Rush hour

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - By LUAINE LEE

FOR an ac­tor who’s por­trayed ev­ery­thing from a schiz­o­phrenic pi­anist to a zom­bie pi­rate, play­ing Albert Ein­stein was no big stretch. But it took the Os­car win­ing Ge­of­frey Rush a while to re­alise he was a char­ac­ter ac­tor. “When I was shoot­ing Pi­rates Of

The Caribbean, once I had that big hat on with the feather in it and the mon­key on my shoul­der, the rest was not brain surgery,” he says.

“I had a great script and was working with phe­nom­e­nal ac­tors. I thought, ‘This is the point.’ They’d al­ready of­fered it to me the year be­fore and I’d turned it down be­cause of cow­ardice. I thought, ‘This is the char­ac­ter ac­tor’s dream. Have a bash at it.’ ”

The same ap­plies to his lat­est role as one of the 20th cen­tury’s most pro­found thinkers in Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s Ge­nius (cur­rently on Astro’s On De­mand).

Rush sees Ein­stein as more than a su­per nerd with funny hair. He sees him as a heroic fig­ure.

“From all the great clas­si­cal writ­ing that’s ever been in the theatre or in the cin­ema, you have a cen­tral pro­tag­o­nist who has to shift ... as events around them push them into bet­ter lev­els of sur­vival or a fresh strat­egy,” says Rush.

“And that hap­pened to Ein­stein, al­ways, through his life. And (it) was also tem­pered by the fact that he had a per­son­al­ity that was very anti-au­thor­i­tar­ian. He’d given up his Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship as a very young man be­cause he didn’t be­lieve in a mil­i­taris­tic state,” says Rush, who plays the older Ein­stein, while the younger is por­trayed by Johnny Flynn .

“He was a glass-half-full kind of guy,” con­tin­ues Rush, 65. “He al­ways saw the bet­ter side of hu­man­ity, but then had to con­front the de­vel­op­ment of atomic weaponry ... So he’s poised very dra­mat­i­cally in the cen­tre of the drama.”

Flynn thinks that hu­mor was an es­sen­tial part of the great thinker.

“To see some of the things that in his per­sonal life, with him as a young man – and the tragedies that he went through, and these huge world events, these global events, the two World Wars and ev­ery­thing that was go­ing on in Europe in the early 20th cen­tury, and his per­sonal stuff – to see the hu­mour in the con­text of that is re­ally im­por­tant,” says Flynn, 34.

“And that’s NOT what you know of him as a lay­man. That’s not what I knew of him be­fore em­bark­ing on the project. So, that’s what’s been re­ally cool, is to see the rea­son ... we find hu­mour in tragic cir­cum­stances be­cause that’s the hu­man spirit com­ing through.”

Ein­stein was also nat­u­rally witty, says Ken Biller, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and show run­ner of Ge­nius ,which was filmed in the Czech Repub­lic.

“While I’d like to think that we’ve writ­ten some clever di­a­logue for him, some of the clever­est di­a­logue is di­a­logue that he wrote for him­self be­cause we’ve sprin­kled into some of these scripts Ein­steinisms; things that he ei­ther said or wrote that were re­ally per­cep­tive and of­ten quite funny,” he says.

Ron Howard, who di­rected the first episode, re­ports that the ini­tial script pre­sented young Albert as a bo­hemian artist with a mav­er­ick sen­si­bil­ity that some­times thrust him into trou­ble.

“But Brian (Grazer, pro­ducer) and I were talk­ing a lot about it. And one of the words that came out, Brian said, ‘Pres­sure.’ And we started talk­ing about pres­sure on Ein­stein. And I think that the sus­pense comes from the fact that in ret­ro­spect, you look at how close so­ci­ety came, the world came, to NOT ben­e­fit­ing from Albert Ein­stein.

“Some­times it was his own do­ings, some­times it was his own foibles. But very of­ten, it was so­ci­ety. It was old, rigid think­ing, and some­times plain big­otry that was threat­en­ing to pre­vent the world from hav­ing what this re­mark­able in­di­vid­ual had to of­fer.”

— Hand­out

In Ge­nius, Rush aims to por­tray Ein­stein as the man be­hind the sci­en­tist.

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