Australian court upholds Geoffrey Rush's defamation payout
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian court on Thursday rejected a newspaper publisher’s appeal against Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush’s $2.9 billion Australian dollars ($2 million) payout for defamation.
Three Federal Court judges ruled that articles published by Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph newspaper in 2017 conveyed the imputation that Rush was a pervert and that the trial judge had correctly included the actor's loss of earnings in calculating damages.
The Australian actor, who turns 69 on July 6, did not attend the Sydney court to hear the verdict.
News Corp.-owned Nationwide News appealed Wigney’s ruling last year that Rush was defamed by newspaper reports saying he had been accused of inappropriate behavior by actor Eryn Jean Norvill. She played the daughter of Rush’s starring character in a Sydney theater production of “King Lear” in 2015 and 2016.
The publisher also appealing against the amount of Rush’s payout, including a loss of future earnings, for two articles published in the newspaper and a billboard poster that Wigney found portrayed him untruly as a pervert and a sexual predator.
The publisher’s lawyer Tom Blackburn told the two-day appeal hearing that trial judge Michael Wigney “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.
The actor’s lawyer Bret Walker replied that Rush testified about the devastating effects the publications had on his mental state while other evidence heard during the trial supported conclusions that he was unable to work and had fewer job offers.
Neither Rush nor the publisher immediately responded to requests for comment on Thursday.
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 honor in 2014, the Companion of the Order of Australia, for service to the arts.