While Geoffrey Rush has a long list of film credits behind him, it’s hard for me to look at him and not think of Captain Barbossa. Over the past decade, he has embodied the character perfectly each time he takes up the role. And in the latest installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, we see a completely different side of Barbossa. Hi character may have started out as the bad guy, but he ends up being a character that we love. From flamboyant, to creepy – Barbossa is a character that you love love to hate.
We were able to sit down with Geoffrey Rush to ask him about returning as this iconic character in the latest film. And we could have listened to him talk for hours about the role, his life what he liked about being part of the team.
***Parts of the interview have been removed to prevent spoilers, but will be added after the movie hits theaters!***
What is it like playing Barbossa? How did you create the character we see on the screen?
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.”
Which, to me that was the key line, I thought, well, 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, which I think I then enjoyed having all my senses back for about 30 seconds. Then I got shot.
Did you have a specific goal when you created Barbossa? He seems a bit over the top:
There is a sort or poignant but rather ridiculous comic madman [in Barbossa], and I thought that was fun. Johnny was the king of the independent films here, 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 before. And he got nominated for a Best Actor, which is just fantastic, you know. These actual 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, “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 British rock stars of the ‘60s because the pirates always had sort of clear-cut identities. 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. So, with Barbossa I wanna make him very arrogant and very pompous and very superior and maybe a bit slightly self-diluted about how bright he actually is. Penny Rose, the Costume Designer, gave me this great kind of flamboyant outfit – I was a bit more like a glam rock star coming back.
Barbossa made a pretty miraculous return in the second film – how did that happen?
Gore [Verbinski] phoned me up and said,”we’re gonna go to Asia”. And I said, “well, that’s great. You’ll all have a marvelous time. It was really fun being in the first film.”
He said, “We’ll go to Asia. We’re gonna have a new sort of Asian villain that Chow Yun-fat played. But he said you’re gonna come back as a very secret surprise right in the end of the second film.”
I said, “oh, right. How – I’m dead.”
He said Tia Dalma needs you to get all the global pirates together to break the curse. It’ll become a big part of the story. So, 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’s a control freak and he loves thinking he’s the most powerful person on the planet.
What about your look for Barbossa? Is there anything special you asked for?
In Pirates 4, I really insist 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 love it when I read the fifth script that he had become so wealthy, because he’s got Black Beard’s magic, that is the most powerful thing on the planet. 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 strikes. And what else does he spent his money on? I love the fact that the wooden legis 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.
You have a big moment in the film – Do you think that changed Barbossa throughout the series?
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. I just like the way thematically in the whole film.
What do you think of the introduction of Carina Smyth?
Kaya is such a gorgeous actress, and she’s got a very feisty, natural funky quality. My daughter worked on the film in the costume department, and they’re the same age. And I don’t know if Skin’s shown here in the states. It was very popular teenage series in the UK, and Kaya played one of the main characters in that. And I love the fact that she’s, you know, extoled as being this really brilliant, female astronomer.
And the fact that she, you know, for all of her rationale, empirical, scientific aspiration, she still has to deal with the fact that somebody like Salazar existed as well, who’s supernatural. You know, that’s always been a part of the series.
You and Johnny have a great back and forth. Was that natural, or did you have to work on that?
We always — you know, 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, you know. Then chances are that Jack Sparrow will end up with the ship, which he does in his – but that sense of harmony’s never always gonna stay there I think if there is any kind of sequel. I don’t know. I’m dead. Again.
So you’re not gonna come back? A miraculous return?
Well, I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind coming back as a ghost.
Like Hamlet’s father. You know, I’ll come back and just annoy Jack Sparrow with a lot of advice from the other side. I don’t know. They haven’t talked about that, but I think the film might be very successful.
Did you actually have to learn how to walk with a peg leg? Or what did you do to prepare to work with it?
I think back in the days when Robert Newton played Long John Silver I think he did with the leg strapped up which would’ve been painful. So, I went down that path and talked to a prosthetician who specializes with amputees. 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. And I saw something the other day with — they’ve now got a machine where the feet kind of ripples like water. 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.” 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.
There were shocking bits. Do you remember in the fourth film Jack and I are both tied up in trees and you think this is one of the situations where Jack Sparrow he will not or cannot get out of this scenario.They’re surrounded by Spanish guards and everything that — and I suggested the idea that I said, well, we’ll trapped. We’ll just wait and see what I happens. And I said to them can I unscrew the leg and take it off. And I had rum inside and was using it, which was kind of nice. At first I said it maybe I’ll take it off and it’ll sort of spring a weapon or something like that, but rum seemed good. But they made up the end of my knee to look like kind of pulpy as though — like a wound that had never really — it should be pretty ugly. They would’ve sawn it off.
Well, he actually took his own leg off to escape from Black Beard’s ship.So, I quite like that there was that ruthlessness that he would damage himself to stay alive.
