Geoffrey Rush wins defamation lawsuit

Geoffrey Rush

Geoffrey Rush

Nationwide News, the publisher of the Daily Telegraph, has been ordered to pay aggravated damages to Geoffrey Rush as a judge branded stories alleging "sexually inappropriate behaviour" by the actor as "recklessly irresponsible journalism of the very worst kind".

The Daily Telegraph had alleged that the Oscar-winning actor had behaved inappropriately during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.

Rush, his wife Jane Menalaus and the actress at the centre of the allegations, Eryn Jean Norvill, were present in court to hear the judgment.

Justice Wigney said he was not convinced, on the balance of probabilities, that the incidents occurred as described in the evidence.

"There are no winners in this case".

He said her "evidence was inconsistent with statements she gave to journalists about what it was like working with Mr Rush, including that she loved his ebullience, and loved working with him".

"It couldn't have been an accident because it was slow and pressured", she said.

During the three-week defamation trial last October, Norvill told the court that during one production of King Lear Rush had "deliberately" stroked her breast and, as they waited off stage, traced his hand across her lower back.

And he insisted a text message he sent to her was meant as a joke.

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"I was thinking of you, as I do, more than is socially appropriate", Rush wrote, followed by an winking and tongue-poking emoji.

Rush said it was possible he used the word yummy - which had "a spirit to it" - but otherwise denied the allegations, saying that he thought he and Norvill had enjoyed a "very sparky, congenial rapport".

"I have found that the conduct of Nationwide and Mr Moran in publishing the defamatory imputations....was improper and unjustified", he told the packed court.

In his judgment, Justice Wigney said it would have been better for all parties if the matter had been dealt with outside "the harsh adversarial world" of the courts.

Justice Wigney said using the image of Mr Rush in character above the headline "KING LEER" was particularly damaging.

The second article was published the next day, and included comments from two actors backing up the alleged claims against Mr Rush.

A follow-up story on December 1, which was also subject to the complaint, was also ruled defamatory, Justice Wigney said.

Justice Wigney said he had not been swayed that the claims were credible or convincing, and therefore could not be proven to be true.

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