Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles as one of 25 bloggers covering the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales red carpet premiere and press event. Travel and accommodations were covered by Disney but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
**Note: Interview photos are courtesy of Louise Bishop of MomStart.com. Movie stills are courtesy of Disney.
Geoffrey Rush returns as the pirate Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, which comes to theaters this weekend (5/26)!! This exclusive bloggers-only interview is spoiler-free!
Question: You played different part of you in this film. How did it feel to take on a different Barbossa?
Geoffrey replied, “Well, it’s sort of something that happened over the first four films, you know. I think in the first one, before I actually entered into the story, he was described rather fearfully by the two pirates that are now my assistants. ‘He’s spat out from the mouth of hell.’
“To me that was the key line. I thought, whenever I enter into this story, if you don’t see that, then he’s a liar. So, he was pretty much the dark villain of the piece. And, you know, he had to break the curse. I think it was a great twist of the story that we were actually having to put all of the treasure back to reverse the curse, (after) which I then enjoyed having all my senses back for about 30 seconds. Then I got shot.”
He then went on to talk about Johnny Depp, who he obviously admires and respects a deal, and the iconic character that Johnny created in Captain Jack. He said, “Johnny was the king of the independent films…great characters like Edward Scissor Hands and What’s Eating Gilbert Great and all of the things that he did.
For him to create such a unique, unpredictable pirate — there’s nothing like it in literature or cinema. And he got nominated for a Best Actor, which is just fantastic, you know. ‘Cause adventure films just don’t really get a look in on that territory. But I remember him telling me when we shot the first film, he said, ‘You know, we can’t be stereotypes. We’ve gotta create really imaginative kind of people that an audience will get very engaged with.’
And he said, ‘I’ve been toying with the idea of, like the British rock stars of the ‘60s ’cause pirates always had sort of clear-cut identities. You know, the real Black Beard used to have fuse wire burning in his beard that when people saw him they thought he was the devil. So, that would go from ship to ship from port to port. With Barbossa I wanted to make him very arrogant and very pompous and very superior and maybe a bit slightly self-diluted about how bright he actually is.”
In this latest movie, as Geoffrey explained, “I sort of became like a politician. I was the guy getting the global pirate G20 meeting. And that was fun to play, because he he’s a control freak and he loves thinking he’s the most powerful person on the planet. And then I worked for the king. I liked that in Pirates 4. And I really insisted that I have a very elaborate wig and lovely makeup and a beauty spot.
“The teeth were always the same. And then, unfortunately, when he put on the courtly makeup with his crusty skin, he didn’t look any prettier. So that sort of shift has always been there. And I did it love it when I read the fifth script that he had become so wealthy. And I like that it brought out the vulgarity. Barbossa isn’t somebody with any sense of personal style whatsoever, you know.”
“And Penny Rose offered me a costume, and I said this is great. He wouldn’t care if he mixed checks with stripes. And what else does he spend his money on, you know. I love the fact that the wooden leg is a great way to show how ridiculously wealthy he is. It’s a bit like Saddam Hussein having gold everywhere on the bathroom taps and probably shaped like fish or something, you know. Ridiculous. And then the extra bit where they brought in a sort of deep secret from even before the first film started that there was something that Jack and Barbossa knew about.
“And I don’t know. I probably needed to go through therapy to un-repress that memory but he had obviously blocked it out, but I looked back at all the other films and just looked at it in the light of if that secret had been there, it’ll all still make sense. The obsession for the grandeur of his own persona is someone masking this guilty secret that he has.”
Question: You and Johnny have a great back and forth. Was that natural, or did you have to work on that?
Geoffrey Rush answered, “The scripts are always pretty good. We’ve sort of decided now that the Black Pearl is our mutual girlfriend and we both want her. Then chances are that Jack Sparrow will end up with the ship, but that sense of harmony’s never always gonna stay there.”
Question: Did you actually have to walk with the peg leg on?
Geoffrey responded, “No. I think back in the days when Robert Newton played Long John Silver I think he did with the leg strapped up, which would have been painful. So, I went down that path and talked to a prosthetician who specializes with amputees. And the engineering they do now — if you see people that have a leg from the knee down, it’s molded beautifully in titanium or whatever. It’s amazing engineering. But he said it takes these people maybe 12 to 18 months to really get all their musculature and their core muscles to kind of realign and to train it to be a good part of you. And when I had it strapped up, I couldn’t stand up. I mean it was just impossible. And I said you know what? I’ll act the leg. Because I wore a blue screen stocking that I made sure that we made the heel of it like the point that it would be. And I just got good at having — that leg had no life in it.”
Question: What was it like acting with a monkey?”
Geoffrey explained, “The monkey’s trained to really have no relationship with me — because if it did it would just be looking for things to eat in my wig. They’re very loyal to their owner if trained correctly. So, the monkey is completely in the hands of the trainer. And the trainers are brilliant. They’re able to sort of throw in all the instructions in and around the dialogue.
“I remember on the first film we’d shot the first meeting with Elizabeth Swann and I’d come down with the monkey on my shoulder, and we had a big dialogue between us. And suddenly when they came in for the close shots, there was this massive, deep, black-skinned guy called Isaac Singleton Junior. He was this gentle giant but from somewhere like Louisiana I think, and he hadn’t been there in the earlier shots. And the monkey was kinda going I don’t like this person and, you know, and I thought, oh, what are we going to do, ’cause we’ve shot some of the dialogue and close-ups and everything.
“And the trainer said I think it’s okay. She had this idea of just squirting a water pistol onto Tara’s chest. She had a little vest and everything. So everything looks like she’s looking at Elizabeth Swann, listening to the dialogue.” Of course, sometimes that little water pistol missed the mark and hit Geoffrey instead of the monkey, which was “hilarious.”
He then went on to tell the story of seeing one of the monkeys after about 5 years (between films). He was worried that the monkey wouldn’t remember him after so long, but amazingly, the monkey saw him from across the room and immediately recognized his former pal. “I said to Martin, would he remember me over five years? He said, yeah, he’d remember the smell of your ear wax.”
I could have listed to Geoffrey all day! He is a natural story-teller! As we took our group shot with him at the end of the interview, he joked that maybe he could come back in a future film with 25 mommy blogger wives! He left us by stating that this was the most fun he’d had on the entire trip!
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