I’m not going to lie. If you’re reading this profile because you saw Lee Pace in the new Twilight movie and you had never seen him before – that makes me a little sad. Now I’m going to cut you some slack since Lee, more known as a stage actor, hasn’t had much exposure on TV or in big films. And I guess the ultimate point is that you noticed him. No offense to the cast and crew of those Twilight movies – you’ve made an entertaining product. But I stand in bewilderment that it takes this role to get people interested in a talent we here at Ones2Watch have loved for many years.
Oklahoma-born Lee Pace (his daddy was an oil man!) knew from an early age that all he wanted to do was be an actor. In fact, he quit his Houston high school for a short time to work at the city’s Alley Theater. He did return to graduate which then led to studying at the prestigious Julliard School’s Drama division. With the proper education and training under his belt Pace was ready to the theatrical world by storm. Twice he was nominated for a Lucille Lotrell Award, an award that recognizes excellence in New York off-Broadway theatre. It wasn’t until 2011 when Lee had his long-awaited on-Broadway debut in a revival production of The Normal Heart, a Tony Award winning play about the early days of HIV-AIDs activism in New York. Turns out, Normal Heart was Big Bang’s Jim Parson’s Broadway debut too. Fun fact for ya! As of press time, Lee is on the stage again in Terrence McNally’s play about opera, Golden Age, whose previews were delayed by Super Storm Sandy. Sadly, I have no knowledge whether Lee sings in this play or not.
Now to say that Lee’s film debut was nothing short of astonishing would be an understatement. And what role did our freshly graduated, 6’3” bloke from the mid-west choose, you may well ask? It was that of Calpernia Addams, a transsexual woman in Showtime’s Soldier’s Girl (2003). The story, based on true events, is about Barry Winchell (played by Troy Garity), a private in the 101st Airborne who was tormented and killed by members of his company because of his relationship with the showgirl, Addams. Lee’s powerful performance earned him a Gotham Award and a Golden Globe nomination and the film garnered Emmy and Television Critics Association Award nominations as well a Peabody Award.
It was around this time that Lee formed a friendship with writer/creator Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me). Fuller, known for his quirky, dark, critically acclaimed TV shows cast Pace in the short-lived 2004 series Wonderfalls as lead-character Jaye Tyler’s annoying older brother Aaron. Wonderfalls only lasted 14 episodes and is out on DVD. (I can’t recommend this show highly enough!) Then, a couple years later, Fuller wrote the pilot for a series about a quiet, unassuming pie maker who could temporarily bring things back from the dead called Pushing Daisies. There was no one else who could play the adorable, singularly gifted Ned better than Lee. The show was a darling with the critics and fan favorite. Sadly it was a victim of the 2007/2008 Writer’s Strike and was cancelled just a few weeks into its second season. Like Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies is available on DVD and so worth renting.
When asked which role he’s most recognized for, Lee’s surprising answer is not Pushing Daisies, what I would assume to be the logical choice. Nope. Lee says most people who approach him comment on the film he did with visionary director Tarsem entitled The Fall (2006). The Fall is about a young Romanian girl and her friendship with Roy, an injured stuntman, played by Pace, as they convalesce in a Los Angeles hospital in 1915. Roy weaves a story for the girl, to entice her to help him. Shot all over the world the film is a visual feast with Lee in either a wheel-chair or bed for most of it. In order to get an authentic performance from the first-time leading lady, the director and Lee decided to make everyone believe he really was unable to walk. When the hospital scenes were wrapped Lee shocked cast and crew by standing up. An interesting fact about this film – Lee had been recommended to director, Tarsem but the only performance available for him to watch was Soldier’s Girl. Tarsem was so convinced by the actor’s portrayal of the showgirl that he likes to tease he nearly had Pace “drop trou” at their first meeting to prove he was really a boy.
After Pushing Daisies\’s cancellation there was a steady stream of work for our Mr. Pace. It was a nice mix of small, but pivotal characters, like in The Good Shepherd and A Single Man and some starring roles like in Marmaduke (hey, everyone’s entitled to one dud). In 2008 Lee put on a British accent and got romantic with Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. There is a great quote from Amy, from the March 2008 issue of ELLE:
On the set of Miss Pettigrew, Adams was so distracted by her costar Lee Pace, outrageously sexy in his role as Adams\’ brooding love, director Bharat Nalluri had to ask Pace to leave the set so Adams could concentrate. “Lee wasn\’t working that day, so he was just lounging. He\’s 6\’4″, so he\’s a lot of boy, and he was wearing cowboy boots,” she says. “I was kind of staring at him, because he painted such a picture, and the director came over, and I was completely in this land of admiring Lee. And Bharat goes over and tells him, “Can you leave the set? Amy\’s distracted by your masculinity.\’ I was so mortified. But he\’s so much fun, too. He\’s got such a zest for life. He\’s a really good actor. So that\’s my gush about Lee Pace. I hope I\’m not blushing.” Read more at ONTD.
And if you like Lee with a British accent, be sure to watch Ceremony. In this 2010 Indie, he plays this pretentious documentary filmmaker marrying Uma Thurman. He’s hysterical!
Well we’re up to 2012 and the possible reason you’ve been brought here today. Again – I’m casting no judgment. I’m just happy you’re here. I will share with you that when I heard Lee had been cast as the mysterious loner Garrett I was both excited and apprehensive, since that meant I’d have to see the movie now. I joke! The fan reaction I hear and read indicates to me that Lee impressed more than a few people. To follow that up, Pace went historical in Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln. He played former New York City Mayor and U.S. Representative Fernando Wood – a dubious fellow with tremendous hair. And speaking of hair – you may not have recognized Lee in his blink and you miss it, with the promise of more to come, cameo in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Lee is playing Thranduil, King of the Wood Elves and Legolas’s father in the second and third installments of the Hobbit film. We just got a too-quick glimpse in the first film released in December.
Here endeth the Lee Pace lesson. You have lots of homework to do to catch up. Looking over Lee’s body of work it’s really hard to tell you where to begin. He’s fantastic in everything. But if you were to but my foot to the flame I’d say start with The Fall and then follow up with some Pushing Daisies. If you feel compelled to leave a short essay in the comments below be sure to compliment your teacher. After all – I told you so!
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