Geoffrey Rush - I don´t want to be labelled or boxedWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
This actor - born in Australia in 1951- is quite big exception in today´s film business, where everybody tries to be seen and spotted and get into Hollywood no matter what. Rush prefers stage acting to film and still lives near Melbourne and firmly stands with both feet on the ground. He made acting look easy and it looked almost as by the way when he won the Academy Award for his first film Shine in 1996.The way he portrayed pianist David Helfgott was breathtaking. No wonder he collected further accolade such as BAFTA, Tony Award and Golden Globe and he became one of only 21 actors around the world who owns” the Grand Slam” of most treasured film awards. He reached his success at the later age of 45 and can play both independent, low budget movies as well as big Hollywood blockbusters. It is very pleasing fact to see big actor who can resist the smell of big bucks and rather accepts the role which doesn´t promise box office success but satisfies him artistically. Geoffrey Rush shone in movies such as Shine, King´s Speech, The Life and death of Peter Sellers, Shakespeare in love or Pirates of the Caribbean. We sent him request for autograph and questions by post and got the answer after six months.
You mother was a shop assistant and father accountant in Royal Australian Air Force. After whom did you inherit the artistic bugs?
Since my childhood I loved theatre and I still managed to see the tent theatre which went from town to town. They played under big canvas for hundreds of people, night after night and I loved it. After my graduation at college where I studied English literature, I got hooked with Theatre Company. It was pretty unusual for young Australian man not to be tied up with any kind of sport, but claiming, he is a theatre actor. It looked strange to others.
Is it truth that you lodged together with young Mel Gibson in early days?
Yes, but only for four months. We played together in theatre play Godot .At that time Australia didn´t have big film stars and nobody knew much about our film industry. Only actor who broke into big film business in Hollywood was Rod Taylor. But Mel was different, he has something special in him and soon he left to Hollywood where he soon became very famous. So not only did he stay at the threshold of Australian movie industry renaissance but he became big film superstar.
How come that you have waited for success a quarter of century longer?
I was devoted to theatre for next 3 decades and played everything from Shakespeare to Beckett and Cechov. I was completely absorbed by that and then came the point when I realized my career stands on dead point since I crisscrossed Australia, I was over forty and still had stage fright, which was mental and physical torture for me. I broke down and then was selected for the project Shine, but it got stuck for three years due to lack of fund which helped me to get together and it helped me a lot. It seemed that it all led to the Shine and BINGO, I got the Academy Award at first take I was completely surprised but I knew they appreciated my acting since nobody knew me and saw me before so there wasn´t anything behind. I think it surprised many bosses in Hollywood and it seemed they didn´t know what to do with me, into which box to put me.
Today you have many awards under your belt and jump from theatre plays to film and back. Is it because you want to gain distance and insight or since you try to avoid mentioned boxes or labels?
My acceptance of the roles is more instinctive and haphazardly. I try to get what would interest me. Already when I was in theatre I used to refuse the role when I got the feel that I played it many times before and I would get stuck in the rut. So I needed to change the track. I have also accepted totally different parts in the film just for the sake of change but sometimes it didn´t pay off and flopped commercially. It´s like a rollercoaster, once you are up and then you are down, it doesn´t let one to get into standstill. Being a film actor it´s like a three month of intensive work and when it´s finished you wait for the phone from your agent to get another offer. It may come or in may not come, you never know what´s in the future. Even an actor in such demand like me doesn´t know what is behind the corner. Sometimes there are only talks but nothing comes out of it for long time. Once I opened the door and found there a deserted parcel which turned out to be a script for King´s Speech. There was small note saying how much they would like to have me there. So I cared for that as for orphan and I grabbed it since I liked the part. Theatre is something different, since I can put things in the line my way and I know that if I don´t get any more offers I have something to return to and I could make a living out of it. I like jumping from genre to genre, from small, low budget films to big blockbuster since it artistically enrich me and broaden my portfolio. Personally I would love to travel to Russia with our theatre and visit their theatres, it would be very interesting, something like a personal challenge.
Do you prefer depicting real characters such as Peter Sellers, Albert Einstein, de Sade or David Helfgott where you can get information from real documents, pictures or books to ordinary stories, where you have more space for your own creativity and fantasy?
Depict real character, dead or alive is very demanding and difficult job and from actors´ point of view it´s priceless experience. When I played Peter Sellers, his character changed into different levels and it was difficult to get into all of them. When I played Lionel Logue in King´s Speech, I had to study a lot since the idea seemed strange and I didn´t see it as commercially viable project. I had to think a lot, how it will work when he and king hail from different background, society and from different cultures and countries. It was one heck of a job, but very interesting.
How do you view monster films like Pirates of the Caribbean and its sequels? Isn´t it milking money from dead cow with zero artistic value?
When I got an offer to play in Pirates I thought to myself “Bloody hell, so now Hollywood will make Topic fun park films, we got that far?” Nobody cracked the topic of pirates for over 50 years and from producers it was very dicey and brave project. When it went to the movies, we didn´t know it will have a sequel but once they labelled it Curse of Black Pearl we knew it will continue. I don´t think the bosses of studios have a problem to say” Let´s try to make one more” which will earn lots of money, but as well as producer, also Johnny Depp wants to have good script with good story, with new plot and adventure, new conflict not chewing the same all over again. So it will have to move somewhere. For me I have to say that I realized how much money are spent on it and how big budget it has when we had to make a dialogue scene on the beach at one island and there were 6 actors and 800 people around doing various jobs. I really felt a responsibility to do well.
Photo: Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons