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Geoffrey Rush fights appeal in Australian defamation court

Actor’s lawyer told an Australian court a judge was ‘justified’ in concluding Rush was unable to work after being defamed by a newspaper.

Geoffrey Rush (Sean Dempsey/PA)
Geoffrey Rush (Sean Dempsey/PA)

By Associated Press Reporter

Actor Geoffrey Rush’s lawyer has told an Australian appeals court a judge was “well and truly justified” in concluding the Oscar winner was unable to work after being defamed in newspaper articles in 2017.

The actor’s lawyer Bret Walker rejected a publisher’s submission to the three Federal Court judges hearing an appeal that the trial judge heard no evidence Mr Rush had been unable to work and had fewer job offers as a result of the articles.

News Corporation-owned Nationwide News is appealing judge Michael Wigney’s ruling in April that Mr Rush had been defamed by newspaper reports that he had been accused of inappropriate behaviour by actress Eryn Jean Norvill.

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Geoffrey Rush (Ian West/PA)

She played the daughter of Mr Rush’s starring character in a Sydney theatre production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.

The publisher is also appealing against the size of Mr Rush’s 2.9 million Australian dollar (£1.5m) payout, including a loss of future earnings, awarded in May for two articles published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, and a poster the judge found portrayed Mr Rush untruly as a pervert and a sexual predator.

The publisher’s lawyer Tom Blackburn told the court on Monday that Mr Wigney “cobbled together” speculation and inference to find Mr Rush was unable to work because of his state of mind following the publications and had fewer job offers since then.

Mr Walker replied on Tuesday that Mr Rush testified about the devastating effects the publications had on his mental state while other evidence heard during the trial supported conclusions he was unable to work and had fewer job offers.

The publisher’s lawyers had never accused Mr Rush of pretending in cross-examination during the trial and Mr Wigney had accepted the actor’s sincerity, Mr Walker said.

Mr Rush, 68, performed on stage in Los Angeles last week with other award-winning actors in an annual one-night only benefit to support The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles. It was the Australian actor’s first public performance since the articles were published.

Mr Rush received the best actor Oscar in 1996 for his portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in Shine and was nominated for roles in Shakespeare In Love, Quills and The King’s Speech. He is also famed for his portrayal of Captain Barbossa in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

He received Australia’s highest civilian honour in 2014, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for service to the arts.

PA

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