Geoffrey Rush Named Australian of The Year

Geoffrey Rush - P 2012
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The Oscar winner and AACTA president said receiving the honor was “humbling.”

SYDNEY - Geoffrey Rush has been named the Australian Of The Year, receiving his award on Wednesday from Prime Minister Julia Gillard for his services to the arts.

The awards citation said that “as an internationally acclaimed and recognized actor, Geoffrey remains extraordinarily grounded in his local community, his country and the Australian arts industry.”

He was lauded for his 40-year career during which he’s achieved “the rare international distinction of the "Triple Crown" - an Oscar, a Tony and an Emmy.  He also has three Australian Film Institute honors, three British Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, four Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, and last year was inducted into the ranks of Australia’s elite with a Helpmann Award.

The Australia Day Council also acknowledged Rush’s work as a creative mentor, supporting young actors and arts companies.

Rush was one of five finalists and amongst 5000 nominated by the public for the award and is the second actor to receive the honor since the award’s establishment in 1960. Paul Hogan received the award in 1975.  

The sixty-year-old said in his acceptance speech "This is a great honor for a performing artist in theatre and film. I feel sure that my colleagues will see this as an endorsement of our national story of creativity."

As an Australian he said he’s part of a great tradition of story tellers.

"I know that hard-wired into every Australian from every background we love acting the goat, taking the mickey, cracking a joke, spinning a yarn. We live on an island that boasts the oldest nation on earth,” speaking of the indigenous culture. “There is an inspiration right there, where performance rituals are at the heart of its being - our Dreaming," he added.

The award, while recognizing a career that’s spanned 40 years in film and theater, caps a significant twelve months for Rush, who received an Oscar nomination and a BAFTA award for his role as Lionel Logue in the The Kings Speech, on which he also served as an executive producer, appeared in  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides; starred in and executive produced Fred Schepisi’s The Eye of The Storm, starred in Belvoir St Theatre production of Diary Of A Madman in New York and Sydney and played Lady Bracknell in the Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest. He was also named inaugural president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) which is in the throes of its new awards season.

After meeting his Australia Day commitments on Thursday as Australian Of The Year Rush will travel to Los Angeles to help present at Friday’s inaugural AACTA International Awards ceremony, before returning for the Australian AACTA Awards ceremony at the Sydney Opera House on Tuesday.