Geoffrey Rush Awarded Record $1.9 Million Payout After Winning #MeToo Defamation Case
The actor previously won more than $600,000 in April
The sum is the largest defamation payout to a single person in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, and comes in addition to the $600,000 Rush previously won in aggravated compensatory damages.
The Oscar-winning actor, 67, won his case against The Daily Telegraph in April, a year and a half after the outlet published a pair of stories claiming he’d acted inappropriately toward a female costar while performing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
Justice Michael Wigney said Rush’s reputation was “destroyed” by the articles, which he called “a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the worst kind,” according to a judgment summary obtained by PEOPLE.
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Rush argued in April that he may have lost $3.5 million in earnings from the time the articles were published to when the trial began, according to CNN.
The Herald reports that damages for economic loss are in a separate category and require proof.
Nationwide News is appealing Wigney’s decision, according to the Herald, and has requested he step down from the case.
“I am not satisfied that there is any basis to recuse myself and I decline to do so,” Wigney reportedly responded.
The articles in question, one of which hit newsstands with the headline “King Leer,” were published in the Telegraph in 2017, and did not name Rush’s accuser, Eryn Jean Norvill.
Norvill appeared in court in April to testify, though her credibility was questioned by Wigney, who said she was “prone to exaggeration and embellishment,” according to the summary.
According to Variety, Norvill testified that Rush “deliberately” stroked her right breast and hip during a preview performance of King Lear, rubbed her lower back under her shirt offstage, and simulated groping her and “cupping” her breasts during a rehearsal.
The actress stood by her allegations outside the court, reportedly saying, “I stand by everything I said at trial. I told the truth. I know what happened — I was there.”
Rush, meanwhile, spoke outside the court as well, reportedly saying there were “no winners” in the “extremely distressing” case.
The Pirates of the Caribbean actor previously denied accusations of inappropriate behavior during his time with the Sydney Theatre Company in November 2017, though neither the complaint nor the accuser had yet been made public.
“The moment I became aware of rumors of a complaint I immediately phoned and spoke to senior management at the Sydney Theatre Company asking for clarification about the details of the statement,” Rush said in a statement.
“They refused to illuminate me with the details. I also asked why this information was being withheld, and why, according to standard theatre practice the issue had not been raised with me during the production via stage management, the director, my fellow actors or anyone at management level. However, no response was forthcoming,” he added.
A Sydney Theatre Company spokeswoman reportedly previously said that they had “received a complaint alleging that Mr Geoffrey Rush had engaged in inappropriate behavior” after his “engagement with the company had ended,” but did not elaborate on the nature of the complaint.
“The complainant has requested that their identity be withheld,” the STC spokeswoman reportedly said at the time, adding, “STC respects that request and for privacy reasons, will not be making any further comments.”
The Sydney Theatre Company did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The Australian actor is known for his recurring role as Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and is among a small group of acclaimed actors who have won an Academy Award, Primetime Emmy Award and a Tony Award.