Monday, October 18, 2021

Beyond Thranduil: Exploring the Work of Lee Pace

In the mid-2010s, Lee Pace joined the Lord of the Rings franchise in The Hobbit prequel trilogy, taking on the role of the Thranduil, the Elven king. While much of his appearance was largely relegated to the third installment, Pace remains widely recognizable as that guy who played Thranduil. Although the elf king is a notable inclusion in Pace’s filmography, he has and continues to demonstrate his acting prowess. From multiple stage productions, film, and television roles, Pace stands out as a compelling leading man. Join us as we delve into some our favorite projects Pace has done over the years beyond Thranduil.

Halt and Catch Fire

halt and catch fire
Tina Rowden/AMC

Set in the 1980s, Halt and Catch Fire brings viewers to the early beginnings of the PC boom. It focuses on Joe MacMillan (Pace) and Gordon Clark, an ambitious visionary and computer engineer/genius (respectively) who set out to make a computer unlike any other. Though the idea sounds good on paper, the two face challenge after challenge. Their professional and personal relationship will be tested as they navigate the rapidly evolving technological landscape.

There’s a lot to admire about this show, and one of its strongest aspects is Joe’s arc. Throughout the series, his ambitions lie at the forefront. When viewers meet him, he’s selfish and will do what he can to achieve his goals. He builds a tough exterior that masks his insecurities. Despite forming a few close relationships, he remains carefully guarded. By the end of the series, Joe isn’t nearly so prickly. He allows himself to love and be loved.

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Joe is, undoubtedly, an alluring character. Pace’s magnetic performance only proves that. From Joe’s selfish acts to his most vulnerable moments, Pace bares all. He depicts the greatest highs and deepest lows with equal and believable savvy. Pace plays the role flawlessly. He captures every nuance of Joe. Every crack (and resealed crack) in Joe’s hardened shell and every open moment is there. Pace manages to create a character that viewers will love as much as they sometimes loathe. His performance seems truly effortless. Of Pace’s roles, Joe is, in my opinion, his best.

Pushing Daisies

lee pace and anna friel pushing daisies
Ron Tom/ABC

Ned the Pie Maker (Pace) lives a mostly simple life. He wakes pies and bakes the dead. Sorry – bakes pies and wakes the dead. In other words, Ned possesses a special gift: he can bring the dead back to life with a single touch. The catch? Whoever he resurrects only has one minute to live. So, Ned must touch them again lest someone else take their place. Thanks to his ability, Ned teams up with PI Emerson Cod to solve murders. However, when a case reunites Ned with his now-deceased former childhood sweetheart, Chuck (Anna Friel), he chooses to keep her alive. Soon, Chuck joins the ranks with Ned, Emerson, and a smitten waitress named Olive Snook.

Ned is a quickly lovable character. His sweet demeanor is instantly noticeable (and not just because he bakes pies). He’s not without his burdens, though. First is the weight of his ability, which not only caused both the resurrection of his mother and accidental death, but also the death of Chuck’s father. Therefore, Ned carries an intense guilt, biding his time before telling Chuck. He also struggles with his father’s abandonment.

I can’t forget Ned’s decision to keep Chuck alive. It was questionable, sure. But can you blame him? It’s abundantly clear Ned misses Chuck. Pace brings such a visceral longing that Chuck’s revival seems inconsequential. (It’s not, of course. It does get addressed a couple episodes later.) Their reunion, while not ideal circumstances, still clings to its appeal. Ned and Chuck are perfectly suited for each other. Pace has such a wonderful chemistry with Friel that will cause viewers to feel that same yearning Ned does. His frustration over never being able to touch Chuck without several precautions nestles itself just under the surface. Nevertheless, his love for Chuck never falters. He’s quick to adjust and determined not to lose her again.

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Despite some of the seemingly gloomy subject matter, Pushing Daisies offers no shortage of wholesome content, thanks in part to Pace’s Ned. He wholly embodies this character. So much so that the inclination is to only view him as Ned. He strikes just the right balance between Ned’s personal obstacles and dominant, charming characteristics. Pace brings such an endearing character to life.

The Fall

lee pace the fall
Googly Films

In a hospital in the 1920s, a little girl named Alexandria (Catinca Untaru) recovers from a broken arm. While wandering one day, she befriends an injured stuntman named Roy Walker (Pace). When Alexandria asks to hear a story, Roy indulges her. He tells her an epic tale of five heroes on a similar quest. However, Roy’s ulterior motive becomes prominent as reality and fantasy begin to collide.

Pace pulls double duty for this movie. Along with Roy, he takes on the Masked Bandit of Roy’s story. He constructs two distinct characters. The Masked Bandit is more driven towards his final goal. Roy no longer sees his purpose. As the story and reality begin to mesh, Roy and the Masked Bandit become more similar. Pace uses the Masked Bandit to exaggerate Roy’s plight.

Something I find especially noteworthy is how Pace contrives Roy’s character. Roy’s motives aren’t unknown to viewers. There’s no question as to whether his manipulation of Alexandria is wrong. It is. Regardless, Pace still finds a way to draw sympathy for Roy. As his backstory unfolds, Pace brings out all of Roy’s frustrations. It’s difficult to be angry at him. Near the film’s conclusion, all hope seems lost for Roy (and Alexandria). He is riddled with guilt. Consequently, the rest of his tale reflects every negative emotion overwhelming him. Pace and Untaru playing off each other is truly heartbreaking.

