who won a Best Actor Oscar for playing a cuckoo concert pianist in 1996's Shine
has gone mental again. In Quills
, he plays the Marquis de Sade
, the infamous French aristocrat who was committed in the 18th century for writing erotic novels filled with sex and torture. Though it's a period piece, "[this film is] not musty and erudite," Rush tells TV Guide Online. "Its kinship movies are The Silence of the Lambs
, The Exorcist
and Sleepy Hollow
. It's lurid... a great, gothic B-movie."
Indeed, luridness abounds as Rush spends much of the movie nude, alternately amusing and aggravating co-stars Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine with sinfully suggestive banter. "He's completely cavalier and loves talking dirty all the time," the actor laughs. "[But] I don't think there's one ounce of deliberately provocative, shocking material to sensationalize... the film. You don't have to have me fully naked in the movie, but in whatever moments you see it, it's not just there to expose flesh."
Still, Quills plainly has its gratuitously steamy facets. (Witness Phoenix's panting priest and Winslet's wanton washerwoman, ready to bust out of her bodice whenever she reads Sade's saucy stories aloud.) But rather than just a raunched up Merchant-Ivory flick, Rush sees this movie as an exploration of the Marquis's complex psychology.
"[As an actor,] it's hard to invent a man who wrote in such an extraordinary way," he says. "So I did some research and was fascinated to find out that the Freudians would say he had a narcissistic complex. There's a great fear of intimacy, where you build up this personality based on humiliating and demeaning whomever you're with. [So the Marquis is] a timebomb of rage. But, at the same time, he masks all of that with charm and brilliance. That gave me a good groundwork for his sadistic, bitchy wit."
Having stripped his naughty nobleman bare figuratively and literally Rush looks forward to covering up for future roles. Earlier this year, he wrapped filming on the John Le Carré spy thriller, The Tailor of Panama, co-starring Pierce Brosnan and Jamie Lee Curtis. "And I'm going back to Australia to do a film called Lantana," he reports. "I play a dean of law in a suit!"