The first thing Geoffrey Rush wanted to do was get the hair right.
“My daughter has a photographer friend who’s very good with Photoshop,” says Rush, who stars as Albert Einstein in the 10-part National Geographic series Genius. “I got a classic photo of Einstein, and did one of me at the same angle. I said, ‘Can you combine 15 percent of Einstein into 85 percent of me?’ ” The technology wouldn’t quite cooperate, but Rush improvised. “I just got some Tipp-Ex”—that’s Australian for Wite-Out—“and painted over the hair, scanned it, sent it to Ron Howard and said, ‘I think we can make him look pretty recognizable.’ ”
Genius is an in-depth dramatic look at the life and career of the theoretical physicist who, among other things, explained the photoelectric effect that made the invention of television possible. English musician and actor Johnny Flynn plays the young Swiss patent-office-clerk version of Einstein with the wistful air of a bohemian poet. Geoffrey Rush plays the iconic, older Einstein—he of the pipe and saggily comfy sweaters. The series also features Emily Watson, Michael McElhatton from Game of Thrones, and Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men.
Meeting with the hair, costume, and makeup departments to get a look right tends to be Rush’s favorite part of any project, and Genius was especially satisfying in that regard. “There was an energy and an excitement and a kind of wonder to charting that course,” says Rush, “of playing someone in their 40s into their 70s. Physically, too, I have a longer face than Einstein. If I can make an analogy, I’m a piece of asparagus, and Einstein’s probably more of a turnip. So we played around with the rotundity of my torso.”
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