Interview and Review: Geoffrey Rush Talks on THE EYE OF THE STORM

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The Eye Of The Storm, from Sycamore Entertainment, brings to the screen a story that deals with the complexities of death as seen through the eyes of those who wish for it most.

Directed by Fred Schepisi, The Eye Of The Storm, the adaptation of Patrick White's Nobel Prize winning novel, stars Charlotte Rampling as the dying and still formidable, Elizabeth Hunter with  Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis as her children. Produced by Antony Waddington, The Eye Of The Storm also stars Alexandra Schepisi, Colin Friels, Helen Morse, John Gaden,  Maria Theodororakis and Robyn Nevin.

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There is a mundane depiction in The Eye Of The Storm as life goes on, even as death waits and rests at the door allowing for Charlotte Rampling/Elizabeth Hunter to have one last fling as the overwhelming memories of the days, times, seasons and events that span her eighty odd years, come down to a singular summer punctuated by love, lust, hurt, anger and a storm of equal strength.

Ms. Rampling gives a convincing performance as an elderly woman, dying, suffering bouts of dementia as well as portraying a vibrant beauty in flashback scenes.  

Her knighted son, Sir Basil, a successful theater actor, played to perfection by the incomparable Geoffrey Rush, is unable to cope with home life and his horrible feelings of wishing his mother would just die instead of dragging it out and finds escape through excess. His sister, Dorothy de Lascabanes, personified by the extraordinary Judy Davis, the divorced pauper princess, pacing, waiting and hating herself for wanting her mother's death, torn between what ones is supposed to feel and what one does feel. Ms. Davis also plays a reticent youthful beauty in the flashbacks.

The depth of talent from the cast as all, Charlotte Rampling, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis personify and develop characters that are complex, multi-dimensional, very well done and truly allowed the audience to clearly see how the adult children cushion the emotional chalLenges of returning to their childhood home and the different dynamics between mothers and daughters and mothers and sons.

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Having the opportunity to speak with Geoffrey Rush, who has won almost every award an actor can win, in a telephone interview during the New York Press Day for The Eye Of The Storm, I found him fascinating, intellectually brilliant, comfortable and simply  interesting. The following is an excerpt of our interview.

Janet Walker: How's the press day going?

Geoffrey Rush: It's been good; it's been very interesting to be in New York with this film because we premiered it in Australia, about this time last year at the Melbourne Film Festival and we took it to Toronto to the film festival last year and now finally it's getting an airing in New York and we're very excited by it and thrilled by the sort of, you know, it's a different sort of cultural response here. I think in Australia Patrick White is sadly or slightly forgotten, and is one of our great novelists. The heavy hitting Swedes gave him the Nobel Laureate in Literature, '73, I think, so it's been very interesting to hear a different audience response here.

I think the people in North American have not been carrying the heavy literary baggage so much and they kind of get more of the humor of the piece in the first kind of response that seems noticeably different. Because Patrick has a fairly sardonic slightly acerbic arch sense of humor and that seems to have played through very strongly without anyone feeling as if they have to carry all the literary value behind it because it's a movie now and not a book.

On Character Development . . .

JW: In The Eye Of The Storm you play Basil Hunter, besides the character being knighted, I found him, someone unable to cope with home life and experiencing unspoken but clearly horrible feelings of wishing your mother would just die instead of dragging it out.

GR: Laughing - Yes.

JW: Can talk a bit about your process and the choices you made to create those layers?

GR: Well I suppose initially, it was, I started myself as a professional actor in 1971 in Australia. That was a period as was happening globally but quite specifically to Australia there was an enormous palpable feeling of change going on in the country. We had a conservative government in power for 23 years, since 1949, most of that being under one prime ministership, and with a kind of political and counter cultural upheaval that was going on in the society you could feel that things were shifting.

There was fading Anglo-oriented aristocracy that was reaching the end of its days. So I was looking at, in those days most Australia actors who were of Basil's age at that time, in the 40's and 50's, they would have all made the pilgrimage to England, their Mother country and the so called Mecca of the English speaking arts world.

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And I worked as a young actor, in my initial years, with a lot of actors in their 50's and 60's, who had made that sort of pilgrimage, so I was probably drawing more on those  kinds of references as well as Patrick as a novelist, besides the compact nature of the narrative of the screenplay it was great having this bible you could dip into, which is the novel, because part of Patrick's novelistic technique is interior monologues, you're inside the heads of the character, in very minute moments over pages and pages of prose so being able to dip into those kinds of inner thoughts was also very useful to flesh out the storyline. 

On Acting. . .

JW: You've been quoted as saying "Occasionally you need to jump off a cliff and do things you know are not immediately within your grasp." As an actor how important is it for you to leave your comfort zone and I suppose of all the roles you played which would be the one that you knew was not within your grasp?

GR: Um . . .well theatrically speaking, for me it was in the early 90's. I have an ongoing long term theatrical association with a director called Neil Armfield, we've probably done seventeen to eighteen pieces of theater together over the last twenty or thirty years and most of the repertoire I had done in the early part of my theatrical career was from a comic repertoire and he offered me, the opportunity to play Astrov in Uncle Vanya. I sort of said, 'Wow, I don't know, where are the laughs?' And he said, 'oh there be laughs in there.  Chekov has a curios type of dimension to it.'

So that was case in point where I knew it was good for me to kind of move outside familiar parameters.

And the second time was probably after SHINE. I wasn't sure where my career direction was heading this could have been a one off film and I could have gone back to working in the theater.  But then this wonderful Danish director, Bille August offered me to play Javert in Les Misérables and I met with him and said, 'I've never played a cop on stage or in a film and this is before SHINE had been released publically and he was very adamant that he wanted me to take the role and I thought this is probably a very good time to, sort of, throw caution to the wind.

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And it's good to be up fronted sometimes I think it ups the ante. When you're doing The Eye of The Storm , the mystique and mythology in Australia is Patrick White's novels are un-filmable is the way people probably say Ulysses is un-filmable or even PIRATES OF THE CARRIBBEAN people were saying Pirate films were not successful since 1951 sometimes it's good to have that carrot dangling in front of you that says where did people go wrong or how could we bring this into a fresh kind of imaginative life.


JW: You're well known and have crossed generational lines with your portrayal of Captain Barbossa, even nominated for an early 2004 for the MTV award. Will we see another Captain Barbossa anytime soon and has anyone been in contact with you about another Pirates film or do you just wait for the script?

GR: The last I heard was that was definitely a script in development. They take their time very carefully because huge forces have to be amassed, huge amounts of money has to be put into it, just at the starting gate so they want to make sure, I think the key creative team, particularly the writers, and Jerry Bruckheimer as producer, want to make sure they got something that's if not bigger and better, something that's different and more progressive than the time before with room to explore the characters in many more situations. Just recently, I gather a script has been submitted and is undergoing that fine tuning process. 

The Eye Of The Storm is currently playing in New York and Los Angeles.  Check your local listings.

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