The Cast And Their Characters
By all historical accounts, the real Marquis de Sade was an astonishingly complex and contradictory person — at once brilliant and blasphemous, at times loving and seemingly sensitive, at others filled with evil impulses and raging egoism. To play such an inimitable character, Philip Kaufman wanted an actor who could at once scare,
shock and move the audience. He found his Sade in Geoffrey Rush, who garnered international acclaim and an Academy Award® for the almost polar opposite role of stricken pianist David Helfglott in "Shine."
Says Doug Wright: "I though Geoffrey Rush was an incredibly inspired choice because the Marquis was such a theatrical character and Geoffrey is a man of the theater. Most of all it gives us a chance to see him at every extreme, from the caustically amusing to the deeply touching, to the truly diabolical."
For Philip Kaufman, it was Rush's ease at slipping into the provocative skin of the Marquis de Sade that clinched his utter faith in the performance. "He was able to literally strip the character naked and remain completely natural and at ease. He doesn't let you off the hook ever," notes Kaufman.
Like Kaufman, Rush was drawn by the script's fearless exploration of moral divides. "I saw it as a debate about the forces of repression," says Rush. "You ask yourself is the Marquis de Sade genuinely subversive and seditious or is he challenging deep, mysterious impulses in his readers?"
Rush was also excited by the opportunity to recreate such an imposing and flagrantly unconventional personality. "As a performer, you have to love a character who is all at once extraordinarily vain, arrogant, confrontational, difficult, smart ass, lonely and desperate," notes the actor. "He was a man with a sharp mind in a wildly sexual body. He was full of deep anger and resentment, but it was manifested in this scathing sense of humor."
Rush notes that the Marquis continues to wield a certain amount of creative influence, thus making the character highly relevant to our times. "There continues to be a mystique about Sade," he observes, "and I think people are sort of re-discovering him because he was one of the first people to go where nobody else was willing to go."
To prepare for the role, Rush worked with a psychological adviser who had studied the Marquis' life from childhood on, probing the sources of his unusual predilections. "I began to see that the Marquis needs to gain control of the people in his life, and he attempts to do this whether by wit, by terror or by sexual
outrageousness," comments Rush. "He tries to do it with everyone at Charenton. He wants both Madeleine and Coulmier, he wants both of their bodies, because that's the way he communicates."
Although most of Rush's scenes take place in the confinement of an asylum cell, he found himself able to draw out the always colorful, eventful and erotic world raging inside the Marquis de Sade's mind and soul. "There are scenes when I was able to just let rip," he acknowledges. "The Marquis can be deliciously charming, but when he throws a tantrum, it's more intense than a two year-old in a supermarket!"
Summarizes Julia Chasman: "Geoffrey brings an essential humanity to the role that lets the audience into the heart of a man who otherwise would be considered nothing more than evil. His portrait seduces you into curiosity about the Marquis and then he unleashes his full complexity." Peter Kaufman reaffirms that "Geoffrey Rush was the perfect choice to play the Marquis de Sade. Geoffrey understood not only the Marquis' narcissistic personality, but reveled in the role of a man imprisoned for his ideas. I think that especially in the scene with the Marquis' wife, we see the genius of Geoffrey as the Marquis: he is at once funny, brutal and tragic."
Some of Rush's mos
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