Rush might never work again, lawyer says

Rush might \never work again,\ lawyer says
Geoffrey Rushs barrister hits out at media, says actor may never work again
Opposing counsel says the only evidence about actors inability to work is coming from other people and not Rush himself

There is a significant risk that Mr Rush will not work again, Bruce McClintock QC said on Friday, in his submissions about the damages that should be awarded if the actor wins his federal court defamation case.

Rush is suing the Daily Telegraphs publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran over two articles and a newspaper poster published in 2017, relating to an allegation he behaved inappropriately towards a female co-star.

Mr Rush also claims he has suffered economic loss as a result of the articles and is seeking damages for a general decline in business as well as special damages for loss of opportunity relating to his decision in July to withdraw from a role in the Melbourne Theatre Company's production of Twelfth Night.

He has denied the claims, which were later revealed to relate to Eryn Jean Norvill and to a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.

But Tom Blackburn, SC, for the Telegraph's publisher Nationwide News, said "millions of dollars" in damages were being claimed when there was no evidence Mr Rush was "medically, emotionally or in any other way unable to work" or that "he hasn't received any offers".

Read more After a three-week hearing, the high-profile case ended on Friday, when Justice Michael Wigney said he would love to start writing his judgment tomorrow but his workload precluded him delivering the decision this year.

Geoffrey Rush "may never work again" and should be awarded "substantial" damages totalling millions of dollars if the Federal Court finds the Oscar winner was defamed by The Daily Telegraph, his barrister told the court on the final day of his defamation case against the newspaper.

Referring to past and future economic loss, McClintock said: What they did to my client has disabled him from working.

General damages are presently capped in defamation disputes in Australia at $398,500, but a string of recent court decisions – including actor Rebel Wilson's case against the publisher of Woman's Day – established the cap no longer applies if aggravated damages are awarded.

Tom Blackburn SC, for the newspaper and journalist, said millions of dollars were being claimed by Rush but added that the actor had not given evidence that he could not work.

Blackburn said that if Rush was saying that he was entitled to substantial damages, the actor at the very least had to tell the judge something like I am so damaged, I cant work, but this had not happened.

Mr McClintock said Mr Rush was entitled to "substantial general damages" including figures for economic loss. The actor was also entitled to aggravated damages because of the Telegraph's "unfair, sensational and extravagant method of publication".

A Sydney court has been told actor Geoffrey Rush may never work again after stories published about him in the Daily Telegraph.

The co-star was later revealed to be Eryn Jean Norvill, 34, whose off-the-record complaint to the STC was leaked to the Telegraph by an unknown source. She did not speak to the newspaper for its stories and initially declined to give evidence for the publisher in court.

Justice Michael Wigney in the Federal Court has heard the final summing up of Mr Rushs defamation case against the newspaper for stories published in 2017.

Ms Norvill told the court Mr Rush sexually harassed her during King Lear, including by making lewd gestures during rehearsals and groping the side of her right breast during a performance. Mr Rush, who performed the lead role, vehemently denies the claims.

On Friday, Mr Rushs barrister, Bruce McClintock SC, said there was a “serious problem” with Australian journalism because reporters “take sides” and “make judgments”.

Mr McClintock said The Telegraphs stories about Mr Rushs alleged inappropriate behaviour towards a female co-star during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear have made him too scared to work, fearing someone from the audience will call out at him.

The newspaper "obviously received" a commercial advantage from headlines such as "King Leer" and it had to "take the rough with the smooth, the good with the bad" and suffer the consequences, he said.

Mr McClintock said there is a significant risk Mr Rush will never work again, and if he does, it will probably be more than 18 months after the judge makes a decision on the case.

However, Tom Blackburn, the barrister for The Telegraph, noted that there were no doctor reports stating Mr Rush cannot work.

Mr Rush alleges that two Daily Telegraph stories and a newsagent poster have portrayed him as a pervert and sexual predator.

Mr Rush is seeking general and aggravated damages for two articles and a newsagent poster published by the Telegraph, including a front-page story on November 30 headlined "King Leer".

He denies allegations in the stories that he behaved inappropriately towards a younger female colleague — later revealed to be Eryn Jean Norvill — in the production.

Mr Rush's lawyers say the Telegraph stories convey a string of false and defamatory imputations about the actor, including that he is a "pervert" and "sexual predator".

Its lawyers have also argued that “inappropriate behaviour” is not as extreme as “pervert” and “sexual predator”, and that most Telegraph readers would have seen a line in the stories about Mr Rush denying the allegations.

Mr McClintock said the stories had "disabled" Mr Rush from working and it "doesn't take much of a taint" for a Hollywood studio to refuse to take a risk on an actor.

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Geoffrey Rush with his wife, Jane Menelaus, leave the Supreme Court on the final day of his defamation case against News CorpCredit:Janie Barrett

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