Geoffrey Rush talks about the arc of his character and the economics of making Pirates 4
With chameleon like ability to literally become any role he plays, Geoffrey Rush is loved as an actor because he is someone different in every film he's in. However, as Barbossa in the first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Rush made people recognize the indelible stamp he has put on this character for the rest of cinema history. Now, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Rush took this character and expanded on the role he had already immortalized.
As the age of piracy comes to a close, Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) must sail off the edge of the map, navigate treachery and betrayal, and make their final alliances for one last decisive battle. Our heroes must face Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and Admiral James Norrington (Jack Davenport) in a titanic showdown that could eliminate the freedom-loving pirates from the seven seas -- forever.
What do you enjoy the most about playing Barbossa?
Geoffrey Rush: Well, I supposed, unlike anything else I've ever done, I'm now involved in a story that spreads itself with huge dimensions over about 8 hours. (Laughs) I've never done that before. Thankfully the writers, with the most vivid of imaginations, rather than just blueprinting the first film and just saying, "We can now cash in on the success of that and pretty much tell the same story again and try and drag the fans in." I think Jerry Bruckheimer, the writers, and Gore, and Johnny and everyone involved, what they proposed in terms of 2 and 3... being one rolling augmentation of the first film, where they started pushing it away from the swashbuckling genre and they went into the mythological level. The folklore of Piracy, going off the edge of the world and seeing sea monsters. I remember Gore saying, "Yeah, we're gonna move part of the story to Asia, we want to make it really global. We want the East India Trading Company to come in as the corporate raiders. We've got to blow them out of the water." I went, "Wow, this is huge! This is an epic trilogy." Its those dimensions, right out, that were very appealing. People ask me, "What's your favorite scene?" And I say, "Pretty much everything I got to do in Part 3." Above and beyond the special effects and the stunt sequences. The sort of essential action moments of the movie. Which I also enjoy because getting to sword-fight is a blast.
I get to do serious one on ones with Chow Yun-Fat. I get a substantial amount of screen time with Johnny and we always love the fact that the scenes that were in Part One where you can see this war of attrition, this sense of neverending, irresolvable conflict that's always going to be a part of their personalities and their encounters. We got to do more of that and Barbossa kind of became the politician, I think on the third film. It wasn't just, "Lets do more of that villainous stuff. Be the guy spat out from hell, that serves us well." You know, that's always got to be in there. They're the fundamental chords that you've got to play with that character. The writers gave me all this manipulative, cunning, diplomatic things to do. So as far as the actors, I think we always thought of Part 3 as a very elaborate chess game. We had to really keep our minds sharp to go, "Hang on, Will's just betrayed us, now he's in the prison. Johnny's striking a deal with Cutler Beckett; we don't know about that."
Everyone's kind of manipulating their key goals behind each others backs. In and around that, you have Jack, Will and Elizabeth kind of sorting out their love triangle. Without giving away spoilers, yes, there is a marriage but who? I have not seen the third film. I am assuming they've kept in... I did some ADR.. I like that touch at the end, I said to Gore, "Can we just have a little moment where you have Barbossa and the monkey and he's like talking to him like a little baby?" I said, "Barbossa has no friends." I just like that little touch at the end its like, "Who's daddy's, boy?" You must realize that there would be desperate loneliness out there at sea, you know what I mean?
Going back to what you said about playing this character over 8 hours of film, for you as an actor was that something you thought about going into this project. You're playing a character that has an arc over several films, what was your thought process in order to bring about that arc?
Geoffrey Rush: Well, the first film was always conceived as a single story. There was never any talk of sequels or even a hint of it. No one thought, "Oh, this is gonna become a trilogy, or something on the scale of The Lord Of The Rings or whatever." The narrative trajectory for me on the first film was always get all that cursed treasure back in the chest and break the curse, so I could taste life again on a real level. And blow me down, as soon as he gets that happening someone shoots him. End of Story, you know? When they were talking about all these magnificent ideas of where they were gonna take 2 and 3, I said, "You're gonna have a blast doing this." And the writers said, "No, you're gonna come back. We're giving you the last line of Part 2."
