Geoffrey Rush has dabbed away tears after telling a Sydney court he imagined his own daughter had died to act out a scene in which he carried the body of a female co-star he’s since been accused of touching inappropriately.
The Oscar-winner was giving evidence in the Federal Court about a part of the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear in which he carried Eryn Jean Norvill’s body on stage and howled.
Norvill played Cordelia, the daughter of Rush’s titular character, who in that scene had just died.
“I was imagining that it was my own real-life daughter and that she’d been hit by a bus on the street near where we live … and I knew she was gone,” an emotional Rush said on Tuesday.
“Every night I would reinvent that scene in my mind.”
Rush is suing the Daily Telegraph‘s publisher, Nationwide News, and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation over articles about an allegation he behaved inappropriately toward a co-star – later revealed to be Norvill – during the production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
The 67-year-old has denied the accusation and says the newspaper made him out to be a pervert and a sexual predator.
Nationwide News and Moran are pleading a defence of truth in the trial and Norvill – who didn’t speak with Moran for the articles – has agreed to give evidence.
According to court documents, the defence alleges Rush traced his hand down her torso and across the side of her breast during a performance of the scene in which he carried her.
Rush on Tuesday said in the moments before each performance of the scene, he entered a “kind of walking meditation” that he hoped would put him into an “alert state of neutrality”.
He said the “technical moment” of lifting Norvill to carry her on stage had been so carefully choreographed during rehearsal that it was second nature.
Rush is also accused of touching Norvill’s lower back under her shirt while they were backstage, simulating fondling and groping her breasts and making comments or jokes about her involving sexual innuendo.
Rush denied each of the allegations when they were put to him on Tuesday.
He said he was pretty aware of “moodscapes” within a group and there was “not a hint” that Norvill had a complaint during rehearsals.
“I never detected that I … was making her uncomfortable or that I was ruffling feathers,” he said.
The trial continues.