‘A tragic comedy about mortality’ and an action flick: Geoffrey Rush is back making movies – The New Daily
Oscar-winning Australian actor Geoffrey Rush is making a return to feature-length movies after an absence of four years.
Rush, 71, is set to play vaudeville performer and comedian, Groucho Marx, in Israeli-American screenwriter and director Oren Moverman’s upcoming production Raised Eyebrows: My Years Inside Groucho’s House.
This week, entertainment industry website Deadline announced Rush was also cast in action-comedy Verona Spies, with in-demand actress Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, American Horror Story) in final talks to play the lead.
Other than the lead in the 2018 production of Storm Boy and a high-profile defamation case, the Melbourne-based “giant of acting” has been out of the headlines after almost two years in forced COVID lockdowns.
In July, he returned to the spotlight in the Czech Republic to receive the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Contribution to World Cinema at the 56th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
Rush won a defamation case against the Daily Telegraph in 2019 after federal court Justice Michael Wigney found its publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran were reckless regarding the truth when they reported Rush had been accused of inappropriate behaviour during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.
He was awarded $850,000 in general damages and about $2 million in special damages to cover past and future economic loss.
The ruling was upheld on appeal in July 2020.
In Karlovy Vary, Rush spoke about the case, but made it clear he didn’t want to talk about it in depth.
“It was bruising for everyone involved, I think, on both sides,” he told Deadline on July 7.
“It was an overblown and kind of bloated tabloid event [the defamation case] and the court found the result in my favour and I don’t like talking about it,” he said.
Rush said the claims had created “irreparable damage” to his reputation when he launched the defamation action.
Justice Wigney told the court in 2019 Rush had suffered a financial loss as a result of the publications, but the prospect of him never being able to work again was “very remote”.
“I consider that, all other things being equal, once his reputation is vindicated, he will eventually be able to engage in acting again,” the judge said.
“It’s a tricky time in history to have mud thrown at you, however unfair,” a Melbourne theatre source told The New Daily after the Rush verdict.
Faculty of Arts and Social Science film expert at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Dr Bruce Isaacs agrees Rush can return to the big screen.
“Rush, while part of the headlines, also seemed somewhat outside of the furore. In this sense, his career does not seem irreparable,” he tells The New Daily.
Rush says the case “warmed me up for isolation because, in Melbourne, we were in isolation for a very long time”.
“I lived a hermetic existence in some ways and with that kind of thing, especially with COVID, you get more reflective. Everybody did. People changed.”
Playing Marx will be his first lead role since Storm Boy, but he pushed back on suggestions the role is a “comeback”.
“I’m coming back to working, but I don’t want to see it in that way. I signed on for this film in August 2020.
“That was what happened with Shine. I trod water for three years before it was made. You go, ‘Hope this idea doesn’t fade or go off the boil’.
“Everyone thinks my career was over after that [defamation] case, but I got offered roles, but weird things, like playing a judge,” he said.
He says the Marx film is not a biopic, but rather a “tragic comedy about mortality”, about the last three years of Marx’s life (he died of pneumonia in 1977, aged 86).
Rush has won an Academy Award, three British Academy Film Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and four Screen Actors Guild Awards.
He is also the founding president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) and was Australian of the Year in 2012.
He has played everything from a pirate, a pianist, Albert Einstein, Peter Sellers, a Mossad agent, voiced the pelican in Finding Nemo, and owned the stage in theatre productions over countless years.
At the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2018, Gary Oldman (who won best actor for playing Winston Churchill), praised Rush as a “giant of acting” along with Robert De Niro and Morgan Freeman.
Rush says he has been offered roles playing a judge and a famous president since the defamation case, but wouldn’t talk about the films.
“I like to think I am a chameleon, but no.”
A return to the stage is too early to address: “In the realm of self-reflection and meditation I’ve asked myself, ‘Has my mojo disappeared?’
“And then, you know, not doing it for four or five years, you suddenly go, ‘I feel rusty’.”
But will audiences be welcoming him back?
Dr Isaacs says, “this is less clear”.
“The hiatus for someone like Rush will lead to a degree of marginalisation, [as in] – is Rush still a highly visible part of what we take to be ‘serious cinema’?”
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