Geoffrey Rush actor 'sick to stomach' over behaviour claims, defamation trial told

Lewis Collier
October 23, 2018

Geoffrey Rush told the judge hearing his defamation case on Monday he felt distraught and as though his head was filled with lead on seeing a newspaper's publication of allegations he had behaved inappropriately toward a female co-star.

The actor is suing the publishers of Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper and its journalist Jonathon Moran over the articles published a year ago. He has vehemently denied the claims.

Rush also told the court the articles didn't relate to the "very strenuous but very cheerful" experience he had working on the play, and that as far as he was concerned, he and Norvill had enjoyed a "very sparky, congenial rapport".

Geoffrey Rush and his accuser will each have their time in court nearly a year after a Sydney tabloid published claims he'd behaved inappropriately towards a female co-star.

Australian actor Geoffrey Rush arrives at the Federal Court in Sydney, Australia October, 22, 2018.

When the STC provided a statement to Moran saying a complaint had been made alleging inappropriate behaviour, Rush still knew nothing more than what he'd been told by Mr McIntyre, Mr McClintock said.

Later, he testified he was devastated when he saw the Telegraph's first article last November - beside a headline of "King Leer" - while his wife and adult son were home. "I went into a kind of "This can't be happening". "He was obviously desperate for a story".

Mr McClintock accused Moran of including "straight-out, bald-faced" lies in his reporting.

Geoffrey Rush in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of King Lear.

Mr Rush, 67, denies the allegations contained in the article.

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The publication was "looking for a [Harvey] Weinstein story", he said, in a reference to the disgraced former USA movie mogul.

"It was clearly not an urgent story except in the sense that the Telegraph wanted to counter the success Fairfax had had with the Don Burke story", McClintock said. "The events had happened 22 months before; ancient history nearly".

The stories followed an "off the record" complaint made by Eryn Jean Norvill who co-starred with Rush in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of King Lear between November 2015 and January 2016.

The lawyer said it seemed inaccurate to say the STC had received a complaint given Norvill is said to have made her claims during an off-the-record conversation at a bar.

Norvill did not speak to the Telegraph for its stories and was not named in its reports.

Australian courts have previously imposed relatively modest caps on defamation payouts, however Rush is seeking "special damages", a type of payout that is not capped.

Both Rush and Norvill are victims of the "incompetence" of the STC and the "malice and dishonesty of the Telegraph", McClintock told the court.

This included messages in 2014 in which Norvill invited Rush - whom she called "galapagos lustry thrust" - to her birthday party, and later thanked "gatsby the bottlebrush" for coming along.

It's not the first defence filed by the Telegraph and Moran during proceedings, and its allegations vary from those made in an earlier document before Norvill gave her account to their lawyers.

In April, Rush's lawyer said the actor was "virtually housebound" after the stories were published, had lost his appetite and barely ate, and was full of anxiety when he went out in public.

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