Guardians of the Galaxy

lee pace guardians of the galaxy
Marvel Studios

After stealing a mysterious orb, Peter Quill goes on the run from a widespread manhunt from several sides — including a villain known as Ronan the Accuser (Pace). To evade capture, Peter joins forces with four other outcasts. Together, the group of misfit heroes do what they can to prevent Ronan from obtaining the orb and protect the galaxy.

Ronan is a great foil to the Guardians. He’s a formidable foe with no patience for the Guardians’ shenanigans. Pace brings the severe qualities necessary for any villain to work. He balances the other side of the scale, providing the serious aspect of the character that matches the goofier nature of the Guardians. Viewers are often reminded of the horrendous deeds Ronan committed. His no-nonsense attitude and hunger for more conquests on a larger scale are never lost. Pace gives viewers the opportunity to see a more cut and dry antagonist who maintains his intrigue.

Pace reprises his role in Captain Marvel.

Ceremony

lee pace ceremony
Magnolia Pictures

When friends Sam and Marshall reunite for the first time in a while, Sam convinces Marshall to go on a weekend trip. Marshall is excited to relax and reconnect. Sam has other plans. He wants to win back a woman named Zoe … who’s getting married. After Zoe’s fiancé Whit (Pace) invites Sam and Marshall to stay with them, Sam’s plan goes into full force. Meanwhile, Marshall begrudgingly goes along, experiencing his own swirl of emotions.

Part of what makes Whit a captivating character is his grandiose disposition, offset by his unexpected kindness. Whit is a filmmaker, who takes immense pride in his work – and he ensures that everyone knows. He’s also excited about his wedding weekend. Zoe, on the other hand, struggles to ignore her lingering feelings for Sam, leading to an adulterous night that Whit learns about. Yet he doesn’t give anything away, continuing to live in his own world.

Pace isn’t afraid to lean into Whit’s chaotic nature. He fully embraces Whit’s ego-driven approach to his career. At first glance, he comes across as purely arrogant. However, Pace balances that conceit with an underlying gentleness. Whit isn’t uncaring about Zoe’s needs, nor does he focus solely on her faults. While Whit initially presents as a character viewers should dislike, the opposite is true. Pace skillfully distinguishes both major aspects of Whit. His performance allows viewers to see more of Whit than what first meets the eye. As such, it’s easy to watch Whit in all his ridiculous glory and think, “Yeah, I like this guy.”

Wonderfalls

lee pace wonderfalls
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Regency Entertainment (USA), Inc.

Jaye Tyler, 24, lives an ordinary life. She’s a college graduate who lives in a trailer park and works at a Niagara Falls souvenir store. Her life becomes slightly less ordinary when inanimate objects begin talking to her. They compel Jaye to interact with others. Mostly to serve the greater good. Despite her newfound talent, she struggles to live up to the rest her family – successful parents Darrin and Karen, and similarly impressive siblings Sharon and Aaron (Pace).

Though no stranger to acting, Wonderfalls marks Pace’s first major television role. Aaron is a fairly laid-back character. His primary focus is finishing his dissertation, occasionally popping up episode to episode. Aaron’s most memorable plotline, though, is his quest to figure out why Jaye talks to inanimate objects. Specifically, an unassuming cow creamer. Aaron is one of two people who almost immediately believes Jaye. Thus, he goes from the slightly distant brother who’s probably working on his dissertation to a more involved one. Pace manages to shift his portrayal of Aaron ever so slightly. As his screen presence increases, he gives more. He also preserves Aaron’s established personality. He provides just the right amount of pretentiousness and dry humor to fit snugly with the rest of the family. Aaron is hardly the focus of the show, but Pace certainly makes him memorable.

Driven

lee pace driven
Universal Pictures Content Group

Based on a true story, Driven primarily follows Jim Hoffman. After he gets caught smuggling narcotics, the FBI gives him a chance to start fresh with his wife Ellen and their two kids in an affluent neighborhood. Jim and Ellen soon learn John DeLorean (Pace) lives just down the street. As John’s new company grows, so does his friendship with Jim. But both men begin to feel pressure: Jim from the FBI and John from his depleted finances. Desperate and out of options, the two enter a scheme that takes a turn for the worst.

The moment Pace steps on screen, he exudes an aura of confidence and friendliness. John is a successful businessman and presents himself as such. But breaking through the enthralling surface lies someone more rapacious. Eventually, John receives unpleasant news. He knows how to keep his cool, seemingly taking each hit in stride. When he’s in the clear, though, his anger is instantaneous. In these moments, Pace brings a frightening, palpable intensity to the screen. He glides seamlessly from the suave persona into a man collapsing into desperation, brimming with frustration, and betrayed by someone he once considered a friend. As the story unfolds, Pace reveals more and more layers to John. He takes care to portray the real person while bringing his own take to the dramatized version.

Honorable Mentions

  • Lincoln
  • The Party’s Just Beginning
  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • The Keeping Hours
  • Marmaduke

Whether he’s stepping into the shoes of real person or traversing the realms of fantasy, Pace consistently delivers. He commands the screen with every role. It doesn’t matter if he’s the leading man or stands in the background; he establishes himself as an actor worth watching. From comedy to action to drama, Pace remains a talented and versatile actor.

Pace next stars in Apple TV’s upcoming series Foundation, releasing on September 24. Watch the trailer below.

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Julia
Julia is a writer/editor/content assistant for Nerds. She joined the team in 2019 but has always enjoyed talking about her favorite fandoms. When she isn't writing or working, you can find her reading, watching her favorite shows and movies, and building her repertoire of Dad jokes.

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