Mr Lee Pace Doesn’t Owe You Anything – But Gives Us Everything Anyway
Over a lunch of risotto and creamy burrata in a sunny café in Paris, a photo crew is discussing ageing. A 29-year-old producer says he’s had Botox and I (age withheld) remark that, after having a baby, I’ve never felt so close to injecting my dermis with toxins. The actor Mr Lee Pace, 42 and 6ft 5in, sits back in his club chair, looking both confused and bemused. His skin is the colour of cinnamon mixed with sugar. His hair is tawny but streaked with white. He has day-old stubble and laugh lines around his eyes. He is an Adonis among men and he seems to be listening, but simply not understanding.
He says something to the effect of, “I like wrinkles,” and extols the virtues of ageing gracefully and a life well-lived. Easy for you to say, I consider yelling back, while flipping the table.
Pace is in Paris for couture week. His partner, Mr Matthew Foley, is the vice president of communications at Thom Browne. Pace appeared at the show the day before in a pale-pink shorts suit and made a convincing case for pale pink and shorts and suits. Today, he is on set with MR PORTER and is best described as “game”. He puts on a Snow Peak kimono and preens in front of a full-length mirror. In District Vision short shorts, he performs lunges in a busy park. He scales the exterior wall of a building dressed head to toe in ERL. He is remarkably comfortable doing all of this in public. He allows himself to be seen striking poses, but goes unrecognised in Europe’s most judgemental city.
Pace might be one of the most unrecognisable famous people of our generation. Which is stunning, considering he is stunning and has an IMDb profile a mile long that is dotted with several leading-man roles. Whether it is by design or by unhappy accident, Pace has spent his decades-long career flying mere millimetres below the radar. Can a few thirsty Instagram posts, an Apple TV+ show and a Gen Z thriller-comedy change that?
In October 2021, out.com ran a story entitled “Lee Pace Wants You To Know He’s A Daddy That Can Build You A House”. When I mention this, he laughs uncomfortably, implying that he doesn’t want you to know that at all. When I read out a selection of tweets from his more ardent admirers, he laughs again. “I don’t know what to make of it,” he says. “You’re embarrassing me.” It’s weird, but it turns out that hot people don’t want to talk about being hot.
If you want to see him being hot, all you need to do is visit his Instagram page, on which he posts thirst traps by the dozen: a shirtless Pace in the desert covered in a fine dusting of sand, a shirtless Pace running in a green field with his dog, a shirtless Pace on the beach. “It felt misanthropic not to participate in [social media],” he says.
You could argue that his presence on Instagram has exposed him to almost as wide an audience as his film roles. Certainly, his status as a leading man feels overdue. Reviews for the 2019 film Driven, in which he played Mr John DeLorean (of wing-car-design fame), were across the board middling, but Pace was routinely identified as a star.
A Variety review noted, “Against the film’s own boisterous inclinations, Pace gives it something like a heart, albeit a closed, melancholic one: that’s some acting.” And a New York Times reviewer said of his franchise: “There’s a movie star beneath those shovelsful of make-up, if only Hollywood would let him out.”
Pace, a self-confessed sci-fi-nerd and house-building daddy, seems to be satisfied with his choices. Perhaps there is an element of Hollywood not “letting him out” and part of him wants to live in the mountains. As Out reported a few years ago, Pace put his 6ft 5in frame to work building a house frame in Upstate New York. “The dream of building that house and living up there was a dream of self-sufficiency,” he says.
When he’s not travelling for work, he’s creating a garden (also visible on Instagram) and scavenging for green beans. This summer, he wants to go to the Adirondacks and “hit those peaks”. He finally put electricity into the house and next, perhaps, is plumbing. “I like to think [if I were not an actor] I would live in the country and farm, but I’d probably go stir-crazy.”
For now, the country house plays a starring role in his life. Pace was thrilled that his latest movie, Bodies Bodies Bodies was filmed in Upstate New York because it meant he could drive home to his farm after shooting. He is a star among stars in the thriller from the director Ms Halina Reijn and hit-maker production and distribution company A24.
