Actor Geoffrey Rush has had quite a year. He was nominated for an Academy Award and won a BAFTA for his portrayal of Lionel Logue, the gifted and unorthodox speech therapist to King George VI in The King’s Speech; he brought the Nikolai Gogol play Diary of a Madman from Sydney to New York’s prestigious Brooklyn Academy of Music, and he is starring in two of this summer’s most anticipated films.

We had the opportunity to interview Rush at the Los Angeles press day for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, one of the two aforementioned anxiously awaited summer blockbuster hopefuls. Stay tuned for our coverage of Pirates as we approach the May 20th release of the film. In the interim, we have some details on the genesis of the actor’s role in Green Lantern, the second upcoming competitor for summer box-office gold that Rush is featured in.

Known as a character actor of incredible skill and versatility, Rush is not necessarily associated with comic book geekery. When asked if he is in fact, a secret superhero nerd, and about his familiarity with the Green Lantern comic book series in particular, Rush replied:

“I didn’t know about it. In terms of DC comics I was a “Superman” reader in my childhood and adolescence. I was not at all familiar with “Green Lantern.” In fact, I don’t know if in Australia it was… it was never in broad popular culture. It may not have been here, it might have been a niche kind of obsession in the States. No, they showed me the artwork for it and I just said I’d love to be that guy.”

As a Superman fan, we wondered if the actor had an opinion on Henry Cavill’s casting as the Man of Steel himself. When asked to weigh in on the possibilities for Cavill/Snyder interpretation of the superhero however, Rush responded simply:

“Who?”

We love it when we are offered a fresh dose of perspective.

Rush was brought onto Green Lantern as the filmmakers worked toward completing post-production. As such, the actor has a somewhat insulated perspective on the story and has not yet been given a view into the film as a whole. It was Neville Page’s dynamic concept art that ultimately sold him on the role.

“I was absolutely, exclusively putting down my voice tracks. When I got the offer for it I said, ‘Haven’t they made that film?’ They said, ‘No, it’s a completely computer-generated character.’ I saw the artwork and I said, I would love to be that guy. Because I had voiced an Owl in “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” and I’d voiced a Pelican in “Finding Nemo” and I thought I could really improve on that now by being half-bird, half-fish, part lizard.You don’t get to do that in a live-action film.”

Although an actor is unable to portray a bird-fish hybrid in a live-action role, the tone and function of the character of Tomar Re in the world of Green Lantern has been compared to that of Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech. The likening stems from the sense that both characters are pragmatic and spiritual teachers to the main protagonists in their respective films. As to the similarities in the roles, Rush mused:

“You could say that I’ve mentored Queen Elizabeth I as (Sir Francis) Walsingham, and (Leon) Trotsky has mentored Frida Kahlo and now Tomar Re is going to mentor Hal Jordan, and I was sort of mentoring King George VI in “The King’s Speech.”  But I can’t imagine Tomar Re setting up an office on Harley Street in London. They’re all very different people to me, but there is (in that particular selection) a kind of theme I suppose.”

In terms of the continuation of his role as the mercurial (and decidedly non-mentor-like) Pirate Barbossa in Pirates, there has been some recent discussion about possible plot and time-lines for Pirates 5 and 6. Rush confirmed that the writers had just turned in their initial draft for the 5th film and that he is not (at present) privy to the specific story details. He did theorize however that:

“Being the megalomaniacal fool that he (Barbossa) is, he will probably do something wrong, or fate will conspire against him, or Jack will outsmart him. I think that cat-and-mouse game will continue.”

As to an expansion on his turn as Tomar Re in a Green Lantern sequel, Rush observed that “they (Warner Bros.) are probably in a wait-and-see mode on that.”

Audiences will have their chance to communicate their desire for more from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise beginning on May 20th, and Green Lantern on June 17th. Stay tuned for our continued coverage of both films.

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