Actor Geoffrey Rush has just won a historic defamation appeal against the Daily Telegraph and Nationwide News. The Australian news outlet challenged an Australian federal court decision from April 2019 that found two of their stories from 2017 to be inaccurate. The federal court decided to uphold their original judgment and now the Daily Telegraph and Nationwide News, who are a part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, will have to pay Rush nearly $3 million in damages.

The two aforementioned articles claimed that Geoffrey Rush was a sexual predator and "pervert" after one of his co-stars from the 2015-16 run of the Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear accused him of sexual misconduct. One of the headlines was simply, King Leer, with a picture of the actor underneath. The original reports did not name the victim, but it has been revealed that it was actress Eryn Jean Norvill, who played the role of Cordelia, Rush's daughter in the production.

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During the original trial, Eryn Jean Norvill claimed that Geoffrey Rush intentionally touched one of her breasts during a performance. Geoffrey Rush has denied the accusations. Ben English is the current editor of the Daily Telegraph and he is "very disappointed" by the court's decision. English went on to say that the decision "exposes the inadequacies of Australia's defamation laws," and believes it "heightens the need for urgent legislative reform to enable public debate and to encourage women to come forward with their concerns." Rush's legal team was successfully able to convince the court that the Daily Telegraph was unable to prove their stories.

While justices Jacqueline Gleeson, Richard White, and Michael Wheelahan rejected the Daily Telegraph's appeal, they did agree with elements of their submission. The justice who presided over the original defamation trial, Michael Wigney, "attached significance to positive statements made" by Norvill about Geoffrey Rush in her promotional interviews for King Lear. Wigney originally said that Norvill's comments about the actor being "just forever playful" and "very cheeky," undermined her testimony. Gleeson, White, and Wheelahan believe that the actress was merely promoting the performance and not trying to cause a problem with her "private feelings."

In the end, Geoffrey Rush, even with the accusations, just won a lot of money from the Daily Telegraph. The legal team claims to have even more evidence against the actor, including statements from actor Yael Stone, who also accused Rush of inappropriate acts on a separate production. For now, the Daily Telegraph is hoping that the justice will rethink the decision and reverse it, though that is looking pretty unlikely at the moment. It will be interesting to see how this appeal effects the lawsuits that went down during the initial #MeToo movement in 2017 from all over the world. The Guardian UK was the first to report on Geoffrey Rush winning his historic defamation appeal.

Kevin Burwick at Movieweb
Kevin Burwick