Tales of ordinary madness
A swashbuckling Geoffrey Rush unleashes his inner egomaniac in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean outing, writes Vicky Roach
Q. On Stranger Tides is the fourth film in the Pirates franchise. Even though it just opened at No. 1 at the Australian box office, were you ever inclined to quit playing Barbossa while you were ahead? A. No. I look back at things like The Thin Man series in the 1930s. They made six of them because they just had more interesting stories to tell. And I thought, ‘‘ Gee, if I was William Powell that would be a pretty damn good gig to be on’’. There’s a wonderful Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner quality to the relationship [ between Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow and Barbossa]. Q. Awards season can get crazy. What was the strangest moment for you during this year’s Oscar campaign for The King’s Speech? A. For me, it was hoping the weather would allow me to get across the Pacific [ and back] in a 36-hour exclusive time zone. We shifted the Belvoir Street matinee of Diary of a Madman from 5pm to 11am and wrote individually to all the subscribers to say: ‘‘ Look, this has happened. Would you be happy to come at that [ earlier] time so I can get on the flight at 3pm?’’ Q. So did it work out? A. I flew to LA, did the [ Oscars] ceremony, got on a plane and was back on stage on Tuesday night. That, for me, was the slightly exhilarating part because it just felt like I was in a Bond movie, if you know what I mean: ‘‘ We are going to drop you in.’’ Q. Does everybody still work for scale [ minimum wage] at Belvoir Street Theatre Company? A. We’re not on parity any more, but it’s still not a fortune. Q. This time, there’s a female pirate [ Penelope Cruz] in the mix. A. She’s also Jack’s ex-lover. I think their scenes play a bit like a 1930s screwball comedy. Q. Is Johnny Depp really as cool as we all think he is? A. He is that cool. There’s one every generation. He’s a great heart-throb movie star and he is a brilliant, rare film actor. I don’t think since Brando we’ve seen anyone with quite such an eccentric persona as a leading man. Q. The photographs of him on the red carpet at Cannes – nobody else could get away with that outfit. A. You should have seen the others! He turned up in London looking like a rockabilly star from 1948 and he looked sensational. Q. What about your other cool Pirates co-star, Keith Richards? A. I think Keith likes me. He said [ perfect imitation], ‘‘ Geoffrey, how are you mate?’’ I met him when he shot Pirates 3 but they kind of made that a closed set. I saw him at the third premiere and then he greeted me like a long lost friend at this last one. I think he’s got the best line in the film: ‘‘ Does this face look like it’s been to the fountain of youth?’’ Q. Do you intend to do a Pirates 5? A. Yep, they are writing me in. It’s still in the early days of development though. Q. You have described the characters you play in Diary of a Madman and Exit the King as being part of your idiot repertoire. Does Barbossa have a similar, maniacal edge? A. All pirates are mad. As an actor you read a script and you interpret it to the best of your imagination. The process doesn’t vary from The King’s Speech to Pirates. The only thing that’s different is the scale of the film and, on another level, the tone or pitch. And certainly with something like Pirates of the Caribbean, when you are playing an egomaniac running a fantastical ship, you don’t want him to be too suburban. Naturalism doesn’t seem to work on the high seas. Q. Is there more pressure on, say, a small theatre stage where basically everything rests on your shoulders, or on a multimillion-dollar juggernaut such as the Pirates franchise? A. I am sure in the Disney offices there are heads rolling on a daily basis. But because Jerry Bruckheimer’s such a sensitive producer, he never lets that leak down to the set if it is happening.