‘I used to be the Fool; now I’m Lear’

Ge­of­frey Rush is the youngest ac­torto have­won the elite act­ing tre­ble of an Os­car, Em­myand Tony. And now he’s ‘in the mar­ket for pa­tri­arch roles’, he tells TaraBrady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM - Ge­of­freyRush(1996) Rus­sel­lCrowe(1999) Ni­coleKid­man(2002) CateBlanchett(2004) HeathLedger(2008) CateBlanchett(2013)

Should you ever re­quire an Os­car win­ner to com­pile cheat notes for a play, might we point you towards Ge­of­frey Rush, an ac­tor who can make you re­think ev­ery­one from the Bard to the breast-beat­ing Greeks, and who can still sound en­thu­si­as­tic about his ear­li­est stage turns in Wait­ing for Godot (op­po­site his then flat­mate, Mel Gib­son) and Juno and the Pay­cock.

The Aus­tralian ac­tor is, ac­cord­ingly, full of ques­tions about Ire­land’s cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions: “The thing that as­ton­ishes me about the O’Casey plays is the time­frame be­tween the events and the writ­ing,” he gushes. “It’s almost like re­portage.”

The youngest of an elite group to have man­aged the great act­ing tre­ble – hav­ing lifted the Os­car, the Emmy and the Tony – Rush is now such a fa­mil­iar screen pres­ence, one can eas­ily for­get that he was a “late­comer” to the moviev­erse.

A theatre vet­eran who trained at Queens­land Theatre Com­pany in Bris­bane and L’École In­ter­na­tionale de Théâtre Jac­ques Le­coq in Paris, Rush had tread many’s a board be­fore his big screen de­but. He was 44 and the movie was Shine, the 1996 biopic of the pi­anist David Helf­gott, and the first per­for­mance to win the Academy Award, Bafta, Golden Globe, Crit­ics’ Choice Movie Award and Screen Ac­tors Guild Award.

“When I started out the sub­sidised theatre scene was tak­ing off,” he re­calls. “The film in­dus­try was still very small. It sim­ply didn’t oc­cur to me that I had a fu­ture there. But af­ter years of do­ing eight plays a year, it was time for a change.”


Rush has cer­tainly made up for lost time with three ad­di­tional Os­car nods for roles in Shake­speare in Love, Quills and The King’s Speech. Not to men­tion such box of­fice storm­ers as Find­ing Nemo, Min­ions and the Pi­rates of the Caribbean se­ries. He’s worked with Spiel­berg on Mu­nich and the Coen Broth­ers on In­tol­er­a­ble Cru­elty.

“I of­ten get the squint,” he laughs. “‘It’s that guy. What’s he in again?’ Or, when I do get asked for an au­to­graph – or more of­ten a selfie nowa­days – it’ll be dad telling their kids: ‘Look, it’s Capt Bar­bossa from

‘I of­ten get the squint. “It’s that guy. What’s he in again?”’

the Pi­rate movies’. And the kids have no idea what he’s talk­ing about.”

Rush has also es­sayed the Mar­quis de Sade ( Quills) and Peter Sell­ers ( The Life and Death of Peter Sell­ers), a role he re­gards, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, as his dark­est: “I almost scared my­self. There’s some­thing about all of Sell­ers’s con­tra­dic­tions that re­mains very un­set­tling.”

Next year, he’ll be squab­bling once again with Johnny Depp’s Jack Spar­row in Pi­rates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but for the mo­ment he has re­turned to his the­atri­cal roots, sort of, with The Daugh­ter, a re­work­ing of Hen­rik Ib­sen’s The Wild Duck, by Si­mon Stone.

“Si­mon is the en­fant ter­ri­ble, if you like, of Aus­tralian theatre,” says Rush. “About six or seven years ago, he was just out of drama school and he put on a ver­sion of Chekhov’s first play , Pla­tanov. And it was clas­si­cal and faith­ful. But en­tirely fresh and elec­tri­fy­ing. I saw his Thyestes by Seneca. No­body wants to see Seneca. It’s box-of­fice poi­son. But it was mind-blow­ing. Then I saw his Wild Duck. So when the film ver­sion came up, I said, ‘I’ll play the duck if you want me to’.”

The Daugh­ter, as be­fits its source, makes for prop­erly sear­ing fam­ily drama. Henry (Rush) has in­vited his es­tranged son Christian (Paul Sch­nei­der) to at­tend his mar­riage to a much younger woman (Anna Torv). The aloof pa­tri­arch’s clo­sure of the lo­cal mill has al­ready cre­ated much ill-feel­ing. And that’s be­fore Christian re­veals a cer­tain fam­ily se­cret.


“I’m now in the mar­ket for pa­tri­arch roles,” Rush says. “I used to be Lear’s Fool; now I’m Lear. But this was oth­er­wise a very dif­fer­ent role for me. It was very muted and in­tro­spec­tive. My

He­was­madas hellinNet­work. Yes,hewasthe first full-blood­edAussi­etowin,as wellas the­firstac­tor­tore­ceivethe award posthu­mously

AfterFinch, Aus­trali­a­had­towai­t­an­oth­ertwo decades­fora win.Rush­walked­away with­the bestac­toraward­for Shine.

Ri­d­leyS­cott fa­mous­ly­didn’twin forGla­di­a­tor, but hisstar shout­ed­hisway­tothe best act­ingtro­phy. Yes, you knowwhatwe’re­go­ing­tosay.She agent was sur­prised. Which I think was a com­pli­ment.”

Next month, Rush will be rather less muted as Ra, the Sun God, in Gods of Egypt. The CG bo­nanza was much-ma­ligned on its US re­lease ear­lier this year.

“Let’s be hon­est: it bombed,” he says. “But I re­ally ad­mired the wonit­bya nose­for­play­ingVir­ginia WoolfinTheHours.Har, har.

Wonbest sup­port­in­gac­tor­forher­per­for­manceasKatharineHep­burnin Mart­inS­cors­ese’sTheAvi­a­tor.

As­lightly eerieco­in­ci­dence. Ledger, whowon best­sup­port­in­gac­tor­for­play­ingthe Jok­er­inTheDark Knight, is, af­ter Finch,thesec­on­dac­tor­towin a posthu­mousOs­car.

Theonly Aus­tralian­ac­tor­tow­int­woOs­cars, shetook her­sec­ond for­be­ing­drunk in­WoodyAllen’sBlueJas­mine. di­rec­tor, Alex Proyas, who took on the film af­ter his adap­ta­tion of Par­adise Lost fell through. And I loved that it was com­pletely original. You can’t say that about many films nowa­days.” The Daugh­ter opens on May 27th

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