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