Acclaimed Australian actor Geoffrey Rush has denied allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” stemming from his time working on Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear, which ran from November 2015 to January 2016.

The Daily Telegraph reported this morning (in an article that appears to have been removed from the newspaper’s website) that the actor – well known for his award-winning role as pianist David Helfgott in the 1996 film Shine and more recently as speech therapist Lionel Logue in the 2010 film The Kings Speech – was the subject of a complaint received by Sydney Theatre Company.

“Sydney Theatre Company received a complaint alleging that Mr Geoffrey Rush had engaged in inappropriate behaviour,” an STC spokesperson told The Daily Telegraph. “The Company received the complaint when Mr Rush’s engagement with the Company had ended. The Company continues to work with the complainant to minimise the risk of future instances of the alleged behaviour occurring in its workplace.”

“The complainant has requested that their identity be withheld,” the spokesperson said. “STC respects that request and for privacy reasons, will not be making any further comments.”

Rush has denied the allegations, his lawyers from HWL Ebsworth describing them as “false and untrue”.

“Mr Rush has not been approached by the Sydney Theatre Company and the alleged complainant nor any representative of either of them concerning the matter,” Rush’s lawyers told the The Daily Telegraph. “Further, he has not been informed by them of the nature of the complaint and what it involves.”

“The moment I became aware of rumours 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 released to the media by his lawyers after the story broke (full statement below). “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.”

“There have been numerous media reports made this morning concerning Mr Geoffrey Rush and allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’,” the statement from HWL Ebsworth said. “In this current environment, “inappropriate behaviour” may mean abuse, bullying or other forms of reprehensible activity. These are matters that deserve forthright and objective levels of discussion. It must be made clear from the outset that Mr Rush abhors any form of maltreatment of any person in any form.”

“The allegation made against Mr Rush comes from a statement provided by the Sydney Theatre Company. We understand the statement was released some weeks ago and concerns a complaint made to it over 21 months ago. To date, Mr Rush or any of his representatives have not received any representations from the STC or the complainant. In other words, there has been no provision of any details, circumstances, allegations or events that can be meaningfully responded to.”

“At this stage, Mr Rush can only reiterate his statement that he denies having been involved in any ‘inappropriate behaviour’ whatsoever. Until there is the decency afforded to Mr Rush of what the “inappropriate behaviour” actually is then there is nothing more that can be said at this stage.”

Rush, who has performed in a number of Sydney Theatre Company productions over the years, is scheduled to play Malvolio in Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which opens in November 2018.

The allegations have emerged in the wake of a string of accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which have contributed to an environment in which victims of sexual harassment feel more comfortable coming forward than they have in the past. In Australia, the Confederation of Australian State Theatres – of which Sydney Theatre Company is a member – released a statement at the beginning of November.

“In response to incidents and allegations in the broader entertainment industry both here and overseas, we stand together to say that sexual harassment and abuse in any form is unacceptable,” the statement said. “We offer our unwavering support to the courageous people that have already come forward, and to any victims who have not yet had their stories heard – we are here for you.”

“We feel it is our responsibility to remove the stigma that can be felt by victims, and to encourage them with confidence to initiate formal complaint proceedings, and to seek appropriate counselling services and support.”

Also this month, MEAA Actors Equity released the preliminary findings of an online survey it conducted regarding Australian theatre suggesting 40 percent of performers have direct experiences of sexual harassment, bullying or misconduct. The survey’s full results will be released in December.

Update: Sydney Theatre Company has issued an updated statement, read here.


The full statement from HWL Ebsworth

There have been numerous media reports made this morning concerning Mr Geoffrey Rush and allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

In this current environment, “inappropriate behaviour” may mean abuse, bullying or other forms of reprehensible activity. These are matters that deserve forthright and objective levels of discussion. It must be made clear from the outset that Mr Rush abhors any form of maltreatment of any person in any form.

His treatment of fellow colleagues and everyone he has worked with is always conducted with respect and the utmost propriety. Whether on a film set or in the theatre, Mr Rush has always adhered to the finest professional principles in pursuit of his craft.

The allegation made against Mr Rush comes from a statement provided by the Sydney Theatre Company. We understand the statement was released some weeks ago and concerns a complaint made to it over 21 months ago. To date, Mr Rush or any of his representatives have not received any representations from the STC or the complainant. In other words, there has been no provision of any details, circumstances, allegations or events that can be meaningfully responded to.

Mr Rush has said

“The moment I became aware of rumours 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. 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.”

It is a great disappointment to Mr Rush the STC has chosen to smear his name and unjustifiably damage his reputation in this way. Not to afford a person their right to know what has been alleged against them let alone not inform them of it but release such information to the public is both a denial of natural justice and is not how our society operates.

At this stage, Mr Rush can only reiterate his statement that he denies having been involved in any “inappropriate behaviour” whatsoever. Until there is the decency afforded to Mr Rush of what the “inappropriate behaviour” actually is then there is nothing more that can be said at this stage.

The public and the media need to note this is a highly stressful and frustrating time for Mr Rush and his family, especially when there are no details concerning the “inappropriate behaviour”.