|Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer|
"One of the main reasons for taking the role was because it was so moving and honest," says Pearson over a lunch of fish and chips in a south London cafe. "For me, the film is about what the world looks like without knowledge and without prejudice. It's about seeing the world through alien eyes, I guess."
More importantly, Under the Skin gave Pearson an opportunity to challenge what he sees as the stigma surrounding representations of disfigurement on screen. "There's a lot of fear around the unknown. If I can try to be as normal as possible and show there's nothing to fear – either on film or day to day, going round the corner to go shopping for milk – then the more people see it in wider society, the less stigma there is. If I just sit at home and mope, hugging the dog and crying, nothing's going to change."
He points out that facial imperfections are often used as shorthand for evil in films, whether it be Blofeld's eye scar in James Bond or the villain in Disney's recent adaptation of The Lone Ranger, whose face was severely scarred and who was given what appeared to be a cleft palate in makeup. "It's always used very lazily," explains Pearson. "In an ideal world, actors with conditions would play the characters with these same conditions, but that's a way off. Instead, film-makers tend to get a generic, 'normal' actor and use prosthetics. If they'd got Adam Sandler and blacked him up to play Nelson Mandela, there would have been an uproar ... but with scars and stuff, it seems like people are cool with that."
Source: "How Scarlett Johansson helped me challenge disfigurement stigma" by Elizabeth Day