Alex Pettyfer Interview: The Infernal Machine

The opportunity to share the screen with Guy Pearce was enough to convince Alex Pettyfer to take on the role of a mass murderer in The Infernal Machine. Pettyfer's character, Dwight Tufford, gunned down innocent civilians years prior to the film's events and claimed to have been inspired by Bruce Cogburn's (Pearce) novel "The Infernal Machine." When a mysterious persona named William Dukent repeatedly sends Bruce letters, Pearce's character revisits his past, which inevitably leads him to Tufford, now imprisoned for his crime.


The Infernal Machine also stars Jeremy Davies and Alice Eve. The film, written and directed by Andrew Hunt, was inspired by "The Hilly Earth Society," an episode of The Truth podcast series written by Louis Kornfeld and produced by Jonathan Mitchell. Pettyfer is best known for his roles in Magic Mike, Elvis & Nixon, and I Am Number Four.

Related: I Am Number Four Cast: What They Look Like Now & Biggest Movies Since

Screen Rant interviewed Pettyfer about his admiration of Guy Pearce and how he approached the role of Dwight Tufford in The Infernal Machine.

Alex Pettyfer Talks The Infernal Machine

Guy Pearce as Bruce Cogburn and Alex Pettyfer as Dwight Tufford in The Infernal Machine

Screen Rant: What about this film and the role of Dwight Tufford stood out to you when you first heard of it?

Alex Pettyfer: The film was brought to my production company, Dark Dreams Entertainment, and I saw that Guy Pearce was attached. I read the script, was really blown away by the story, and kind of used any excuse to be in any scene with Guy. It just happened to be Dwight Tufford. He's obviously quite a complicated character. I think when you play these sorts of characters, you have a little bit more freedom to go external with your actions, with your presentation of who you think this person is. I had a lot of fun, I really did. For the circumstances of what the character's position is, I had a lot of fun.

How much did you know Guy prior to filming The Infernal Machine?

Alex Pettyfer: I grew up with Guy's films — The Count of Monte Cristo, Memento, even [Iron Man 3]. He is definitely someone that I look up to, and to have the opportunity to work with him was incredible. He's such a humble and giving partner. In any scene, he's so humble and wants the best performance for both. When you make a movie, the camera's on you and you do the scene, and then the camera's on him and you do the scene. Not always do you have an experience where an actor is giving the same performance when the camera's on you, but Guy is 100 percent whether the camera is on him or not on him. He just enjoys the creativity. It's really refreshing to see someone who is a master at his craft working like that.

Like in The Infernal Machine, there have been real-world violent acts influenced by novels, such as Catcher in the Rye and John Lennon’s murder. Did you consider or look into any real-life events to prepare for your role in this film?

Alex Pettyfer: No, I actually didn't even know that. That's really interesting. Where were you when I needed to prep for this movie? [laughs] I am a big softie, unfortunately. My threshold for violence is very little. I can't really engage that much. So, I was very lucky that a lot of the character was already on the page, so I just went from the script that Andrew wrote. I had a great scene partner, so things were pretty easy for me.

Did you base your portrayal of Dwight more around the fact that he’s someone who killed many people, or did you try to lean into any nuance?

Alex Pettyfer: I don't think I'm trying to do anything for the audience to have a certain judgment. I'm just going in with my own relationship with that character. Obviously, the man has done unquestionably dreadful things, but I try to understand why he's done that. I think those things are what are appealing to me as an actor because I can have this interesting relationship with a make-believe character and have almost like a therapy session with someone on the page to understand their point of view. That's the strange thing about our job. Our judgment in everyday life toward people like this is 100 percent one way, and you are put in a position to play a character like this.

You have to try and find reason why this person has acted the way that they have and done such horrific things. That huge challenge, especially for a man who's quite empathetic, is something that I was really interested in. Again, the reason why I did the movie was because of Guy. I go on this long tangent explaining to you preparation for character, but it really didn't matter. As soon as I was in the scene with Guy, anything that I had prepped went out the window because working with him, you kind of go into a different ether. He's so giving, and subtly guides you through the scene, and holds that space for you.

It’s easy to see how every main character in this movie has done something immoral. Dwight’s actions were the most extreme, but did you find that in playing him, any part of you was able to sympathize with him?

Alex Pettyfer: Zero. I can't sympathize, personally, with someone who acts out of violence. That's my personal morals. I'm sure many have different morals and ethics, but for me, violence is a nonstarter.

What was your biggest takeaway from being part of The Infernal Machine either related to the story or your experience filming it?

Alex Pettyfer: Me and my producing partner, who is my brother, we had done two movies before that — which we are very proud of — but it was the first movie that our company felt like we're really moving in the direction with the films that we want to do. That's really exciting in iteself because when you're building an entertainment company, you have a vision of what you want the company to represent. A24 has a certain caliber of film, Sony Classics, so it's about finding that balance. We're heading in the right direction, and that was the turning point for us.

About The Infernal Machine

the infernal machine alex pettyfer as dwight tufford

Guy Pearce stars in this psychological thriller of obsession and deceit. Bruce Cogburn (Pearce), a reclusive and controversial author of the famed book The Infernal Machine, is drawn out of hiding when he begins to receive endless letters from an obsessive fan. What ensues is a dangerous labyrinth as Bruce searches for the person behind the cryptic messages, forcing him to confront his past and ultimately revealing the truth behind The Infernal Machine.

Check out our other interviews with The Infernal Machine star Guy Pearce and writer-director Andrew Hunt.