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Posts tagged ‘David Helfgott’

Geoffrey Rush’s Master Class @ the DGA in NYC

I was absolutely delighted to be invited to attend a very special evening with  Academy Award Nominee Geoffrey Rush this past week.

It was held at the DGA theater and it was PACKED!  The lines were around the block and I think they turned over 300 people away! I didn’t know Geoffrey Rush was so popular.

This event was made even more exciting because  hours before in Blighty, Geoffrey Rush had just beaten Christian Bale to win the BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actor for “The King’s Speech.” And here he was spending the night talking Acting with us. That’s Acting with a very Capital A.

 Taking a break on his off night from his play “Diary of a Madman” which is now playing at BAM, Rush held the crowd in the absolute palm of his hand for nearly two hours as he proved himself a master speaker on the Art of Acting as well as a Master Actor himself. It was a Master Class indeed.

Rush’s biggest obstacle to winning his second Oscar this year for “The King’s Speech” for Best Supporting Actor is his own previous Oscar win for playing Australian pianist David Helfgott in “Shine.” 

Another obstacle is the immensely popular and impressive performance of Christian Bale, also nominated in the same category for “The Fighter.”

Ah! But Geoffrey has the best film of the year “The King’s Speech” as the wind billowing beneath his sails, blowing him steadily towards Oscar for the Second Time. He also has the Oscar Legend himself, Harvey Weinstein tirelessly trying to help him bring home the gold. Rush has had four Oscar nominations including this one and has the unique honor of being of the few, the very few to have won an Oscar, an Emmy AND a Tony!

If Rush WERE to win a Second Oscar it would be the first time in Oscar history that an Australian actor won a second Oscar, both times playing Australians. And Geoffrey Rush is very, very proud of this.

Geoffrey Rush is nothing if not a national spokesperson for the Australian acting community. He makes a point at the beginning of the evening that he was the first Australian to ever win an Oscar. And that Cate, Nicole and Russell Crowe were all following in his footsteps, and he admitted to being hurt when the press neglects to mention this fact, which to him is a matter of great personal, as well as national, pride.

“The King’s Speech” continues that strain of nationalism, by finding Rush once again playing an Australian, a historical figure that actually did exist~ Lionel Logue, who, it can be said, may have single-handedly saved the monarchy.

Logue, a rather controversial and at the same time little known speech therapist, was sought out by the Duchess of York, superbly embodied by Helena Bonham Carter, in the multi-Oscar nominated film, which has made over $100 million at the box-office, and is expected to sweep the Oscars a week from tomorrow on Sunday, Feb.27.

“The King’s Speech” has cast a very bright light on what was heretofore a deep, dark Royal secret that the eventual King George VI needed the help, the almost constant help of this Australian speech therapist to get over his crippling stammer and effectively lead his country and the free world during World War II.

It’s an heartfelt, moving story, magnificently told and Rush is as unforgettable as Lionel Logue as Colin Firth is as the stuttering King. It’s an acting feast for the ages to see these two great actors go toe to toe in a stunning double tour-de-force.

And Rush is very proud of this film and here he was on his off night from “Diary of a Madman” doing his best to KEEP “The King’s Speech” front and center in every actor in New York’s mind. Also, this great film would not have existed without him. He is also the executive producer.

How was he doing this? Well, this was an absolute joy to him. And his zeal for his country and its’ artists was as great as his love of his art. The event was co-sponsored by the Actor’s Studio, a place where there are many Academy voters concentrated and also many acting students from Pace University in Lower Manhattan, with which the Studio is affiliated. And they were there in force.

It was a splendid evening which began with Rush getting a standing ovation for just mounting the stage from the audience. Rush is currently sporting a shaved-bald head for “Mad Man” and he was wearing what looked like a golfing cap.

Geoffrey Rush is very much a man of the people and he gave fully of himself in this overwhelming two-hour event  celebrating his long career in films.

He started by pointing out that he had nearly 20 years or more as an Australian stage actor under his belt before he got his “big break” in “Shine” in 1996 at age 46. “Shine” catapulted him an unknown Australian character actor to international stardom and a Best Actor Oscar. And a film career that has never stopped and a stage career that he continues because he loves acting in front of a live audience.

He kept emphasizing how improbable his road to film stardom was and how even now he is humbled and more or less astounded by the staggering amount and the wide variety of films he has made since “Shine.”

Rush just received the Montecito Award at the Santa Barbara film festival a few weeks back, and the stunning montage of clips that began the evening were being shown in New York, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The festival was also responsible for assembling the wide variety of clips from Rush’s staggering number of films, many of which were new to me.

Rush kept referring to this series of clips, as did the moderater from the New York Daily News. And  one of the reasons for his incredible sang froid and energy propelling the evening forward was that basically he was re-enacting what was pretty much the same questions and anecdotes that he had recounted at Santa Barbara, but to his New York audience it was all incredible acting catnip. They ate him up with a spoon and applauded and laughed  and cheered rather constantly.

It was QUITE a celebration! And the clips of the many, many films he has done showed his incredible range very, very completely. I was actually stunned by much of the footage, a lot of it new to me and never once did Rush seem to duplicate a performance or repeat himself. I could have listened to him all night. He is an indelible original and a great, great actor.

When they finally got around to “The King’s Speech,” which ended the evening, Rush was even more passionate and eloquent than he had been all throughout this great presentation.

What had working with Colin Firth in his now legendary performance of the challenged King taught him? Rush was asked.

And he said, “The Silences. His greatest acting was in the silences as he struggled to get out whatever words he was trying to say.”

“I knew that acting was all about listening,” Rush said, “but he made me REALLY listen. I went from acting-listening, to REALLY listening. That’s why the dynamic is so great between us.”

And those painful silences as Firth struggles heartbreakingly to speak even the simplest sentences, took my breath away once again when I saw “The King’s Speech” again yesterday for the second time, but this time with a real honest-to-goodness audience of paying customers in New York. And they were as spell-bound as I was. You could hear a pin drop. And they, just an average New York movie-going audience applauded at the end. This was in a MULTI-PLEX! This NEVER happens! I think the Academy is going to throw every award its got at “The King’s Speech.”

But I digress…

Back to Colin Firth…and his performance of a life-time.

Firth made them listen the way he made Rush listen. I’ll never forget it. I’m getting chills just thinking about the magnificence of Firth and Rush’s and also Bonham Carter’s and director Tom Hooper’s great cinematic achievement.

It’s a masterpiece of a film and Geoffrey Rush is a Master Actor. How lucky we all were to be present at this great historic event. Who knows? There may have even been enough Academy voters present to tip the scales in this tightest of Oscar races between Rush and Bale.

Gentlemen, the envelope, please!

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