Just how did an acclaimed, stage-trained, Oscar-winning actor like Geoffrey Rush approach the scenes in “The King’s Speech” in which his character proves to be a mediocre thespian? Genuine anxiety.
“Clever Mr. Tom Hooper shot that scene on the very first day,” Rush told PopcornBiz at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival of the moments when speech therapist Lionel Logue reveals that, despite youthful dabbling in the theater, he’s anything but an accomplished actor. “He made me get up in front of an entire English crew and some other English actors who all knew that I had some sort of reputation for being a Shakespearean actor in Australia. But I'd always played prose characters – I was never the verse speaker. So I was nervous and I was bad, and he just shot it.”
Rush says one of the reasons he was drawn to play the character because, despite his contribution to a key juncture in history, Logue was an utter mystery. “He's completely unknown. If you had Googled Lionel Logue two months ago you would've had no hits. Now you might get a couple of thousand.”
But there was an even more personal factor at work. “It was primarily because he was an Australian,” reveals the Queensland-born actor. “I'd never read an international screenplay that featured an Australian character, and in particular, a very idiosyncratic Australian character. He didn't have any of the attributes of what maybe is the archetypal, the stereotypical, the cliché of how the international might perceive our national type because everyone has one.
“You know what I mean: we all think the Canadians are Mounties or whatever or that they're terribly funny, or that the Brits always have a stiff upper lip, which is always untrue,” he says. “But this guy had so many personal quirks and I liked the fact and wanted to explore what it was like to be an elocutionist in 1930's Australia. It's so far removed from the sporting image of our country.
“And that he was a dilettante Shakespearean actor,” laughs Rush. “Again, that breaks the rules.”