It was pretty much kept under wraps. There were hints of chat room, blog site, leaks, in the air but we kept under wraps that Jack Sparrow was gonna die. Which I think is pretty cool. Right at the point where you must think, "This film must be coming to an end... hang on, what's going on here? You just killed Jack Sparrow?" Barbossa comes back, out of all the people that's going to bring him back from wherever he's gone, the other side, the nether world, its Barbossa. You think, "Why's he so keen to do it? There's something fishy going on here." It just threw up the potential of really interesting plot lines.
So you knew at that point...
Geoffrey Rush: This was about when we finished shooting the first film.
Did you know at that point that Barbossa was going to be joining Will and Elizabeth?
Geoffrey Rush: Yeah, yeah. Gore basically said, "You're not in Part 2. We want new stuff. We're gonna take the story to Asia. We're gonna bring in sea monsters and all that sort of stuff. We want to create a new villain with Davey Jones." I said, "Look, that's fine by me, the Barbossa's story has kind of exhausted itself. Its been a really nice thing to do but he's food for worms, you know?" The idea of him coming back, with all of the complicated, nice, little intricacies, the bond he has with Tia Dalma... all of the things that, as yet, no one in the chat rooms has picked on, you know what I mean?
Its quite interesting. I drop into the chat rooms on a semi-regular basis because, since 2003, certainly on IMDB there's a hit every minute. It's unbelievable. The kids just place threads, they do skeins, they play games, then when the trailer comes out they dissect, frame by frame looking for threads, looking for clues, what are the maguffins, what are the red herrings, the dead ends. What are the potential plot lines and stuff. They come up with some absolute doozies you know? They could almost write the next three movies if you got the right fans together. I'm hoping with the third film we're really delivering something that they go, "That was awesome." Or, "That was cool." That's the thumbs up.
You brought up something that is interesting. Do you think its harder for a director to make a trilogy of films today with the internet and the press sort of shadowing their every move?
Geoffrey Rush: There's been an inevitable evolution and the side product on that, that I was aware of, mainly a mate of mine, Liam Neeson, when he was shooting The Phantom Menace, was the first time I was aware people were starting to get coded scripts. Or, your name would be emblazoned across every page so that if that ever leaked they'd know (laughs) where the leak was. That's almost de rigeur now, you know what I mean? I think even at the press screening the other night its like going through LAX. You're body searched.
Do you think this is the end of the Pirates franchise? Would you like to come back and do more films as Barbossa fighting with Jack Sparrow and the others?
Geoffrey Rush: The story hasn't reached a full stop. I think its reached an ellipsis. Its a dot, dot, dot ending. I love the feeling, even if it is the final chapter, the continuing battle between us is just speculative, very rich, ongoing, and so it will ever be thus. One of them will gain something and the other is going to lose out on that, and you know they'll fight that off into the sunset. That certainly leaves room for further exploration. It will be initially an economic decision. Disney's not, if they make gazillions of dollars, they're not gonna say, "This is aesthetically pleasing lets put it to bed now. We've done a good thing for humanity." (Laughs) They're definitely gonna go, "Wow, I think we can clean more out of this one!"
Ultimately, on top of that, it will also be a creative decision. I don't think neither Jerry, nor Gore, nor Johnny, nor the writers or whoever wants to get involved with, potentially, a fourth film are gonna say, "Lets just make more of the same." It will need fresh hooks, new challenges, things that surprise and delight us because I think, I certainly know the hardcore fan-base will only expect that and want that. So we'll have to wait and see how bright the writers are because they really ransacked every possible dimension of Pirate storytelling.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End sets sail in theaters May 25 from Walt Disney Pictures.