Judge Finds It Bizarre That Rush Would Touch Actress Onstage
Eryn Jean Norvill never wanted her informal complaint about Geoffrey Rush to be made public and she didn't have a motive to lie about the Oscar winner sexually harassing her, a court has heard.
She was an impressive and brave witness during Rush's defamation trial against the publisher of a Sydney newspaper and she wouldn't put herself through it unless she had "a true story to tell", barrister Tom Blackburn SC told the Federal Court.
Mr Blackburn was on Wednesday giving his closing submissions for Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran, who are being sued by Rush over a poster and two articles printed in 2017.
The publications related to a complaint of inappropriate behaviour by Rush toward a co-star - later revealed to be Norvill - during the Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear.
Rush, 67, has denied the allegations against him and says the Telegraph made him out to be a pervert and a sexual predator.
Nationwide News and Moran are arguing a defence of truth in the judge-alone trial after Norvill - who didn't speak with the journalist for his articles - agreed earlier this year to testify.
Mr Blackburn on Wednesday told Justice Michael Wigney the case was essentially a contest between the evidence of Norvill and Rush.
Some of Norvill's allegations to the court were that Rush made groping gestures and sexual innuendo toward her in rehearsals, that he stroked her lower back backstage and deliberately touched her breast as he grieved over her character's dead body during a performance.
Mr Blackburn said she had not wanted Rush to know about her complaint to the STC and had "desperately, desperately wanted to avoid the limelight".
He said her actions weren't those of a person motivated to seek publicity or anything else and suggested there was nothing for her in the court proceedings except stress and anxiety.
When Rush's barrister accused Norvill under cross-examination of telling "a pack of disgusting lies" and she denied it, he didn't put any reason to her why she would.
"The only evidence Your Honour has about Ms Norvill's motive was that she didn't have one," Mr Blackburn said.
Justice Wigney, who repeatedly stressed he hadn't reached a view, told the lawyer he was troubled by Norvill's claim the rehearsal room was complicit, and he had to address the issue of corroboration.
"With the exception of (actor Mark Leonard Winter) ... there's just no corroborating evidence, but there's a series of witnesses who said they didn't see it," the judge said.
The judge said Winter and Norvill gave "fundamentally different" accounts of the way Rush is alleged to have deliberately touched her breast on stage.
He referred to evidence about how Rush prepared for the important scene and said he found it bizarre that he would do such a thing in front of 900 people and potentially destroy that part of the play.
The trial continues.