Based on a short story by Ms Kristen Roupenian (who wrote the viral short story Cat Person), Bodies Bodies Bodies is a darkly incisive, claustrophobically yet brilliantly filmed whodunnit that also stars Mr Pete Davidson, Ms Maria Bakalova, Ms Amandla Stenberg, Ms Chase Sui Wonders and Ms Rachel Sennott. The film is set in a palatial country estate where a group of rich kids from high school are hunkering down before a hurricane. After one of them suggests they play a game called Bodies Bodies Bodies (aka Murderer, aka Mafia), things go badly wrong.
It is ostensibly a horror flick, but it is also one of the funniest films of the year. Where does Pace fit in to this crew of ridiculous overgrown trust-funders? He plays Greg, boyfriend to Sennott’s Alice. Dulcet-toned and Zen compared to the coke-addled “adults” around him, Greg serves as a foil to the high-school friends and to Davidson’s character, David, in particular. “I just look like I fuck,” says David, explaining the difference between him and Greg. “That’s the vibe I like to put out there.”
“I feel Greg is a lot like me,” says Pace. “He’s relaxed and there to have a good time. He’s kind of along for the ride, passive inside their world.” Greg is off type for Pace, especially after shooting season two of Foundation, in which he plays the emperor of the universe, but his vibe is in line with that exuded by Pace. Zen, there for the ride, trying not to make waves.
“He’s, like, mature and cool,” says Sennott of Pace. “Not that every guy my age is annoying.” She describes Pace as a “giving” actor and notes that during an especially gruelling, physical and violent scene that centres around Greg, Pace went for it 100 per cent with every take, even when he wasn’t on camera.
“They had to get all the girls reacting to him and he gave an incredible performance every time,” she says. “The camera isn’t on him and he’s giving a performance every time. I thought, I’m so lucky to work with this person.”
Despite their age difference (Sennott is 26), which is part of the gag, Sennott said it was easy to build the chemistry between Alice and Greg. “The only challenge is that I’m afraid people online are going to say, ‘She’s not hot enough to date Lee Pace.’”
One of the hot things Greg does in the film, which David tries, unsuccessfully, to emulate, is the sabering-a-champagne-bottle trick. He’s just got out of the pool and is restarting the party after a sticky social moment. It is demigod-like. It was a stunt Pace had to practise at home.
“I used my Hobbit sword,” he says half bashfully, half nerd-to-nerd transmission. He has it “lying around the house”, so he said to himself, “You know what? I don’t get many chances to use this guy.”
Being broadly recognised or an object of Hollywood’s gaze is not Pace’s endgame. He has no interest in using his fame to do anything other than draw attention to climate change (he works with Conservation International). It seems that massive fame, or what a New York Times reporter might describe as movie stardom, is distasteful to him.
“I don’t want to be evil with being well known,” he says. “The gimme, gimme, gimme – the faces of that are pretty ugly in our world. I think when I look in that direction, I see a lot of anxiety and I see a lot of people pushing each other.”
He is also uncomfortable with the exposure of fame and the expectations that come with it. “I don’t feel I owe anyone an explanation,” he says. “I don’t feel anyone owes anyone anything, really.”
The unofficial Pace appreciation societies online and his continued casting in cult, must-see projects may take fame out of his hands and catapult him to what many would consider his rightful place among today’s most talented actors. He is not completely against playing the game.
“Playing characters who are interesting, working with cool directors and collaborators – that’s the part I love,” Pace says. “I didn’t want to perform myself for people. I have more freedom with what I do the less people know about me. What a hypocrite I am. You’ll see me in a month and I’ll be wearing borrowed clothes.”
Grooming by Ms Nadia Altinbas
I don’t have to wait a month. A few days later, there he is in the front row of the Schiapparelli couture show in Paris. A few days after that, Instagram suggests he’s hiking in Alps wearing short shorts and garnering more than 77,000 likes. He doesn’t owe us anything, but he’s giving us something. He’s simply leaving it up to us to decipher what that thing might be.
Bodies Bodies Bodies is in cinemas on 5 August (US); 9 September (UK)