Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts president Geoffrey Rush has pledged to help the AACTA board and management in the vital quest to find new sponsors.

The Australian Film Institute/AACTA has been struggling financially since major sponsor Samsung cancelled its $1.5 million deal last year.

“We had a very buoyant launch two years ago, a very good debut ceremony,” the actor told IF. “Last year we literally ran on the smell of an oily rag. We are determined to never let (funding) drop off again, being a televised awards ceremony.

“Every major English-speaking film culture, whether it’s the Oscars or BAFTAs, our industry needs to have that kind of showcasing and profile and celebration.

“It will be a question of getting a good key sponsor that really supports the idea. We’re on a five-year plan. We have to find out how we can embellish and improve and develop this new organisation.”

Rush came back recently after four months in Berlin shooting The Book Thief, a WW2 drama based on the novel by Australian author Markus Zusak. He and Emily Watson play a couple who adopt a girl (Monsieur Lahzar’s Sophie Nélisse) who steals books while they harbour a Jewish refugee under the stairs.

He was then involved in the launch of The Extraordinary Shapes of Geoffrey Rush, an exhibition at the Melbourne Arts Centre featuring costumes, photographs, moving image and personal items from his roles in plays including Exit the King, The Diary of a Madman and The Importance of Being Earnest and films such as Shine, Quills, Pirates of the Caribbean and The King’s Speech.

“We’ve reached that part of the year when we will start to look very seriously at paying for our January awards ceremony,” he said.

AFI /AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella described Rush’s expertise, efforts and contributions as the Academy’s president as invaluable. “”We can’t fix the situation overnight but without Geoffrey it would be much tougher,” he said.

Trewhella has said he will continue to work with all nine industry guilds and associations to try to attract private sponsorship and to boost the ranks of AACTA's membership.

Rush's latest film, Giuseppe Tornatore's The Best Offer, in which he plays a wealthy art auctioneer who becomes obsessed with a mysterious young woman, opens on August 29.  

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