize-winning book, Spinning Man centres on Evan Birch (Guy Pearce); a family man and esteemed professor at a distinguished college. When a female student goes missing, Evan’s previous off-campus dalliances make his wife (Minnie Driver) question his alibi. Crucial evidence pointing to Evan as the prime suspect gives gruff police Detective Malloy (Pierce Brosnan) even more reason to be suspicious.
Discussing what drew him to the script, director Simon Kaijser, a film noir buff, says, “Quite early on I felt that Spinning Man, for me at least, is a contemporary film noir in many ways.
“I like the fact that it’s a suspense film that is entirely character-driven rather than action-driven. The nature of the characters is what drives the story, and for me that’s very film noir-ish in many ways.”
An examination in human behaviour, Spinning Man explores Evan’s guilt or innocence through a series of flashbacks, sexual innuendo, and a series of satisfyingly inconclusive scenes between Pearce, Brosnan and Driver.
Director Simon Kaijser
“Guilt is not just one thing, and I think that’s one of the most interesting ties of the story,” says Kaijser. “Guilt is one thing according to the law, and it’s also a moral thing. You could be technically innocent in the legal sense of the term but morally guilty, and those two things are not mutually exclusive. I like the theme of truth and guilt being relative and conditional.”
On landing Pearce and Brosnan as his two male leads, Kaijser says, “I was very, very, very happy to get, first, Guy Pearce on board who I think has the perfect pedigree for the part, and then to get Pierce Brosnan in as the cop.
“A lot of people felt that maybe Pierce Brosnan would be expected as the professor, but in my book this was the obvious way to have them. Pierce did a fantastic job as Malloy, and in some ways, he is the mystery of the film, which is another film noir-ish aspect of this film.
“It always pleases me when I see actors as a character that other people don’t expect because I think that makes a more interesting result.”
Responding to Brosnan describing Spinning Man as “Hitchcockian” in a Variety interview, Kaijser says, “I don’t think he’s wrong. Hitchcock was not always interested in the mystery. He was interested in the suspense and the characters, and that’s for him what brought out the suspense and entertainment.
“I’m not that interested in plot or in plot twists, it’s the characters and the situations that I tend to enjoy. Actually, there are very few plot twists in the history of film and books that I actually remember. What I remember is the characters, the mood and the situations, so in that sense I think Pierce would actually be right. The reason to watch Spinning Man is not because of the plot twists or the reveal. It’s there, but that’s not what makes you stay with this story, or hopefully what makes the story stay with you.”
The seasoned and accomplished cast proved invaluable to Kaijser while filming Spinning Man, which represents his second feature film and second time working in English, and his first time working in the US.
“The shoot was really tight, so pretty much their instincts and their professionalism saved my arse actually. It would have been really, really tough to do this film with lesser actors under those time restraints.”