Geoffrey Rush wins defamation lawsuit

Angelo Anderson
April 11, 2019

The reports alleged inappropriate behaviour toward co-star Eryn Jean Norvill by Rush while he was starring in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016. "There are no winners in this case".

Actor Geoffrey Rush, who sued The Daily Telegraph in a sexual harassment defamation suit, emerged victorious, winning a minimum of United States dollars 610,000 in damages from the Australian tabloid.

It was Christopher Dore and not English who was editing the Telegraph in 2017 when the decision was made to publish a front-page story about the acclaimed actor, which was described in the judgment as "sensational and unfair".

Telegraph editor Ben English said the newspaper was "disappointed" with Justice Wigney's findings and his dismissal of Norvill's evidence.

That actress was later identified in proceedings as Eryn Jean Norvill.

Rush denied all wrong-doing and claimed the stories carried the imputations that he was a "pervert", a "sexual predator" and that he had committed sexual assault.

Justice Wigney said that Rush's accuser, Norvill was not a "credible or reliable witness and was "prone to exaggeration and embellishment".

Justice Wigney ruled that the stories in question conveyed a range of serious imputations and found them defamatory, and that the newspaper and journalist's truth defence had not been established. Justice Wigney rejected the defence outright.

Under the headline KING LEER, and in later articles, the paper said the actor, in the title role, had been accused by a co-star of unspecified inappropriate conduct.

He added that Norvill had "essentially been dragged into the spotlight" by the newspaper.

Outside court, Rush thanked his family for their support. She said she felt "frightened", "threatened" and "belittled".

One was a remark made during a promotional interview for the play, and one was a text message sent by Geoffrey Rush to Ms Norvill, six months after the play had finished.

Norvill, who said she had never wanted to go public, played Cordelia, the daughter of Lear who was played by Rush.

Rush denied allegations that he deliberately touched Norvill's breast, her lower back under her shirt when they were backstage or making lewd gestures and comments toward her.

Rush's barrister, Bruce McClintock, SC, said: "If it's an accident, we win".

Geoffrey Rush had sued The Daily Telegraph in a sexual harassment defamation suit.

"In the beginning, she had heard rumours about Geoffrey's behaviour in the past but believed she had a platonic, intellectual relationship with him, and didn't feel the need to steer clear of him", Crowe wrote.

The actress stood by her allegations outside the court, reportedly saying, "I stand by everything I said at trial".

Crowe was subpoenaed by the Telegraph but did not give evidence in court for either side. Wigney said that her testimony was not supported by the evidence theater director Neil Armfield, and cast members Robyn Nevin or Helen Buday.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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