Geoffrey Rush and his accuser will each have their time in court almost a year after a Sydney tabloid published claims he’d behaved inappropriately towards a female co-star.
The Oscar-winning actor is suing the Daily Telegraph‘s publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation over 2017 articles which came as #metoo allegations rocked the entertainment world and which he says made him out to be a pervert and predator.
On Monday, following months of legal argument, Rush is expected to face a media scrum at Sydney’s Federal Court as the highly-anticipated trial gets underway.
Rush, 67, has kept a low profile since the tabloid’s reports were published, with his lawyer previously describing him as “virtually housebound” and full of dread over the future of his career.
The articles referred to an allegation Rush behaved inappropriately towards a fellow actor – later revealed to be Eryn Jean Norvill – during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
The newspaper first ran on the front page of the newspaper under the headline “King Leer” and continued inside under the headline “Star’s Bard Behaviour”.
Rush has vehemently denied the accusations, but the Telegraph and Moran will now plead a defence of truth after Norvill – who, the court has heard, didn’t cooperate with the articles – agreed in July to give evidence.
Norvill played Cordelia, the daughter of Rush’s character, in the Shakespearean production.
According to a defence document, Rush allegedly made lewd gestures in her direction, simulated fondling and groping her breasts and regularly made comments or jokes about her involving sexual innuendo.
He’s accused of touching Norvill’s lower back under her shirt when they were backstage and tracing his hand down her torso and across the side of her breast during a scene where he was carrying her.
Rush knew he was doing it without her consent and that she couldn’t do anything, in front of the audience, to prevent it, the document claims.
In a text message allegedly sent to Norvill months after the production ended, he said he thought of her “more than is socially appropriate”.
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.
Rush’s lawyers have criticised the Telegraph and Moran for publishing the articles without speaking to her, and said some of the claims against their client lack precision.
Norvill has never spoken publicly about the case or the allegations, and Rush hasn’t commented since December 2017, when he announced he was suing for “vindication of my good name”.
“The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative and demeaning claims – splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages,” Rush told reporters in Melbourne.
“This has created irreparable damage to my reputation, has been extremely hurtful to my wife, my daughter and son, and to my extended family, as well as to many colleagues in the film, television and theatre industry.”
Telegraph editor Christopher Dore responded at that time that they’d accurately reported the Sydney Theatre Company received a complaint about Rush, alleging inappropriate behaviour.
The judge-only trial before Justice Michael Wigney is expected to run for more than two weeks.