yourMovies editor Mark Beirne spoke with the Oscar winner at the press junket in Melbourne to uncover some of the movie's secrets.
Barbossa was the villain in the first Pirates movie, but in the second he became an ally. Can he be trusted?
Geoffrey Rush: Well spotted! You'll need to see all of the various chess moves that happen in part three to fully satisfy that answer. But certainly the implication from that cliffhanger ending on part two is that out of all of the people you want to bring back from the dead to help rescue Jack from being eaten by the beastie, Barbossa's not the best guy to do it. They're sworn enemies. That forms the premise of one of the many key plots that dominate the third film.
Details of the third movie are top secret—what can audiences expect to see?
Pirates 2 and 3 were always conceived with one huge story arc, with that cliffhanger interval—the presumed death of Jack Sparrow followed by Barbossa's resurrection. To be honest, because it is one huge story, a lot of what happened in Pirates 2 was putting down the pipe-work for the kinds of dramatic payoffs that are going to happen in the third film. As I was going through the screenplay, I thought “My God, every seven pages there's some phenomenal new action sequence that comes out of the storyline or flips the story into another dimension.” The big set pieces the fans are looking forward to, as well as the convolutions and permutations of the character conflicts, are there in force.
The Pirates movies are very tongue-in-cheek—was the atmosphere as light-hearted on the set?
We had a hefty schedule on our hands because they're big films, and just the logistics of shooting out at sea means you look at the daily call sheet and [realize] you're 30 miles out at sea, I've got to get up in the dark and go out in a dinghy on very rough seas to get to the location—and then spend two hours in make-up. Of course we've been doing this on-and-off now for four-and-a-half years so there's a tremendous camaraderie between all of the departments. The actors don't just spend time amongst themselves; you spend a good part of the day with the make-up team, the stunt guys, the expert marine department who are ferrying you there. Someone like Johnny is a great team leader . . . it's great not to have a diva. It's great to have someone who's very laid-back, very playful . . . he's probably the only person who dares to ad-lib. A lot of what he throws in makes it into the final mix. Jack Sparrow is some crazy part of Johnny's brain.
What are the main differences between a Hollywood blockbuster of this nature and movies you have filmed in Australia?
It's a question of scale and attitude. If you work for Disney, which is one of the big studio conglomerates in the business machine that is Hollywood, there's a different kind of heritage and attitude. Most of what we make in Australia are much smaller scale, independently produced films. Being on a film like Candy, the scale of it is just smaller—the aspirations may be as great, but you have a crew of 20, whereas on Pirates some days we would have lunch for 700 people. Pirates costs an extraordinary amount of money because of the nature of the CGI, actors, large numbers of people.
You have played such a range of unique characters in your career—do you have a favourite?
Not particularly. I always look very fondly back on Shakespeare in Love—again, it had a large cast. When I was promoting that film, I said it was the party of the year. It was a very funny, very lively set because all those guys who were playing Shakespeare's acting troupe were all fine actors in their own right and some of them fresh out of drama school and they were frisky. That's the one that I hold great affection for. A film like Quills and Peter Sellers—big companies, lots of actors. Peter Sellers particularly because we would have the Charlize Theron section of the shoot for two-and-a-half weeks and then Emily Watson would turn up and then Stanley Tucci and Stephen Fry . . . just great, great actors to work with.
What about a favorite actor you have worked with?
I've been pretty lucky for a middle-aged character actor; my leading ladies have been Cate Blanchett and Salma Hayek and Charlize Theron and Kate Winslet. And Johnny Depp, we've been together for four-and-a-half years now on these films; he's one of the great character actors in a leading man's body who constantly surprises himself and his audience with his capabilities and imagination.
Is At World's End the end for Barbossa, or do you hope to star in future sequels?
The decision would be totally in the hands of the Disney executives or Jerry Bruckheimer. Of course if the movie makes a lot of money, they will always consider “Can we make more out of this?” As a business, it's like releasing a new car: if the car works and sells and people like it, they go “Next year we'll make a new model and make it more eco-friendly.” But being a film, it then involves the creative people, and if the writers feel they've exhausted the potential of the genre or if Johnny feels he's burnt Jack out . . . I don't know, it's all speculation at the moment.
Tell me about The Golden Age, the sequel to Elizabeth.
The Golden Age won't be released until much later this year, around about October I think. I have seen the current edit and it looks absolutely fantastic. Given that there's been so much Elizabethan product out there—Helen Mirren, and another English television film and the series The Tudors—from a test audience it rated extremely high.
Have you ever been on the Pirates theme park ride?
Oh yeah, of course! I went on that many years ago when I first took my kids to Disneyland, probably back in the late '90s. I'm now part of the ride—they've taken Blackbeard out and they've put Barbossa in. And Jack Sparrow now pops up as an animatronic figure. He's a bit like Where's Wally, you've got to find him as you go through the ride.
Keith Richards is in the latest Pirates movie—did you meet him on set?
Yeah. He's done his bit, he has a beautifully presented little cameo. It's quite a big scene in the film, one of the major plots is the conflict between the East Indian Trading Company and Davy Jones versus the Black Pearl. So Barbossa calls together this meeting of the nine global pirate lords—it's a bit like G8 for pirates—and Keith has a role in that scene.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End releases in cinemas on May 24.