Geoffrey Rush has won the largest ever defamation payment awarded to a single person in Australia after a court found Sydney’s Daily Telegraph defamed the actor by accusing him of inappropriate behavior towards a former co-star.
The Oscar-winning actor was awarded A$2.9M ($2M) by a local court. Last month, Rush won the defamation case and News Corp-owned publisher Nationwide News was ordered to pay at least A$850,000 – this payout is far bigger, although Rush was originally seeking A$25M in damages.
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 Norvill was “prone to exaggeration” and called the reporting a “recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of … the very worst kind”.
Rush’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou said the newspaper had shown a “complete lack of impartiality and lack of commercial sense” but the paper’s barrister Tom Blackburn hit back, saying that Rush was “trying to shut down any criticism of the judgment”.