Following "Memento," Pearce leapt into a spate of projects, including 2002's big-budget, critically reviled adaptation of "The Time Machine." He lost some of the confidence he had previously found and went through a period in which he considered quitting the profession altogether.
"It was a bit of a breakdown, actually, and I was smoking a lot of pot leading up to that time as well, and that clearly didn't help at all," he says. "I'd just been taking opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. I didn't have my own direction going on. So it was really about decompressing, and I was seeing . . . a therapist, and I just needed to take stock."
Fortified by a new selectivity, Pearce has spent the last half a dozen years delivering a series of understated performances in films such as 2005's fratricidal drama "The Proposition" and 2006's Andy Warhol film "Factory Girl." His upcoming lineup includes November's post-apocalyptic Cormac McCarthy adaptation, "The Road," December's Adam Sandler comedy, "Bedtime Stories," and the Australian true-crime saga "In Her Skin."
Although Pearce may have the ability to disappear into each of these roles, that doesn't mean that some strangers don't stop him on the street.