Geoffrey Rush Wins Defamation Suit Against Paper That Published Sexual Misconduct Allegations
The Pirates of the Caribbean actor was awarded $600,000 in aggravated damages, Thursday
Geoffrey Rush was awarded $600,000 in a defamation case against an Australian newspaper that published allegations of sexual misconduct made about the Oscar-winning actor.
Rush, 67, won his case against The Daily Telegraph Thursday — a year and a half after the outlet published a pair of stories claiming Rush acted inappropriately toward a female costar while performing in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
“This was, in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the worst kind. The very worst kind,” Justice Michael Wigney said, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The 2017 articles, one of which was published under the front page headline “King Leer,” did not name Rush’s accuser, Eryn Jean Norvill.
Norvill appeared in court to testify, though Justice Wigney said she was “prone to exaggeration and embellishment,” according to Variety.
The outlet reported Wigney questioned Norvill’s credibility and said her claims were not supported by three of her theater colleagues.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Norvill “did not cooperate” with the Telegraph before the stories went to print.
She reportedly testified that the Genius actor allegedly “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.”
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CNN reported Rush is expected to receive further payments for economic loss at another hearing in May, and that the actor argued he may have lost more than $3.5 million in earnings from the time the articles were published to when the trial began.
“There are no winners in this case,” he said outside the courtroom, according to Variety. “It’s been extremely distressing for everyone involved.”
The Daily Telegraph editor Ben English, meanwhile, said his paper was “disappointed” by the verdict.
“We are disappointed with Justice Wigney’s findings, in particular his dismissal of Eryn Jean Norvill’s evidence,” he said in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald. “We disagree with his criticisms of her and she has our full support. We will now review the judgment.”
Rush’s rep declined to comment.Spokespersons for The Daily Telegraph did not immediately return PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The 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.