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Geoffrey Rush isn't rushing to exit Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise

Geoffrey Rush isn't rushing to exit Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise

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On the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie, Captain Barbossa was an out-and-out villain. "Spat out from the mouth of Hell," is how one character describes Hector before he  makes his grand entrance in "The Curse of the Black Pearl."

But to hear Geoffrey Rush describe the character he has now portrayed in four installments of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film series, it's kind of hard not to feel sorry for the "Black Pearl" version of Barbossa.

"I mean, he finally lifts the curse. And then - within three seconds - Hector gets a bullet through the heart," Rush said. "Which is kind of a tough break for him."

" I feel ... cold." Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But given that "The Curse of the Black Pearl" was such a huge hit during the Summer of 2003, Geoffrey wasn't all that surprised to learn that Walt Disney Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer Films were planning on making more "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. After all, that's the way things work in Hollywood these days. Box office success = sequels. But then came the call from "Black Pearl" director Gore Verbinski.

"So Gore phoned me up and said 'We are moving on to doing Parts 2 & 3. We're going to shoot them together.' And I said "Well, I hope you guys have a wonderful time.' And he said 'No, no. We're bringing Barbossa back. Partly voodoo magic, partly movie magic,' " Rush continued.

Which isn't to say that Geoffrey would be playing the exact same version of Barbossa when he signed on to do those "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequels, 2006's "Dead Man's Chest" and 2007's "At World's End."

Tia Dalma reminds Barbossa of the terms of their deal. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"Ted (Elliott) and Terry (Rossio) came up with this really clever idea that - because Tia Dalma had brought Hector back from the dead - he was now indebted to her. And in order to repay that debt, Barbossa had to gather the nine pirate lords and then convince them to release Calypso," Rush explained. "So particularly in 'Pirates 3,' my character became more of the politician. The diplomat who put together the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting."

But now that Barbossa was no longer the villain of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise ... Well, that meant inventing additional characters who could then make Captain Jack Sparrow's life miserable.

 "So they then brought Cutler Beckett, who's the corporate villain of the East Indian Trading Company and Davy Jones. And they added a sea monster plus expanded the whole world of the films to include Singapore and Asia," Rush said. "That was such a smart move on Ted & Terry's part. Exploring the mythology of pirate folklore. Rather than just sticking with the swashbuckling, drinking-rum-on-the-high seas end of the spectrum."

"So tell me. What's become of my ship?" Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All right reserved

Which was why - when Geoffrey got the script last year for "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" - he was pleased to see that the screenwriters had not only continued to grow their pirate world but had also extended Hector's journey.

"As 'On Stranger Tides' is getting underway, Barbossa is not getting any younger. He's now got a leg missing. He's really up against it. Which is why - in order to put together the best possible retirement package - he has become a privateer," Rush said. "Which - historically - is kind of true. By 40, 50 years into the golden age of piracy, the various crowned heads of Europe were starting to look around, wondering who were the go-to guys. The pirates who can bring in the booty which we can then take, rather than having them taking it from us."

And while some might find it peculiar that this longtime cutthroat would be now be so desperate to be accepted into high society, Geoffrey disagrees. He thinks that it's entirely consistent with the way that Hector was been portrayed in the "Pirates" movie series.


"I understand everything ... except the wig." Photo by Peter Mountain. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"I've always felt that, even from the very first film, that Barbossa has had delusions of grandeur. I mean, just look at this character's costume. His pirate uniform was that of a gentleman from 50 years before. I had the King Charles the Second look with the big hat and frock coat," Rush laughed. "Barbossa's vain and arrogant and pompous enough to think that he actually does belong in the court. Which - as an actor - makes this character an awful lot of fun to play."

Mind you, Geoffrey is quick to credit Johnny Depp with making sure that Barbossa was still in the mix when it came time to shoot "On Stranger Tides."

"Johnny is supposedly the one - while they were developing for the script for this sequel - who insisted that Barbossa play a big part in 'On Stranger Tides' proceedings," Rush explained. "He loves those scenes where Barbossa and Sparrow are going back and forth, bickering like an old married couple. And I have to admit that I find those scenes fun to play too."

Hector and Jack share a snort from Barbossa's secret stash of rum. Photo by
Peter Mountain. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But - then again - in "Pirates 4," Geoffrey had an additional acting challenge. Given that Barbossa - in an off-screen encounter with Blackbeard - had (SPOILER AHEAD) lost a leg battling with this brutal buccaneer.

