Actor Geoffrey Rush is suing Sydney newspaper The Daily Telegraph over reports of a complaint made about him to Sydney Theatre Company involving allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” during his time working on the company’s production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
“Today I have filed defamation proceedings against The Daily Telegraph in the Federal Court of Australia,” the actor said at a press conference in Melbourne. “It is an action I am taking in order to redress the slurs, innuendo and hyperbole they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and greater community.”
“The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative and demeaning claims – splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages,” he said. “This has created irreparable damage to my reputation, been extremely hurtful to my wife, my daughter and my son; to my extended family – and to my many colleagues in the Film, Television and Theatre industry.”
The Daily Telegraph reported on November 30, in a story on its front page, that Sydney Theatre Company had received a complaint about the award-winning actor, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“Sydney Theatre Company was asked by a News Ltd journalist earlier this month whether it had received a complaint alleging inappropriate behaviour by Mr Rush while he was employed by the company,” Sydney Theatre Company said in a statement released to the media later that day. “STC responded truthfully that it had received such a complaint.”
“At the time the complaint was made, the complainant requested that the matter be dealt with confidentially, and did not want Mr Rush notified or involved in any investigation. STC complied, acting in the interest of the complainant’s health and welfare. As already stated, the Company received the complaint after Mr Rush’s engagement had ended.”
Following The Daily Telegraph’s initial report, journalists at Melbourne’s The Herald Sun – also owned by News Ltd – were told not to share the story on social media because it was “highly libellous.”
Rush has since stepped down as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards as a result of the allegations but is scheduled to play Malvolio in Melbourne Theatre Company’s Twelfth Night in 2018. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne Theatre Company is monitoring the allegations closely. “MTC has not identified any allegations of inappropriate behaviour during Geoffrey Rush’s employment with MTC,” the company told Limelight in a statement last week. “Currently the allegation reported in the Daily Telegraph on November 30 is an issue between Geoffrey Rush and STC.”
Several industry figures have spoken in the actor’s defence, including director Neil Armfield, who said, “I believe a great injustice is being perpetrated” and Rachel Griffiths who said Rush “is not Harvey Weinstein.”
“The situation is intolerable,” said Rush in today’s statement, “and I must now seek vindication of my good name through the courts.”