The Book Thief: Geoffrey Rush chats about his new film’s German setting

The Shakespeare in Love actor explains more about being on set set in Berlin, where Tarantino filmed Inglourious Basterds and Polanski shot The Pianist


The producers and directors of new movie, The Book Thief, could have got a tax break if they’d filmed in Eastern Europe, but Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean, Shakespeare in Love) explains why it was so important to keep this tale true to the original setting.


“This is a German story,” said Rush in a recent interview.

Based on the novel by Markus Zusak, The Book Thief follows a young girl in Nazi Germany named Liesel (played by Sophie Nélisse) who steals prohibited books and shares them, while her foster parents hide a young Jewish man in their home.

“Fox 2000 might have thought we could shoot in Romania, we could shoot in the Chez Republic, we could shoot in Hungary,” explained Rush to the LA Times, “there are lots of independent films that are taking tax advantages, in all those different locations.”

Movie execs made the decision to shoot the Brian Percival directed film in the same location that Roman Polanski shot The Pianist and Quentin Tarantino filmed Inglourious Basterds – at the Babelsberg Film Studio in Germany. The area of Potsdam contains the oldest large-scale film studio in the world, and has been producing films since 1912. With directors such as Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock on the books, the place holds great prestige. It’s also a good pull for tourists, who can take a behind the scenes look at the sets, make up studios and props department.

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“When I was a student in Paris in my early twenties I would go to the cinematheque and see all the films by Fritz Lang, Pabst and  young Billy Wilder. Suddenly I was [there] going ‘this is where they did all this stuff,’” explained Rush. “It just felt wonderful.”

Rush went on to explain that filming in this location just heightened the experience of working on the movie, which had a predominantly German crew.

Debates took place on set between the staff, ranging from the ages of 23 to 68, about living through the worst “century any country could have probably ever gone through,” said Rush.

Watch The Book Thief in UK cinemas from January 31.

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