Geoffrey Rush ('Life & Death of Peter Sellers')
'This Film Will NOT Be A Beeerrm!!'
One of current cinema's most chameleonic performers, Geoffrey Rush was the obvious choice to play Peter Sellers, arguably an even greater master of disguise, in Stephen Hopkins' controversial biopic 'The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers'. But, as the Oscar-winning star of 'Shine' reveals, even he originally baulked at the idea of playing the real life man of a thousand faces.
What is truth and what is fiction in this film? "Well, it's almost as if Peter Sellers got the chance to tell the story of his life as a fantasy, partly through his characters. So, for example, the scene where he has lunch with his mother dressed as Dr Strangelove: that didn't happen, as far as I know, but it's a wonderful conceit by the writers to put him in a character which allows him to release the anger and the hate he feels through the loss of his father."
How do you rate Sellers as an actor? "I think he's one of the greatest character actors in the history of film. Between 1958 and 1964, especially, he was discovering his new role in cinema and the capabilities of being a new kind of film actor. He's doing 'I'm All Right Jack', 'The Mouse That Roared', 'Only Two Can Play', 'Lolita', 'The Pink Panther', 'Dr Strangelove' - it's the biggest body of work, of the most original, chameleon-like performances anywhere. And it's interesting, as a dramatic thing, that that's when he has the heart attack. He does this amazing work, then boof!"
You originally turned the role down. Why? "I just thought, I can't do this. I know a lot of other notable actors were then given the script and I'm sure they all went, I can't do this. They came back to me and by that stage I was doing the pirate film, and having a great time sword fighting. But, to be honest, that hat, the monkey, a huge galleon, Johnny Depp and great dialogue, all that was there, but it was not brain surgery. I thought, I'm having a really wonderful time but I'm not really going anywhere interesting for me. I knew from my theatre life it was great to play in an unpredictable way, so they happened to maybe catch me on a better day and I agreed to do it."
How was the makeup in the film? "For 90% of the film my forehead was the only real part. My very first professional gig as an actor was when I was 21, and I had a very small role in a musical called Lock Up Your Daughters. I played an inn keeper who had bad teeth, an eye patch, a West Country accent and a limp. So, I thought, I haven't moved forward at all! But that's what I like. I like the dressing up chameleon thing, which is sort of what Sellers did too. But he wanted to be Cary Grant or Bond."
How is the sequel to 'Pirates Of The Carribbean' shaping up? "Great! Everyone, certainly Jerry Bruckheimer, knows that they have discovered a cinematic piece of history in Jack Sparrow - he is a highly original character that could go anywhere. So, I don't think they want to create a mercenary, income-producing franchise; I think they want to make 'Godfather 2'!"
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