The Marquis de Sade gave
his name to the dictionary definition of sexual perversity. In Qui//s, Oscar-winning actor GEOFFREY RUSH tells Miles Fielder how he gets
off on playing the literary perv as camp romantic hero.
A HISTORIAN WILL tell you that Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade was an aristocrat who surVived the bloody Reign of Terror during the French Revolution only to be locked up by his mother-in-law in a sanatorium for his final decjade, eating himself into obesity before dying in relative peace in 1814.
A literary critic Will tell you the Marquis de Sade was a self-styled agent provocateur whose writing is by turns lewd and crude and portentous and philosophical; many of his books are banned to this day. Australian actor Geoffrey Rush who plays de Sade in the new film Oi/i/ls and who won an Oscar for his performance as pianist DaVId Helfgott in Shine - Will show you the Marquis was a charismatic madman, a seducer of women and men, a champion of liberty and, ultimately, a scapegoat of Napoleon’s State.
Oui/ls ain’t history it’s adapted by Texan writer Doug Wright from his own stage play a it's melodrama bordering on high camp. But in making a romantic hero of de Sade, Rush and his director Philip Kaufman (no stranger to carnal thoughts With preVIous films The Unbearable tightness Of Being and Henry And June) are merely contributing to the myth around this infamous aristocrat whose very name has become the dictionary definition of sexual perverSIty.
’He comes with a pretty shocking tabIOid reputation,’ says Rush in the deep, measured tones of a theatre-trained Aussie actor. ’lt seems as though he goes in and out of fashion every couple of generations. When I was at university in the late 60s/early 70s, he was on unofficial reading lists. He was a counter cultural hero. We didn’t
really take much r‘otice then that he \‘.&S a monarchist, we were just terribly interested that he wrote long, obscene, stoned raves about sexual proc‘livrties '
Rush has had a close encounter With the Marquis before, havmg appeared on stage iri Marat/Sade, playing lvlarat, but how did he go about re-creating the man7 ’lt’s the psychoanalytical profile that's most interesting,’ he says. ’What's the writer really like7 There's so much research you can do, but that's not going to help you discover how to get the character to lie down on a chaise longue or handle a book. The wig helped Out a lot. When I put on these horsehair ac'coutrements it helped clear, in my mind, the idea that he should be bloated For me he looks like a mountain goat,‘ there were horns in the hairpiece. And there was something terribly vain and sensual about the two tails. I cOuld see him delicately perched atop a craggy cliff top, holding himself arrogantly aloft and cutting a certain silhouette.’
Rush also lays de Sade bare When I ask the actor about ’getting his bntches off’ he responds With a laugh: ’You mean was "it" prosthetic?’ Well, ah, erm , ’I didn’t have any qualms,’ he continues. ‘I was naked in Shine. In my first year at university I was seeing films like Women /n love. I think I’ve wrestled that crown from Alan Bates [in that DH. Lawrence adaptation, Bates and Oliver Reed famously grappled naked]. At university everyone would always take their clothes off. If you were doing Euripedes, get your kit off. I would go on stage and say, “This is the point where you are expecting to see nudity”, and I wouch take all my clothes off and walk off the stage. The director of the newly-formed Queensland Theatre Company saw me and cast me; he obwously thought I had a big future ahead of me’ Boom, boom.
He was right; With Oui/ls‘, Rush is in the running for a second Oscar. Bi/arrely, although his resume includes roles in the films Shakespeare /n Love, Elizabeth and Les" Miserab/es‘, this is Rush’s first leading role. ’The Marquis de Sade is probably the closest I’ll ever get to playing a romantic lead,’ he says. And With a mischievous look worthy of the MaquIs himself, adds, ’Hey, I’m on the poster With Kate Winslet.’
Quills opens Fri 2 Feb. See review.
Geoffrey Rush cosies up to Kate Winslet for a quiet night in
We’ve all heard of CASANOVA’S performance in bed, but Fiona Shepherd finds Glasgow’s Suspect Culture asking if his whole life was an act.
'TIS THE SEASON to indulge our voyeuristic fascination with rakes and philanderers. While the Marquis de Sade lives it up lasciviously on screen in QuiI/s, Casanova is taking to the stage in a new production by Suspect Culture. It draws not just on the most famous of the international playboys but on the fictional Don Juan/Don Giovanni legends to create a 21st century fox.
‘lt’s an exciting terrain for us to explore because it’s very theatrical,’ says director Graham Eatough. ’When you look at the historical figure, much of his life was performance. He created this character for himself that he presented in order to seduce women. A lot of the techniques he was using are performance techniques.’
David Greig’s script is set in the present day. The protagonist is a Scottish artist and buyer, curating his final exhibition which he hopes will tell the story of his life and conquests. Gavin Mitchell, himself a former artist, plays this modern Casanova, while Vicky Liddelle plays all the love interest; amounting to nine women in the course of the story.
Their trysts are ambiguous — it is not always apparent who is the hunter and who the hunted — in order to reflect the complexity of modern sexual politics, rather than just trot out some ’hello, ladies’ caricature of a serial seducer.
'The last thing we wanted to do was the classic Don Juan casting where you have an irritatingly smooth character,’ says Eatough. ’lt’s not just about "I fancy that". It's about a whole way of creating and selling an image of yourself and I think that's what Gavin will bring to it.’