In Giuseppe Tornatore's new movie, Geoffrey Rush's Virgil Oldman may well be losing his virginity when he strips off for an erotic love scene with Claire, a nubile young heiress and art collector, played by Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks.
"It was a bonus extra, a bonus extra," the jovial 63-year-old Rush quips about playing the love scene.
A tightly wound workaholic, Virgil is a world-famous European auctioneer and art collector who has managed to keep his emotions in check, as has the reclusive Claire who talks to Virgil from behind a wall for the first half of The Best Offer.
"Giuseppe doesn't write soap operas," Rush stresses, in case we think Tornatore's intentions seem in any way frivolous.
"This story about a man who collects paintings is like a metaphor for obsession and isolation and insularity. He's being pushed to such a degree that I think it pushes the film into the territory of a noir thriller."
Although filmed in the lap of luxury in and around Vienna and Trieste and finally in Prague, the exact setting for the story is unnamed. The thriller element comes via the fact that Virgil is running a forging scam, abusing his position as an expert in the high-end European art world.
Yet no one would suspect this filthy rich, immaculately groomed gent of anything. For one thing he wears an array of tailored leather gloves. "There were as many as you saw in the wardrobe and they were all fitted by the most high-end glove maker in Rome," an incredulous Rush notes of Tornatore's attention to detail.
"We had them tailored like surgical gloves because I said they had to be like a second skin."
In the early 1970s, Rush, who hails from Queensland and now lives in Melbourne, studied in Paris under Jacques Lecoq, where he developed the physicality he brings to so many of his performances.
At the time he was "slavishly watching the movies from the great Golden Age of Italian cinema", he recalls, as well as those of his hero, Charlie Chaplin.
Rush brings Chaplin-esque movements to many of his characters, including David Helfgott in Shine and Lionel Logue in The King's Speech. He gave it a go in The Best Offer too.
Rush has personally only been to an auction once. "This was a long time ago. I think maybe my wife (actress Jane Menelaus) was wanting to buy a piece of furniture or a mirror or something.
"So it was really invaluable to be able to sit down in Melbourne with a genuine auctioneer, Roger McIlroy, who like Virgil was very popular in the houses of Europe and London.
"First thing when he got on the set, he said 'I don't want to see any namby-pamby use of the gavel. They grab it by the head and go, Boom.' It's really very dramatic. That's