Geoffrey Rush inappropriately touched actress, court told

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A lawyer has accused Oscar-winning Australian actor Geoffrey Rush in court of touching an actress inappropriately on an Sydney stage three years ago while he was starring in a production of King Lear.

Rush is suing Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper in federal court for defamation over articles last year which alleged inappropriate behaviour and touching during the Sydney Theatre Company production in 2015.

The newspaper’s lawyer, Tom Blackburn, told the court that Rush, now 66, touched an actress who has not been identified on five consecutive nights in the last week of the production in a way that he had not done before and that made her uncomfortable.

Mr Blackburn told the court: “She said stop — he didn’t. He went on doing it. Our case is that that in itself is inappropriate.”

But Rush’s lawyer, Richard McHugh, told the court the accusations were vague.

Mr Blackburn is fighting Rush’s request to have the newspaper’s truth defence struck out.

Justice Michael Wigney delayed his decision on that request to a later date.

Mr McHugh told the court that parts of the defence lacked specificity and did not detail Rush’s alleged behaviour.

The inappropriate behaviour is alleged to have occurred when Rush and the actress were required to touch on stage, Mr McHugh said.

“To this day, it’s not clear what they’re saying. Not just unclear, it’s completely opaque,” Mr McHugh said.

The newspaper’s lawyers have previously told the court that the articles did not allege Rush engaged in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature.

Mr Blackburn said for the purposes of the defence it was not important where Rush touched the actress, but the fact she allegedly asked him to stop — and he did not stop — made it inappropriate.

Rush, who was not in court on Monday, has denied behaving inappropriately.

The actor announced in December he was suing the newspaper over its reporting of the actress’s complaint over what the theatre company described in a statement as “inappropriate behaviour”.

The company said the complaint was made after the production closed. The actress had not wanted Rush to be informed of her complaint, the company said.

Rush has performed in the Sydney Theatre Company for 35 years. He won the 1997 best actor Academy Award for Shine and has three other Oscar nominations. He is perhaps best known as Captain Barbossa in the Pirates Of The Caribbean films.