How Guy Pearce found his motivation playing British spy traitor Kim Philby

Man Pearce spent six months enjoying Kim Philby in “A Spy Amongst Pals” — and stated he nonetheless can’t fairly perceive what motivated the notorious British intelligence officer who fled to Russia in 1963 after a long time as a double-agent for the Soviet Union.

Philby’s betrayal — not solely of his nation, however of his friendship with fellow MI6 colleague Nicholas Elliott (Damien Lewis) — drives the narrative arc of “A Spy Amongst Pals,” airing Sundays on MGM+ (10 p.m.).

“One a part of me feels I do know [Philby], to a level, and there’s one other a part of me that goes, ‘I don’t know,’” Pearce, 55, informed The Submit. “One the one hand, sure, I obtained a grasp of Philby … however he was at all times kind of slipping by means of my fingers.

“I stored vacillating between making an attempt to simplify issues and go, ‘Properly, I suppose he was simply on the fence — on one degree he did consider in Communism and on one other degree he was embedded within the British ruling construction however had a disdain for it so he merely performed each side.’

“After which I feel, ‘Nah, it’s not so simple as that.’”

The six-part collection, based mostly on Ben Macintyre’s novel, opens in 1963, when Elliott, whose relationship with Philby dates again to 1940, learns of his greatest good friend’s decades-long deceit — and convinces his bosses at MI6 (often known as SIS) to ship him to Lebanon, the place Philby, beforehand exonerated of any wrongdoing, remains to be spying for Moscow. Their four-day, face-to-face assembly — and what Elliott stated to Philby on a resort balcony, out of earshot of recording units — is a central motif because the collection progresses, leaping forwards and backwards in time to trace the roots of their friendship and Philby’s treachery (he spent a number of years in Washington, DC within the late ’40s/early ’50s).

Photography showing Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott (Guy Pearce, Damien Lewis) on a hotel balcony in Lebanon in 1963. Philby is wearing a heavy white sweater; Elliott is looking at him with a quizzical look. He's wearing a brown suit jacket.
Kim Philby (Man Pearce, left) and Nicholas Elliott (Damien Lewis) on the resort balcony in Lebanon in 1963.
Adi Marineci/Sony Photos Telev

“I feel Philby, ultimately, in all probability felt most harm by the breakdown of that friendship,” stated Pearce (“Mare of Easttown,” “LA Confidental”). “I feel he really believed that Nicholas knew and would perceive why he did what he did, however Elliott wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of admitting that. Truthful sufficient.

“It was a extremely fascinating piece to work on and the query of their speedy friendship and the energy of that friendship was definitely plain,” he stated. “Within the face of what was at stake for them one thing needed to give — and, ultimately, it was their friendship. And that’s what makes the story so tragic, as a result of that they had a deep love for one another and, like members of the family, the betrayal is due to this fact extra-strong and devastating.


“There’s a little bit of footage of Nicholas Elliott being interviewed on a BBC speak present after Philby died and there’s a snippet of him saying, ‘Philby wasn’t a double-agent, he was simply an outright traitor,’” Pearce stated. “You see the harm in him nonetheless … I might like to have understood what it should have been like for Elliott within the years after that — in addition to the opposite individuals who have been tricked.”

Damien Lewis and Guy Pearce as Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby at a party in the 1940s. They're both wearing birthday hats and tuxedos and are talking to each other face-to-face.
Pals Nicholas Elliott and Kim Philby at a celebration round 20 years earlier than the occasions of 1963.
Sam Taylor/Sony Photos Televis

Co-stars embody Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas, a lie-detector professional promoted to a key position within the Philby investigation; Stephen Kunken as CIA veteran James Angleton; and Anastasia Hille as Flora Solomon, Philby’s longtime good friend who launched him to his second spouse (there’s much more to the Philby-Solomon connection laid naked in “A Spy Amongst Pals”).

Pearce had by no means labored with Lewis (who’s returning to “Billions”) earlier than “A Spy Amongst Pals” however was an enormous fan of Lewis’ late spouse, Helen McCrory, with whom he labored on “The Depend of Monte Cristo” in 2002. “She and I obtained on very properly — she was incredible, sharp and humorous and didn’t undergo fools,” he stated. I used to be like, ‘Wow, you’re actually cool.’

“I felt an instantaneous, tender connection [to Lewis]. He stated, ‘[Helen] informed me you guys obtained on rather well’ … he’s a superb man, simply divine: he’s good, enjoyable, candy, attractive and likewise doesn’t undergo fools. We didn’t have to spend time to work out how [Philby and Elliott] could be mates.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas. She's wearing a drab green coat and has a dour look on her face.
Anna Maxwell Martin as Lily Thomas, who joins the investigation into Kim Philby.
Rob Youngson/Sony Photos Telev

“We simply clicked.”

Philby spent 25 years within the Soviet Union, the place his life didn’t prove as he envisioned it. (He thought he could be made a colonel within the KGB. He wasn’t.) He died in Moscow in 1988 on the age of 76 and was given a hero’s funeral.

“They didn’t let him within the KGB places of work for 14 years,” Pearce stated. “He simply drank himself to loss of life.”

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