News Corp-owned publisher Nationwide News has been ordered to pay at least $850,000 to Geoffrey Rush after an Australian court found Sydney’s Daily Telegraph defamed the actor by accusing him of inappropriate behavior towards a former co-star.
The Telegraph’s 2017 splash, published under the headline ‘King Leer’, reported the Sydney Theatre Company had received an anonymous complaint against Oscar-winner Rush. The paper followed this up with additional stories about a pattern of untoward behavior.
Rush sued the newspaper and writer Jonathon Moran, claiming the articles portrayed him as a “pervert” and a “sexual predator”. The stories were initially written without the permission or involvement of the alleged victim, later revealed to be his King Lear co-star Eryn Norvill. However, Norvill would go on to allege a daily pattern of sexual harassment during the production’s run.
Judge Michael Wigney said today he was “not satisfied” that the incidents detailed by the publication had occurred and added that evidence from Rush’s former co-star was “inconsistent”. He also said Norvill was “prone to exaggeration and embellishment.”
The reports were “in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the worst kind,” the court heard. The judge estimated that Rush’s earnings as an actor could suffer for up to two years following the “vindication of his reputation.” He added that further damages would be awarded for economic loss after the parties had provided him with submissions.
Outside the court, Rush thanked his wife and children “for their support during this harrowing time.” During the trial, Rush’s lawyers claimed the impact of the case was taking a heavy toll on the actor, who was “virtually housebound and not eating.”
Norvill said today that she stood by everything she had said at trial. The Telegraph’s editor, Ben English, said of the judgment, “We are disappointed with Justice Wigney’s findings, in particular his dismissal of Eryn Jean Norvill’s evidence. We disagree with his criticisms of her and she has our full support. We will now review the judgment.”