Geoffrey Rush was recently in Australia to promote Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and I was able to grab 10 minutes with him over the phone to talk about the film and few other things. Here's what he had to say...
You can download an abbreviated podcast of this interview by clicking here.
Matt: He’s in Sydney at the moment for the premiere of the new Pirates Of The Caribbean movie and we’re lucky enough to be joined this morning by one of Australia’s finest actors. Born in Toowoomba and raised in Brisbane, he’s won an Academy Award for movies, a Tony Award for theatre and an Emmy Award for television. Before I get too jealous let me say good morning to Mr Geoffrey Rush.
Geoffrey: Good morning sir, how are you?
Matt: Very well thank you. I’ve been following your movements over the past 10 days. You were in Los Angeles, then London, then Cannes and then now in Sydney, is that right?
Geoffrey: Yeah and you can throw in 10 hours in New York somewhere in there.
Matt: How are you feeling?
Geoffrey: I’m drinking something with “isotonic” written on the front of the bottle. I hope that works.
Matt: Where are you based at the moment? Here in Australia or do you live over in the United States?
Geoffrey: No, my home is in Melbourne.
Matt: You’ve chalked up all these awards over the years – the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys, the BAFTAs, the Golden Globes. Where do you keep them all? Do you have a “pool room” somewhere in your home where you can show them off?
Geoffrey: They’re on various ledges here and there. Trying to look aesthetically indistinct and blending in with the furniture.
Matt: You must be running out of room by now?
Geoffrey: It’s been a wonderful ride that still looks as though it’s got legs. They’re already talking about Pirates 5 so at least I’ve got a job.
Matt: We’ve mentioned you’re from Queensland – born and raised here. Do you get back up to Queensland very often?
Geoffrey: Not as much as I’d like to. My mum’s still living up on the Sunshine Coast with my sister so I’m hoping to get back up there as the weather gets colder in Melbourne, I’ll go up and have a visit.
Matt: When Pirates 5 ever gets released, we’ll have to get you up here and try to lure the premiere to Queensland?
Geoffrey: I’d really love to do that. Johnny, Penelope, Will and director Rob Marshall and this wonderful bunch of young kids – Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey, this gorgeous French woman who plays a mermaid. We were all on the road together for the premiere in Disneyland which was just insane. 25,000 people on the black carpet.
It’s a good way to get to know the fans and have a sense of the extraordinary energy and loyalty they’ve been showing to these films since 2003. It’s like having all these people who you never get to see the film with come along on the one night and endorse what you’ve been doing with these storylines.
Matt: Many of the original cast like Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and Jonathan Pryce didn’t come back this time. How did they lure you back into this pirate franchise?
Geoffrey: The trilogy came to an end and all those storylines got tied up. Their characters, Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner, went into a strange marriage and they’ve now got a 10 year old boy and they’re now living quietly up in the Daintree forest. I’m not sure.
Everyone agreed it was an ideal time to bring in fresh ideas and go back to the initial excitement of creating this series in the first place. It gave an opportunity to bring in some bold, fabulous, big new characters. It’s a story that stands alone by itself.
Matt: I know actors often go through a lot of preparation to get ready for a role but how does it work with a film like this. Given you’ve played the character before, can you just rock up to the set on day 1 and say “let’s do it” or do you still need time to prepare?
Geoffrey: I wish I could! It’s a bit like that but there’s always been a monstrous sword fight that I’ve got to get my head around for the end of the movie. I really quite like having to learn that and it does take a couple of months in preparation.
Matt: How much training do you have to put in each day with those sword fights?
Geoffrey: The stunt guys will come and grab you. They show you the routine and it’s probably got about 80 moves in it and you think “my brain will never remember that”. Also, I have a leg missing and I’ve got my crutch so I’m a multi-weaponed fighter.
After a while you get it down and they say “well that was about 30% of speed and now we want you to go 50%” and then by the day you’re shooting you’re up to 100% and you go “this is really cool, I’m not dead yet”.
Matt: How does it work with the wooden leg? Is that special effects or have you got the leg tied behind you?
Geoffrey: We tried the leg tied behind and putting on a prosthetic leg but I went to a professional amputee guy and said it takes 18 months to get your muscles to trained up to be able to handle this new situation for your body. So I knew the CGI guy would do me proud.
I had a set of stockings – a blue stocking for when I’m in the jungle and a green stocking for when I’m at sea. When you see the film, everyone’s absolutely convinced I did a Daniel Day Lewis and chopped my leg off for the character.
Matt: These films are so fun to watch but is it really fun on the set with the gunfire and running all over the place or is it hard work?
Geoffrey: It’s a bit of both. Some days you go there and you think it’s insane. Particularly when you get to something like the Fountain Of Youth and you have three major plot lines converging. I think it took about 6 weeks to film that massive last scene.
You’re on an pretty dangerous worksite and there’s a lot of care and safety that goes on but it’s part of our job. We’ve got to look like we’re making it up as we go along so yes, we are having some fun. Hopefully whatever fun we do have making the film spills over into the audience.
Matt: I have to mention the man himself – Johnny Depp and this iconic character that he’s created. I’ve seen giant billboards around Brisbane and all they have is an image of Captain Jack Sparrow. It doesn’t even have the title of the film because everyone knows exactly what we’re taking about. Is all his crazy dialogue scripted or do you get to throw ideas back and forth between each other or is it pretty well scripted?
Geoffrey: The scripting is very sharp. Like most films, even for a pirate movie, you go into a hotel room somewhere before you start shooting and rehearse the scenes as much as you can. It’s pretty hard to imagine that you’re in a bamboo forest in Hawaii when you’re in a Marriott suite.
Johnny is always very investigative and very improvisational. Stuff comes out of the weird part in the back of his brain where Jack Sparrow lives. He always manages on the day of shooting to keep a couple of wildcards up his sleeve and as an actor, it’s great to match wits with that because he keeps you on your toes.
Matt: I can’t pass up the opportunity to say congratulations on the success of The King’s Speech. $30m it made at the box-office here in Australia. I almost got tired of people telling me how much they loved it. I loved it too. Did you meet anyone who didn’t like it?
Geoffrey: Not personally but you never do. No one ever comes up and says “that film sucks”. We wait for some of the critics to say that and we say yeah, but how come so people seem so keen to see it. Maybe you better take a look at it again.
Matt: Did you have any that it was going to be that big when you were making it?
Geoffrey: No. Everyone liked the story and thought there was something really interesting going on in there but to have the idea of two middle aged men sitting around in a room together talking about their problems didn’t immediately scream blockbuster.
Matt: I’ll let you get back to it and hopefully you can get some rest over the next few days after all your travel. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is out now and Geoffrey Rush, thank you for speaking with us this morning.
Geoffrey: Thank you.