Rush seek­ing mil­lions

Trial fin­ishes as ac­tor says Tele­graph sto­ries left him out of work

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - News - MATTHEW BENNS

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.

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