Rush seeking millions
Trial finishes as actor says Telegraph stories left him out of work
ACTOR Geoffrey Rush is seeking millions of dollars in damages for defamation over the publication of allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the theatre, a court heard yesterday.
Lawyers for Mr Rush told the Federal Court the star had been unable to work since the allegations were published in The Daily Telegraph last year. But the newspaper’s barrister, Tom Blackburn, SC, said Mr Rush (pictured) had failed to prove that offers of work had dried up or that he was unable to work.
Mr Blackburn said Mr Rush had been “deliberately silent about the number of offers” he had received. His Hollywood agent had also “very carefully” avoided revealing offers.
Mr Rush, 67, is suing The Daily Telegraph over articles late in 2017 reporting that a young actor had lodged a complaint with the Sydney Theatre Company over his alleged “inappropriate behaviour”.
She was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, 34, who played Mr Rush’s daughter Cordelia in the STC production of King Lear.
On the final day of the trial Mr Blackburn said: “Although Ms Norvill has fairly floridly been accused of lying over the past couple of days, no motive has been suggested.”
Ms Norvill had told the court that she had felt “trapped” as Mr Rush “slowly” and “deliberately” ran his fingers over her right breast as she played dead on the stage.
She said she felt “belittled, embarrassed” and “shamed” after the Hollywood star gestured groping her breasts while bulging his eyes and licking his lips during play rehearsals.
The actor’s barrister, Bruce McClintock, told the Federal Court that Mr Rush earned an average of $128,006 a month.
Mr Blackburn pointed to Mr Rush’s earlier evidence in which he said he had no work before the allegations were published.
Mr McClintock said: “There is a significant risk Mr Rush may not ever work again.”
Justice Michael Wigney asked if the Oscar winner was afraid “the cloud of MeToo might mean the phone won’t ring” and if he might not “recover his confidence and desire to work”. Mr McClintock said: “What they did to my client is disabled him from working. He’s a different man.” He said his client was worried about hecklers during future productions. “If someone calls out ‘pervert’ during King Lear there is the risk of the whole thing being destroyed”, he said. Mr Blackburn said the issue of Mr Rush’s mental fitness to work was a new suggestion that had not been raised and there could have been an application to have him “medically examined”.
The Oscar winner denies any wrongdoing and claims two front-page articles about the alleged incident painted him as a “pervert” and “sexual predator”.
The newspaper argues the stories published on November 30 and December 1 last year draw on allegations made by Ms Norvill and are true. The trial has now ended and Justice Wigney has reserved his decision.