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Further details from allegations of inappropriate behavior by Geoffrey Rush towards his King Lear co-star Eryn Jean Norvill have emerged in the actor’s defamation case against News Corp’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, after a gag order on details of the case were lifted Tuesday.
Claims that Rush touched the genitals of Norvill, who played Ophelia to Rush’s Lear, on five occasions during performances of the 2015 Sydney Theatre Company production, as well as following her into the ladies’ bathroom at the wrap party for the production, were revealed as part of the Telegraph’s defense.
Rush has previously denied all allegations against him, while his lawyers claim the Daily Telegraph’s articles and headlines, published late in 2017, are defamatory and made Rush out to be a “pervert” and “sexual predator.”
At a pre-trial hearing on Monday, Rush’s barrister Michael McHugh said the allegation of “inappropriate touching” made against the actor was “completely opaque” and would make it impossible for Rush to defend himself.
The newspaper claims Rush’s touching was “not directed or scripted by any person or necessary for the purpose of the performance of the production,” the document stated.
According to the defense, Norvill asked Rush to “stop doing it,” but it is alleged that he touched her in the same way on another four occasions in the final week of the production that ran in January 2016.
News Corp’s defense also alleges that, during a party for cast and crew after the production ended, Rush “entered the female bathroom located in the foyer of the Roslyn Packer theatre, knowing [Norvill] was in there, and stood outside a cubicle” that she was in. He left when she told him to “fuck off,” and she was “visibly upset” afterwards.
A large part of the Daily Telegraph’s defense rests on a point of Australian defamation law known as “qualified privilege.” A publisher has to show that the articles were in the public interest and that it “acted reasonably” in publishing the articles. News Corp’s defense argues that publishing the allegations was in the public interest, given the worldwide focus on allegations concerning “sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment in the entertainment industry,” which started with the Harvey Weinstein scandal in October.
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