Geoffrey Rush Talks King's Speech, the MPAA and Completing his EGOT
Geoffrey Rush is well aware that he is one letter (the "G") away from winning an EGOT -- the acronym popularized on the television show 30 Rock meaning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Of course, this awards season, a Grammy win for Rush seems about as unlikely a bet as it would be to bet against his nomination for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in The King's Speech -- which is about as close to a sure thing as there can be. Not bad for a performance that that was inspired indirectly, of all things, by Crocodile Dundee.
Rush plays Lionel Logue, a speech therapist entrusted with helping George VI (Colin Firth) overcome a severe speech impediment before addressing England in a radio broadcast in the early days of World War II. Movieline spoke to Rush about the awards-season darling, its controversial R rating, if we can ever expect to see Rush act with Firth again and, 11 years later, his reflections on the cult favorite, Mystery Men.
Thanks for calling in from Australia. What are you working on down there?
Yeah, I'm in rehearsals. It's now lunchtime. We're rehearsing in Melbourne but the show [Diary of a Madman] is playing in the Belvoir Theatre in Sydney, which is where we created Exit the King -- which we took to Broadway last year. Then we go to the Brooklyn Academy [of Music] in February and March.
Do you think people who see The King's Speech will be in for a surprise if they think it's just another film about a royal family?
Absolutely. There's a kind of a royal genre that's emerged over the last couple of decades, with Elizabeth, The Madness of King George, Young Victoria and The Other Boleyn Girl. You know what I mean: There's a certain level of expectation in, I suppose, the strangeness of that kind of privileged lifestyle. And I know that [director] Tom [Hooper], because of the nature of the storyline in The King's Speech, wanted to maybe dig into the idea that maybe the pomp and glamor and the lushness of people's perceptions into that world were sort of foiled by a relatively by a human level story going on within it. I think what happens with this one was a curious phenomenon that both principal protagonists are kind of nobodies. The Duke of York starts out as a very hidden minor royal of no obvious historical significance. And then all of the events conspire against him, including his own disability with what was called a speech defect. And Lionel Logue being a son of a brewer from the Antipodes. And somehow fate conspired to throw them together.
And anytime that a viewer thinks that the film might go down that path, when Bertie starts demanding special treatment, Lionel doesn't allow that.
No. That's what always intrigued me most about the storyline. There was something slightly preposterous and strange about the timelines of these two men coming from not only geographical opposite sides of the planet but there was an imperial, colonial clash. There's a clash of classes and a clash of cultures.
I feel the role of Lionel is one of the biggest stretches that you've done: Playing a bad actor.
[Laughs] Yes. Well, you know, historically I wanted to avoid any sort of internationally perceived cultural stereotypes of Australians -- I don't know what that is. Where the people sort of think in broad strokes; a sort of Crocodile Dundee or a Les Patterson, the Barry Humphries character. That character is probably not so well-known.
Though, Crocodile Dundee is very well-known. That's a good example.
Yeah, there's a brashness or something there. The interesting thing for us is when we discovered through Lionel Logue's grandson, he presented us this treasure trove of papers, diaries, letters and photos which were so beneficial in fleshing out the man -- who was a sort of dilettante. He did start out as an amateur actor. He loved doing recitals. Through that he accidentally got in to speech therapy during World War I with shell-shock victims. I don't know, he probably, earlier on, might have thought he was going to England to see if he could crack into the acting scene.
You and Colin Firth should do at least five more films together, even if it's a buddy cop movie. Do you think another film starring the both of you will happen?
We'll remake The Persuaders [Laughs]. We sort of vaguely were in each other's orbits on a couple of days of shooting for Shakespeare in Love. I really didn't get to know Colin that well then because it was a very big company and we didn't directly have scenes together. But we did go on the press junket in New York in late 1998 for about four days and I hung out with him and Rupert Everett socially. And we laughed and had a lot of fun. I don't think I had actually seen Colin since then but we seemed to have picked up on that rapport in the very early days of the rehearsal -- we had about a three-week rehearsal period. Colin has a very natural, fast sense of humor. And we discovered in the diaries that there was a lot of quick wittedness between Logue and the Duke of York, and we didn't want to deny that being a central part of the relationship.
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