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Publisher appeals against payout for Geoffrey Rush over alleged defamation

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

There was no evidence Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush was unable to work after articles alleging he behaved inappropriately towards an actress, a court heard.

Rush was awarded an Australian record of 2.9 million Australian dollars (£1.5 million) damages by a Sydney judge in defamation case against a newspaper publisher earlier this year.

News Corp-owned Nationwide News is appealing the Federal Court judge’s ruling that the 68-year-old Australian actor had been defamed by newspaper reports that he had been accused of inappropriate behaviour by actress Eryn Jean Norvill.

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

Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth
Geoffrey Rush appeared alongside Colin Firth in The King’s Speech (Ian West/PA)

The publisher is also appealing against the size of Rush’s damages awarded in May for two articles published in Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper and a poster that the judge found portrayed him as a pervert and a sexual predator.

The publisher’s lawyer Tom Blackburn told three Federal Court judges hearing the appeal that the trial judge heard no evidence that Rush had been unable to work and had fewer job offers as a result of the articles.

“Your Honours might find this an astonishing omission,” he told the judges.

Mr Blackburn said the trial judge “cobbled together” speculation and inference to find Rush was unable to work because of his state of mind following the publications and had fewer job offers since then.

Rush did not give evidence saying: “I am unable to work because of these articles” or testify that he had received no or fewer job offers, Mr Blackburn said.

Mr Blackburn said the actor’s experienced lawyers made a “deliberate decision” not to ask the questions because the answers “might be unfavourable”.

The appeal hearing is scheduled to end on Tuesday.

Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush appeared as Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean (Ian West/PA)

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.

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