Geoffrey Rush wins case against Australian newspaper publisher

Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush won his defamation case on Thursday against a Sydney newspaper publisher and journalist over reports he had been accused of inappropriate behavior toward an actress.

The 67-year-old Australian had sued The Daily Telegraph's publisher and journalist Jonathon Moran over two stories and a poster published in late 2017.

Australian Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney ruled that Rush had been defamed. Wigney awarded an initial payment of 850,000 Australian dollars ($610,000) in damages, but lawyers will return to court on May 10 when the judge determines damages for economic loss and costs.

Rush's lawyer Bill McClintock told a three-week trial that ended in November that the actor might never work again because of the newspaper's reports. Rush's phone may not ring with job offers and he may never regain his confidence and desire to work, his lawyer said.

Rush outside court thanked his family for their support. "There are no winners in this case. It's been extremely distressing for everyone involved," he told reporters.

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UNITED STATES - MARCH 18: Geoffrey Rush (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 18: Geoffrey Rush (Photo by The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Actor Geoffrey Rush attends 53rd Annual Writers Guild of America Awards on March 4, 2001 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Geoffrey Rush File Photo: March 2001 (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
Geoffrey Rush arrives at the premiere of 'Blow.' (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
Geoffrey Rush during Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Geoffrey Rush & Hilary Swank during Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Geoffrey Rush during 'Frida' Premiere - Los Angeles at Los Angleles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21: Australian actor Geoffrey Rush with his award for global achievement at the 45th AFI awards held at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Regis Martin/Getty Images).
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 21: Geoffrey Rush at a press conference about Australian culture confirmed as bargaining chip in free trade agreement with the USA. At the Hyatt hotel on Collins Street in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. (Photo by Regis Martin/Getty Images).
Geoffrey Rush during 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers' New York City Premiere - Arrivals at Loews Tower East Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
John Lithgow and Geoffrey Rush during 'The Life and Death of Peter Sellers' New York City Premiere - Arrivals at Loews Tower East Theater in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
Geoffrey Rush at the Loews Tower East Theater in New York City, New York (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/WireImage)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 26: (L-R) Actors Melissa George, Geoffrey Rush and Rachel Griffiths arrives at the L'Oreal Paris 2005 AFI Awards at Central City Studios on November 26, 2005 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by David Teuma/Getty Images)
Geoffrey Rush during 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - Press Room at The Shrine in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 07: Geoffrey Rush (C) and his mother (L) attend the after show party following the L'Oreal Paris 2006 AFI Awards at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on December 7, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. The awards are the premier event on the Australian Screen Industry calendar, and are the Australian Film and Television Industry's oldest and most prestigious awards, now in their 48th year. (Photo by Simon Fergusson/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 06: Actor Geoffrey Rush poses in the awards room at the L'Oreal Paris AFI 2006 Industry Awards at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on December 6, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. Tonight's Industry Awards precede tomorrow's AFI Awards 2006, with both nights honouring the achievements of the nominees across Australian film and television. (Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images)
Geoffrey Rush attends the Sydney premiere for 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' at the Hayden Orpheum Cremorne on November 3, 2007 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Don Arnold/WireImage)
Geoffrey Rush arriving for the 2010 National Movie Awards at the Royal Festival Hall, London. (Photo by Sean Dempsey/PA Images via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Meredith Vieira and Geoffrey Rush appear on NBC News' 'Today' show (Photo by Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 20: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Geoffrey Rush with the crown he wore for his role as King Berenger in Exit The King. Rush has donated his costumes from the theatre productions of The Diary of a Madman and Exit the King to the Performing Arts Collection at the Arts Centre in Melbourne. 20 September 2011. (Photo by Paul Rovere/The AGE/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) shakes hands with actor Geoffrey Rush (2nd L) at a lunch hosted by Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce (2nd R) at Government House in Canberra on October 23, 2011. The queen is in Australia for her 16th visit to the former penal colony on what will perhaps be the 85-year-old monarch's last tour Down Under. AFP PHOTO / POOL / ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN (Photo credit should read Alex Ellinghausen/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04: Actor Geoffrey Rush attends 'The Eye Of The Storm' New York Premiere at MOMA on September 4, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05: Actor Geoffrey Rush attends TheWrap's Awards & Foreign Screening Series 'The Book Thief' at the Landmark Theater on December 5, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Buchan/Getty Images For TheWrap)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 09: Geoffrey Rush addresses the media at Hangar 416, Sydney Jetbase, Sydney Airport on December 9, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 09: Geoffrey Rush leaves the Federal Court on November 9, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. The three-week trial concluded today, with Justice Michael Wigney to deliver his verdict early next year. Geoffrey Rush is suing The Daily Telegraph for defamation over a series of articles that were published in late November and early December 2017 that alleged he behaved inappropriate during a 2015 stage production of King Lear. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

He argued that the newspaper, which used a headline "King Leer," portrayed him as a pervert and sexual predator. Wigney was scathing of the newspaper's reporting.

"This was, in all the circumstances, a recklessly irresponsible piece of sensationalist journalism of the very worst kind," the judge said. "It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that it was calculated to damage."

The reports alleged inappropriate behavior toward co-star Eryn Jean Norvill by Rush while he was starring in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "King Lear" in 2015 and 2016.

Norvill, who played Lear's daughter Cordelia in the production, did not speak to the newspaper before the articles were published, but agreed to testify for the newspaper at the trial. The 34-year-old actress testified that while she was playing dead, Rush stroked his hand across the side of her right breast and on to her hip during a preview performance.

Rush denied allegations that he deliberately touched Norvill's breast, her lower back under her shirt when they were backstage or making lewd gestures and comments toward her.

Wigney said on Thursday he did not find Norvill's evidence "credible or reliable" while he accepted Rush's testimony.

The Daily Telegraph's editor Ben English said he was reviewing the judgment.

"We are disappointed with Justice Wigney's findings, in particular his dismissal of Eryn Jean Norvill's evidence," English said in a statement. "We disagree with his criticisms of her and she has our full support."

In an unrelated allegation, "Orange Is the New Black" actress Yael Stone told The New York Times in December that Rush engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior when they starred in "The Diary of a Madman" in 2010.

The 33-year-old told the newspaper that Rush danced naked in front of her in their dressing room, used a mirror to watch her while she showered and sent her occasionally erotic texts.

In a statement, Rush said the allegations "are incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context."

Rush won 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 his nation's highest civilian honor in 2014, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for service to the arts.

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