Rush repeatedly touched actress: lawyer

Actor Geoffrey Rush’s lawyer says a newspaper’s defamation defence lacked specifity (file).Geoffrey Rush has been accused of repeatedly touching a colleague inappropriately on stage despite being asked to stop, but the actor’s lawyer says the accusations against him are unclear and not specific.

Rush is suing the Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation over articles last year which alleged inappropriate behaviour and touching during the Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.

The Telegraph’s defence barrister Tom Blackburn SC told the Federal Court on Monday Rush touched a female co-star several times during the final week of the 2015 show, in a way that made her uncomfortable, and in a way he hadn’t touched her before.

“Now, she said stop – he didn’t. He went on doing it. Our case is that that in itself is inappropriate,” he said.

But Rush’s barrister, Richard McHugh SC says the accusations are vague and “opaque”.

Mr Blackburn was fighting an interlocutory application by Rush’s legal team to have all of the Telegraph’s truth defence and part of its qualified privilege defence struck out.

Mr McHugh said parts of the defence lacked specificity and still didn’t detail what Rush’s supposed behaviour actually was.

He said the behaviour supposedly occurred when Rush and his co-star were required to touch on stage.

It wasn’t clear how the actor’s manner of touching was alleged to have changed towards the end of the production to make his colleague feel uncomfortable, the barrister said.

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

A barrister for the Telegraph previously said the articles didn’t make allegations that Rush engaged in inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature.

Mr Blackburn on Monday said for the purposes of the defence it wasn’t important where Rush touched his co-star, but the fact she allegedly asked him to stop – and he didn’t – made it inappropriate.

He said an inference could be readily drawn in the circumstances that the alleged touching was intentional.

Mr McHugh said, from the Telegraph’s defence, it appeared Rush’s co-star was not one of their sources for the story.

Mr McHugh said the tabloid’s sources for the articles, as described in the defence, included three confidential sources, someone from the Sydney Theatre Company, someone living in the United States, social media posts and an email which appeared to be anonymous.

Rush, who was not at court on Monday, denies the accusations including that he was asked to stop.

Justice Michael Wigney has reserved his decision on the strike out application.

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