It’s okay if you don’t recognise Geoffrey Rush when he’s not wearing pantaloons. Thanks to his role as Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean and frilly-collar turns in Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love, he’s used to period costume. Rush’s threads are a bit more modern in The King’s Speech, the film picked to open the Dubai International Film Festival. He stars as George VI’s speech therapist; the film is set in pre-second-world-war Britain, when the monarch’s stammer wasn’t compatible with the ‘keep calm’ addresses he needed to make.
Industry buzz already pegs Rush as an Oscar favourite for his supporting role (the movie is also tipped for Best Picture, with Best Actor for leading man Colin Firth). It would be the Australian thespian’s second golden statue: he won an Oscar for Shine in 1999, in which he played real-life pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown. He has also bagged a Tony award (a prize from the American Theatre Wing)
for his lead role in Exit the King, and an Emmy award for the lead in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. But for now, calling from the set of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Rush is happy to ponder swashbuckling and skulduggery.
Is this the first time that a speech therapist has been a movie hero?
Once the posters come out, I want to go around with a black pen and write ‘therapist’ on them, so it’s called The King’s Speech Therapist.
As an Australian, how do you feel about the monarchy?
I got my connection to the vast history of the royal family through Shakespeare. A massive historical cycle, you know. I’ve always been intrigued by the extraordinary history. How the crown is passed from one generation to the next, sometimes through murder, sometimes through skulduggery.
Skulduggery is always good.
As an Aussie, I suppose I lean towards a republican movement. Not in any kind of aggressive way, you know, because you know the monarchy has its place in British society. But since the European settlement [of Australia] it’s been 220 years – it wouldn’t be bad to cut the apron strings, create a sense of autonomy in the way the US did.
It’s been such smooth sailing for them ever since…
The Americans still have this extraordinary fascination with things such as the pompous ceremonies of the royal family. But The King’s Speech [shows] the vulnerability and dysfunctionality with those families.
Back to the Bard: your character in The King’s Speech is obsessed with Shakespeare. You’ve performed some of his plays, you were in Shakespeare in Love – do you think Shakespeare is perhaps a bit overrated?
No, no, no, I would never forge into that territory. There’s a new book on Shakespeare scholarship seemingly every year and the argument goes on – did he write the plays? There are the Oxfordians, there are the Stratfordians, there are all these camps. I have a feeling [he] was a pretty freakish, rather brilliant glover’s son from Stratford.
You’re one of 21 actors worldwide to have won an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony. You’re just one Grammy away from getting your EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony. Are you going for it?
It’s tricky because I’m not a singer. I don’t know the statistics on that – only a handful of people have gotten all those. I’m not egomaniacally ambitious to think I must enter that.
What’s happening in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie you’re shooting? What pirating is left to do?
That’s a good question. The first one was a very adventurous, swashbuckling account of life on the high seas at that time. And then the writers very boldly went into grand folklore and mythology by bringing in the kraken, the sea monster, and sea gods and goddesses…
The pirates in the movie don’t seem to actually pirate a lot. They don’t do their day job, robbing other people.
Well, it’s all the way we perceive piracy. It all happened 400 years ago, and it only became part of the folklore 150 or 200 years ago. So the mythology has become part of what we accept. Before that, they were thugs. Drunken thugs who killed people and weren’t terribly swashbuckling. But the great thing about the fourth film is that I would have thought they had used up every inch of folklore, every fable…
Everything but mermaids.
But see, now they’ve got mermaids in it! It’s going to be terribly exciting.
The public screening of The King’s Speech takes place at The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence at 8pm on December 12. Entry is free. The DIFF Opening Gala Screening is invitation only. For info, see www.dubaifilmfest.com.
Dubai Film Festival updates
Last week we brought you the lowdown on this year’s Film Festival; here are the latest announcements from the past week.
More celebrities: While Olivia Wilde is no longer attending, Tron: Legacy star Beau Garrett has stepped up to walk the red carpet, along with Emma Caulfield from Removal. Italian actress Maya Sansa is also now attending, and will sit on the judging panel.
Rhythm and Reels concerts: A total of 11 films will be part of this segment, with performances taking place after screenings. Six of these will be held at The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, which opens on Sunday. Highlights include Wednesday’s screening of Enamorada followed by a performance from a Mexican mariachi band and dancers, while Lebanese singer Rima Khcheich will perform after Thursday’s screening of My Wife’s Husband. Friday sees Arab hip-hop group Y-Crew and Egyptian rock-fusion band Massar Egbari perform following the screening of Microphone.
Free screening: A free screening of French animation Eleanore’s Secret will be shown on Saturday 18 from 6pm.