Geoffrey Rush
(© Tristan Fuge)
Geoffrey Rush
(© Tristan Fuge)
In Rob Marshall's sure-to-be blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which opens this week, Oscar and Tony Award winner Geoffrey Rush once again transforms himself into the ruthless pirate Barbossa -- who this time teams with Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter (Penelope Cruz) are after it as well.

The cat-and-mouse game between Barbossa and Jack is one of the most engaging and entertaining aspects of the franchise, and Rush says those scenes are as fun to film as they are to watch. "The word 'cut' doesn't mean a thing to Johnny Depp," explains Rush. "Sometimes out of that process comes gem moments. He brings a very playful, improvisational quality. You're never quite sure what might happen in the scene."

Although Rush and his cohorts do typical pirate behavior like swashbuckling, sword fighting, and the donning of a peg-leg, Rush says the filmmakers encouraged the actors to steer clear of expectations in creating their roles. "There was a memo on the first film that no one should wear an eye patch and go "arggh" because that would be a cliché," he notes.

Moreover, it's the evolution of Barbossa's seemingly cartoonish character that keeps the actor coming back for sequel after sequel. "He was the villain, a ruthless old sea-dog," he says. "He evolved into a politician and now they turned him into a privateer. Barbossa is a survivor and if he needs to shape shift for his own self-serving purposes he will do that."

One could almost consider Rush a shape-shifter himself, considering the variety of roles in his repertoire. He received a 2011 Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his work as speech therapist Lionel Logue for The King's Speech -- a film he helped produce and which won Best Picture.

He's also earned a 2011 Drama Desk Award nomination for his starring role in Diary of a Madman, which played earlier this year at BAM; voices the alien Tomar-Re in this summer's much anticipated Green Lantern movie; and in November, he returns to the stage playing the role of Lady Bracknell in Melbourne Theatre Company's production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

"It has been a particularly fruitful period for me in the past two years," he says. "And the level of diversity in my work is very rewarding."