Can you tell us about working with the monkey? He’s an important part of Barbossa’s character throughout the series.
The monkey’s great. 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. You know what I mean. And they’re very loyal to their owner if trained correctly. So, I pulled a sword or somebody yelled fire or whatever, the monkey would just go [away]. 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 shops, the boson 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”, we shot some of the dialogue and close-ups and everything.
And the trainer said I think it’s okay. Tara was the name of the first monkey. She priced herself out of the film for the second film. [The trainer] had this idea of just squirting a water pistol onto Tara’s chest. She had a little vest and everything.
Everything looks like she’s looking at Elizabeth Swann – I’d say to Keira don’t say any of your lines. I know what I’m questioning. We’ll make sure we get my side of the shot. And then when we’re shooting over the shoulder, we don’t need the monkey over there. And Ursula’s sort of down on the ground going “Tara, Tara, Tara.” It was hilarious. It was hilarious. And I thought we’re gonna have to dub all of that scene, but we got it done in and around – it’s very funny. There was one scene where we’re going into the scene and Ursula — she was quite an attractive blonde woman was down lying on the floor between my legs in the boat sending all of these commands out to Tara. But anyway, Tara got the flick. And then Pablo and Chiquita came.
So it is Pablo and Chiquita we see in the newer films?
Chiquita was slightly smaller and she was better for fitting under the hat and Pablo was slightly bigger. And he was supposed to do all the stunt work, you see. There was one scene where the monkey had to swim from one boat to the other, and Pablo got on the edge of the boat and just froze and thought, you know, there’s no way I’m doing this. So, you know, Chiquita got up like “I’ll do it”. No, she jumped in and swam. They were a good team. But was lovely was that they would always be eating — they’re getting peanut rewards or little bits of dried banana and stuff like that.
And I used to love it. It was very comforting, ’cause I’d feel them on my shoulder going, eee eee eee eee eee eee ehuh-eee eee. You know, making all those little noises. And you just get very warm soft, aromatic, peanut breath. So, every time I had the monkey in the scene there was a real kind of, you know, connection. So anyway, when we shot on the Gulf Coast on the last one, I was in having a costume fitting. And they said, oh, Pablo’s having his costume fitting, ’cause they were the little pants and everything and this little frilly shirt.
I thought he won’t [remember me] this has been five years or something. And he looked across the room at me and [recognized me]. And it was so sweet. And it was so sweet and I went — I said to Martin, what did — you know, it looked like he was going, “Geoff, it’s been five years. We’re baaaack.” This is greeeat. And doing all this sort of stuff. And I said to Martin, would he remember me over five years? He said, “yeah, he’d remember the smell of your ear wax.” How affectionate is that?
We hear you got a special gift from Pablo as well?
He gave me a wrap gift — he came down to me at the end. He’s always on a little lead and everything. He gave me a painting that he did. It’s really amazing. And it’s framed. And it’s an ochre background and it’s got these mad, green spreads – I call it abstract simian expressionism. And then there’s some yellow over on this side. It’s really quite artistic. I don’t know what that is. That could’ve been the contents of the diaper that he wears. There’s a lot of negative space in the -I was talking about it like it was a great painting. And then I go, oh, sorry, it’s the wrong way. Then over on the side on the mount, there’s a little paw print – Signed. It’s an original by Pablo.
Very, very sweet.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Trailer
About Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales:
Johnny Depp returns to the big screen as the iconic, swashbuckling anti-hero Jack Sparrow in the all-new “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” The rip-roaring adventure finds down-on-his-luck Captain Jack feeling the winds of ill-fortune blowing strongly his way when deadly ghost sailors, led by the terrifying Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), escape from the Devil’s Triangle bent on killing every pirate at sea—notably Jack. Jack’s only hope of survival lies in the legendary Trident of Poseidon, but to find it he must forge an uneasy alliance with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario), a brilliant and beautiful astronomer, and Henry (Brenton Thwaites), a headstrong young sailor in the Royal Navy. At the helm of the Dying Gull, his pitifully small and shabby ship, Captain Jack seeks not only to reverse his recent spate of ill fortune, but to save his very life from the most formidable and malicious foe he has ever faced.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” also stars Kevin R. McNally as Joshamee Gibbs, Golshifteh Farahani as the sea-witch Shansa, David Wenham as Scarfield, Stephen Graham as Scrum, and Geoffrey Rush as Captain Hector Barbossa.
Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg are directing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” with Jerry Bruckheimer producing. The executive producers are Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Joe Caracciolo, Jr., Terry Rossio and Brigham Taylor. The story is by Jeff Nathanson and Terry Rossio, and Jeff Nathanson wrote the screenplay. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” drops anchor in U.S. theaters on May 26, 2017.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES opens in theaters May 26th, 2017 in 3D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D! Like PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES on Facebook and follow Walt Disney Studios on Instagram and Twitter