Geoffrey Rush: “In my theatrical repertoire, I rarely played the central character”

Actor Geoffrey Rush

“I suppose I’m drawn to — I’d call them all outsider figures.” – Geoffrey Rush

Geoffrey Rush is a hugely versatile actor and, over the course of his career, not only has he played roles on stage and screen, he has also played a number of well-known historical figures. And the chances are, that if you didn’t know who the person was before Rush played them in a movie, such as David Helfgott in Shine, you will by the time he is done.

Not only has Rush played Peter Sellers, the Marquis de Sade, Lionel Logue, and the aforementioned Helfgott, but he’s also spent fourteen years playing Captain Hector Barbossa in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The fifth movie, Dead Men Tell No Tales, is newly released, and reviews have praised Rush’s performance in particular.

He’s moving onto other projects, though, this time playing one of the greatest mathematicians to ever live; Albert Einstein. The show, Genius, airs on National Geographic, and Rush tells NYT that he’s always been drawn to playing what he calls ‘outsiders:’

“I suppose I’m drawn to — I’d call them all outsider figures. In my theatrical repertoire, I rarely played the central character. I was not the young heroic model for “Hamlet.” I tended to play those characters that orbited around them: the rogues and the rat bags and the idiots and the fools and the clowns that sway the plot somehow from a tangent.”

And what made him think that he could play Einstein in particular? Well, the answer is certainly amusing:

“I got a classic photo of the older Einstein. And I got a friend to take a photo of me and morph 15 percent of Einstein into my photograph to give me an indication [of how] to create a credible likeness. Then I got out a [marker] and put in the eyebrows, and some Wite-Out, and I drew in the halo of the hair. So that was my own audition for myself. I sent it to Ron [Howard, director] and said, “I think we can do this.””

Genius sheds light on a new aspect of Einstein’s life that many might be unaware of, if they only look at the photos of him later in life. Einstein was something of a Lothario, with many wives and lovers; someone who really rather enjoyed the cult of celebrity when it was thrust upon him. Rush, of course, embraces every aspect of playing a multi-faceted, fascinating individual… and he also finds time to be a pirate.

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