Yael Stone, the Australian star of Netflix series Orange is the New Black, has made explosive claims about veteran actor Geoffrey Rush, alleging he exposed himself to her backstage, sent her sexually suggestive text messages, and attempted to spy on her while she was showering. In a statement issued this afternoon, Mr Rush has denied any inappropriate behaviour.
In an extensive, 40-minute on-camera interview with 7.30 in a New York hotel room, the actor detailed her experience working with Mr Rush in 2010 and 2011.
She says she is speaking publicly to help compel change in the entertainment industry.
‘I didn’t know how to stop the texts’
The allegations centre on the stage play Diary of a Madman, in which the two co-starred at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre.
Mr Rush, aged 59 at the time, was a long-established superstar of stage and screen but Stone, then 25, was a minor player in comparison.
“He was obviously incredibly invested in this show, which for all intents and purposes was his show, and I would be supporting him in that,” Ms Stone told 7.30.
“That was very much the dynamic of the room, that we were working around Geoffrey’s performance.
“[I was] very inexperienced, he was this person who is an internationally lauded star, he’s pretty much won every award you can win.
I was just there to serve him, and I think I probably took that too far and too literally.”
Mr Rush texted the actor frequently, including late into the night and in the early hours of the morning.
Over time, the banter took an edge that made Ms Stone uncomfortable.
“They [the text messages] became increasingly sexual in nature,” she said.
“I was very willing to accommodate all this behaviour, I was enthusiastically trying to keep up with this banter.”
Ms Stone said Mr Rush referred to his “tumescence”, an arcane synonym for an erection.
In other exchanges, compliments about her work would escalate to “ecstatic fervour”.
“I didn’t know how to stop the texts,” Ms Stone said.
I didn’t know how to respond to someone who was so much my senior, who has so much power in the industry.”
“The thought of not responding to one of his text messages and coming in the next day feeling that I’d let him down, that I’d disappointed him, was not an option for me.”
7.30 has seen other text messages Mr Rush sent Ms Stone that are sexual in nature.
For his part, Mr Rush maintains the shared correspondence between he and Ms Stone, “always contained a mutual respect and admiration”.
‘He was naked and danced around in front of me’
Ms Stone said Mr Rush’s behaviour escalated.
One night, following a performance in Sydney, when the cast were in a shared dressing room, Mr Rush entered the room naked.
“I was sitting at the mirrors and he came in from the shower holding his towel and he was naked and he danced around in front of me with his penis out,” she said.
“I was sitting and he was standing so his penis was right at the level of my face and probably 40-45 cm from my face.”
On another occasion, when Ms Stone was showering after a show, she alleges Mr Rush attempted to spy on her from the adjacent cubicle.
“I looked up and saw a small shaving mirror being held over the top of the cubicle, to be used in a way to look down at my naked body,” she said.
“I believe it was made in the spirit of a joke. The fact is it made me incredibly uncomfortable.
“I think I dealt with it by words to the effect of, ‘bugger off, Geoffrey’.”
7.30 has spoken to one person who claims to have seen both the shower cubicle incident and Mr Rush dancing naked in the Sydney dressing room.
On another occasion, at an industry award night surrounded by their peers, Mr Rush “stroked” Ms Stone’s back while she was wearing an open-backed dress.
7.30 has seen an email Mr Rush sent to Ms Stone afterwards, acknowledging the incident took place and saying, “Sorry, I also played with your back in the green room. Uncalled for but had to”.
Ms Stone admitted to 7.30 she had never complained to Mr Rush, nor director Neil Armfield, at the time.
She says she wanted to protect her nascent career and felt that speaking up was not even an option for fear she would derail what was an enormously successful production for the theatre company.
“‘Are they going to cancel the show? Are they going to refund all those tickets? Are they going to boot him and keep me? No-one is there to see me! What happens to the New York season?’,” Ms Stone said.
I was always treading that line of trying to protect myself, not quite knowing how, and never, never wanting to offend him.”
“That was at the top of the list: ‘Don’t offend Geoffrey because it will affect the next performance and ultimately it will affect your career.'”
‘In the public interest I talk about these matters’
As Ms Stone herself acknowledges, their relationship was complex.
Though deeply uncomfortable with Mr Rush’s behaviour, Ms Stone says she played a “court jester” role and rarely admonished him.
“I saw him as a friend and a really respected colleague, and we’d become close over the years,” she said.
“He’s an incredibly fun, charming man.”
She is sympathetic towards Mr Rush and says she can understand why he might feel confused by her public statement now, given her apparent compliance in 2010.
“Certain behaviour has been allowed, if not encouraged along the way and suddenly, a lot of people have stood up and said, ‘No, actually. No’,” Ms Stone said.
“Now, I think that’s a really important step to stand up and say no. But I think we would do well to have sympathy for what that huge gearshift feels like on the other side.”
In December, 2017, Ms Stone sent Mr Rush an email, saying that while she saw him as a friend and colleague, she wanted to address aspects of his behaviour during production of Diary of a Madman that had made her uncomfortable.
“I don’t think you ever said or did anything with the intention of making me feel uncomfortable but [the fact is] I can no longer dance around that it did,” she wrote.
“The context of a working environment and an enormous power imbalance is impossible to ignore.”
In the email, Ms Stone said she did not intend to ever speak publicly about the matter.
She told 7.30 she never received a reply from Mr Rush.
Ms Stone hopes her story will lead to a reckoning in the theatre industry so other young performers don’t feel compelled to stay silent when behaviour crosses a line.
“There’s been some really dark nights of the soul,” she said.
“On the one hand I have a very strong instinct to protect my family, I have some strong issues of guilt and shame around this particular issue.
“On the other hand it’s become clear that it’s in the public interest I talk about these matters.
“Whenever women, particularly, speak about issues like this, their career generally suffers.
“I’ve factored that into my calculations and if that happens I think it’s worth it.
“I have a very young baby girl and I want to say to her one day, ‘You know, it was hard, but I did it anyway’.”
When contacted by 7.30, Geoffrey Rush said the allegations of inappropriate behaviour were incorrect, but sincerely regretted if his “spirited enthusiasm” had caused Ms Stone any distress.
Read Mr Rush’s full statement
Statement from Mr Geoffrey Rush to 7.30 17 December 2018 From the outset I must make it clear that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by Yael Stone are incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context. However, clearly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work. I sincerely and deeply regret if I have caused her any distress. This, most certainly, has never been my intention. When we performed in The Diary Of A Madman 8 years ago, I believe we engaged in a journey as artistic comrades. Over the years we have shared correspondence that always contained a mutual respect and admiration. As I have said in the past, I abhor any behaviour that might be considered as harassment or intimidation to anyone – whether in the workplace or any other environment.