Q&A with Geoffrey Rush, star of ‘The Book Thief’

Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg meet the day after the election.
Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg meet the day after the election. Photo Credit: Handout Handout/ Joaquin Simo

There are plenty of fine performances in “The Book Thief,” an adaptation of the bestselling Markus Zusak novel about a young girl living with foster parents in Nazi Germany.

But the movie is effectively stolen by Geoffrey Rush, playing noble foster dad Hans Hubermann. The Oscar winner supplies the humanity at the heart of this enterprise, offering a sterling corrective to the horrors unfolding just outside the family’s front door.

amNewYork spoke with Rush about the movie, one of the rare PG-13 treatments of the period, which hits theaters tomorrow.

“The Book Thief” can be a valuable educational tool for younger viewers. We don’t get many treatments of this era that work in that vein.

I was personally very aware of that, because when my daughter heard that I was reading the screenplay she said, “Dad, are you reading ‘The Book Thief’? ? Her and her friends, who were then 15, were saying, “That book is so fantastic, it changed my life.”

Could there be a similar response to the movie?

I’m hoping with the film … plays to a very broad audience. It will play to adult audience who may be closer in … awareness of the difficulties of the dark chapter of European history … but I’m also hoping with a PG-13 rating, there’s also a groundswell in a response from that age group.

What was your key to understanding a character who resists the Nazis?

I think somewhere in the panorama of the broad cross section of a community’s response to such an invasive totalitarian construct, thankfully there are always some people bold and brave enough and cunning enough and wily enough and daring enough to find a moral compass to say, “This is wrong. This is not right.”

Do you see the film and novel as part of a cohesive whole, or each as a fundamentally different experience?

The novel is in its own right a spectacular piece of writing because it plays on the idea of storytelling in a book form. ? I hope people can enjoy both experiences, because the story being told is a vital one.