"Given that was going to obviously change the way that I portrayed this character, I initially explored the idea of strapping my real leg up out of sight so that I could then play Barbossa while wearing an actual wooden leg. And I worked with a professional prosthetic guy, a medical man in Australia. And he took casts and did all that. I was then hoping that we'd be able to wrap that bit of leg & my ankle and then hide it under my frock coat. Because that's how - I think - Robert Newton (Editor's note: the actor who played Long John Silver in Disney's 1950 live-action version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island") did it," Rush continued.

But even as Hector's real wooden leg was being prepared, that prosthetic guy had some bad news for Geoffrey.

Check out the blue stocking that Geoffrey Rush wore in place of an actual pegleg.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"He told me "You know, it takes contemporary amputees about 18 months to 2 years to retrain their minds to find balance and equilibrium. Because you're not standing. You've got a ghost leg," Rush stated.  "So I went to Rob Marshall & Penny Rose, the costume designer, and said 'I'll act the leg.' And everyone was in agreement. They said 'We'll give you a blue stocking to wear on that leg which the FX guys can then remove later in post-production."

Which sounds easy. But it really wasn't. Given that -- at the end of every shot -- the tech guys then had to come in and photograph Geoffrey's leg. So that - when it came to do all of the post-production work on "On Stranger Tides" - the FX guys would be able to make the CG version of Barbossa's leg match the lighting of that scene in the movie.

Which isn't to say that Rush had a particularly miserable time while making "Pirates 4." After all, how often does an actor get paid to spend time in Hawaii?

Johnny Depp chats with (left to right) director Rob Marshall, screenwriter Terry Rossio
and Kevin R. McNally, who portrays Joshamee Gibbs, on the Ke’e Beach location in
Kauai. Photoby Peter Mountain. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

"We started in Kauai for about six weeks, then about a month in Oahu. We were actually on the beach where they shot 'From Here to Eternity.' Except all I did in that scene was kick a dead mermaid," Rush laughed.

Speaking of the mermaids, Geoffrey was thrilled with the way that those characters turned out in "On Stranger Tides."

"Look, I know that CG is part & parcel of that whole film making process, especially with these big commercial summer release films. But sometimes when filmmakers use too much CG, it then give their movies a slightly synthetic look," Rush explained. "But the mermaids that Rob & Jerry came up with for 'On Stranger Tides,' I totally believed in them. To me, they were so painterly. Like grand old master paintings of sirens on rocks and things. Really quite beautiful. And feral."

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now where this gets interesting was - prior to last Tuesday's night's press screening - Rush hadn't actually seen much footage from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

"You have to remember that the 'Pirates 4' characters are on three different boats. The Spanish and the Queen Anne's Revenge and there there's the Providence all heading towards the Fountain of Youth," Geoffrey explained. "So when I saw the press screening on Tuesday night at the El Capitan, I was absolutely enthralled to see what everybody else was doing when I had my days off."

So with "On Stranger Tides" ready to sail into theaters and "Pirates 5" looming on the horizon (Terry Rossio reportedly delivered a preliminary first draft of that film's screenplay to Jerry Bruckheimer earlier this month), I asked Mr. Rush if he hoped to play Barbossa again in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series.

Geoffrey Rush is clearly still a big "Pirates of the Caribbean" fan. Here he is, the morning
after the "On Stranger Tides" world premiere being backdoored onto the Disneyland
version of this classic theme park attraction. Photo by Angela Ragno

"If they keep shapeshifting this character, absolutely." Geoffrey concluded. "In fact, given the way things leave off in 'Pirates 4,' maybe the story will now come full circle and I'll get to play a villain again. Who knows? All I know is that - blue stocking and all -- the character of Barbossa is still great fun to play."

Which is why Geoffrey Rush isn't rushing to exit Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean" film franchise.

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  • I would LOVE to see Barbossa come back, villan or not! He and Jack are amazing together and you just can't shove Barbossa away! It won't work! You have to keep him and tell us what happens!!!

  • I think Pirates of the Caribbean 5 would be empty without Barbossa. To leave Barbossa out of the films would be like leaving Moe or Larry out of the Three Stooges. The movies are set up in such away, that you need the blending of certain consistent characters for it to be an enjoyable film. Films with such examples are A Team, Magnum P.I., The Mummy 1, The Mummy 2 Oceans 11, 12, 13, Star Wars and so. These films all use the blending of consistent characters. Movies that focus on only one individual can become boring real fast, but a film that mixes personalities and characters will never get boring. Johnny Depp is a good actor and I like his films, but Pirates of the Caribbean 5 would not be worth it without Rush as Barbossa.

  • i love barbossa ecpically in the fourth one because he got all classy and was pretending to be on the rolay leagues side just to kill blackbeard

  • Barbossa is so totally cool. I love all the pirates, but Barbossa is amazing. I can't wait for POTC 5. Keep it up Geoffrey, you are awesome as Barbossa!

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