Actor Geoffrey Rush has pulled out of Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, due to open in November, the company announced in a statement. Rush cited “current circumstances and medical advice” as the reason for his withdrawal.

The actor is currently suing the Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph over reports of a complaint made about Rush to Sydney Theatre Company involving allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” during STC’s King Lear in 2015 and 2016. Rush has denied having been involved in any “inappropriate behaviour”.

Geoffrey RushGeoffrey Rush in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night. Photo © Justin Ridler

In MTC’s statement, Rush said that he is withdrawing “with the greatest regret.”

“I know that I would not be able to provide the necessary creative spirit and the professional stamina required for the project,” he said. “I am certain that Simon Phillips, the Director, will deliver an outstanding production and I wish all involved the very best in its success.”

“MTC respects Geoffrey’s decision and will be working immediately with Simon Phillips to cast the role in what will continue to be an exciting landmark work in the MTC season,” MTC Artistic Director Brett Sheehy said in the statement.

Rush was due to perform alongside Christie Whelan Browne, who is currently facing defamation proceedings (along with Fairfax Media and the ABC) from actor Craig McLachlan relating to allegations of sexual misconduct by McLachlan, which McLachlan denies, while he was performing in the 2014 tour of the Rocky Horror Show.

The replacement for Rush will be announced in due course. Sheehy said: “Out of respect for Geoffrey’s privacy we will be making no further comment on this matter.”