MIND GAMES

How Geoffrey Rush be­came Al­bert Ein­stein in Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s Ge­nius

Herald Sun - Switched On - - FRONT PAGE - JACK HOUGHTON / IN LON­DON

Geoffrey Rush was re­minded of his short­com­ings as a sci­en­tist as he worked to bring physi­cist Al­bert Ein­stein to life.

The 65-year-old had dreamt of be­com­ing a cos­mol­o­gist as a child but even­tu­ally came to the re­al­i­sa­tion he was a “hope­less” sci­en­tist.

It’s a small de­tail that will be for­got­ten when view­ers watch Rush mes­merise as his­tory’s most fa­mous physi­cist, in Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s first scripted drama se­ries, Ge­nius.

While Rush may not pos­sess the sci­en­tific prow­ess of Ein­stein, he bears an un­canny re­sem­blance to the frizzy-haired Ger­man and car­ries many of his ec­cen­tric traits.

Sit­ting down with Switched On in Lon­don, the Toowoomba-born star laughs loudly when talk­ing about Ein­stein’s many in­dis­cre­tions with women and ad­mits he had trou­ble un­der­stand­ing many of his lines.

“I needed to be re­ally care­fully drilled about the Heisen­berg un­cer­tainty prin­ci­ple, which comes up in the later episodes,” he says.

“I said I don’t need to be able to entertain peo­ple with it at din­ner par­ties but I want to know what I’m talk­ing about.”

Rush ro­man­ti­cised about a life in sci­ence from a young age, idol­is­ing as­tro­nauts as much as he did fa­mous singers or ac­tors, and was tak­ing steps to be­come one as an adult.

“In my youth, from the age of ten, I was ob­sessed by the Mer­cury space pro­gram; that was as big for me as The Bea­tles in my teens, so I went to my vo­ca­tional guid­ance of­fi­cer and said what would I have to study to be­come an as­tronomer? I did physics and chem­istry right up un­til my se­nior years in high school and I was hope­less at it. Then I started run­ning the drama club and my whole life went in a sep­a­rate di­rec­tion.

“I still read New Sci­en­tist to get my head around quan­tum the­ory and all that but it is light read­ing,” the Oscar win­ner says.

The 10-episode se­ries, which ex­plores Ein­stein’s life over sev­eral decades, was di­rected by Ron Howard and shot in Prague, where Ein­stein lived with his first wife.

Spe­cial­ist make-up artists used pros­thet­ics to make Rush ap­pear both younger and older to fit the drama’s time­line — in­clud­ing three wigs and match­ing mous­taches to com­plete his trans­for­ma­tion as Ein­stein.

Shar­ing an in­sider tip on how to take years off your face, Rush explains: “they have this amaz­ing sur­gi­cal tape. Get on to it, be­cause you can pull ev­ery­thing back and it is all tied into your hair,” Rush spruiks, warn­ing: “You get this throb­bing headache, though.”

The cast de­vel­oped a drink­ing game around their makeovers.

“You have your shots lined up and ev­ery time an ac­tor in his 50s or 60s is feign­ing their 30s, you do a shot. Peo­ple would get drunk pretty quickly.”

It is the sec­ond time Rush has played a Ger­man caught in the chaos of World War II. His first ap­pear­ance was in 2013 film, The Book Thief, where his char­ac­ter shel­ters a Jewish boy from Nazi sol­diers.

Ein­stein, Jewish him­self, fled his home coun­try for the US be­fore the war started.

“The politics of that 12 months is ex­tra­or­di­nary,” Rush says, “wait­ing for Hin­den­burg to die and then Hitler mov­ing in.”

WATCH GE­NIUS, FOXTEL’S NA­TIONAL GE­O­GRAPHIC, MON­DAY, 8.30PM

FOR BE­HIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT GE­NIUS GO TO HERALDSUN.COM.AU

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