Australia

Geoffrey Rush: Actress 'frightened' by alleged touching, court told

Eryn Jean Norvill Image copyright AAP
Image caption Eryn Jean Norvill gave evidence in a Sydney court on Tuesday

An actress at the centre of a defamation case involving actor Geoffrey Rush says he "deliberately" touched her breast on stage, leaving her feeling "frightened".

Eryn Jean Norvill told an Australian court that Mr Rush had also made groping gestures towards her during the production of King Lear in 2015.

Mr Rush strongly denies the claims.

He is suing a Sydney newspaper over stories published in 2017 which he says depicted him as a pervert.

The Daily Telegraph's original report carried the headline "King Leer" and reported that Mr Rush, 67, had been the subject of a complaint about his behaviour during the Sydney Theatre Company production.

On Tuesday Ms Norvill, who played Cordelia in the play, testified in Sydney's Federal Court as a witness for the newspaper's publisher, Nationwide News.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Geoffrey Rush is suing a Sydney newspaper for defamation

She accused the Oscar winner of inappropriately touching the side of her breast during a preview performance, in a scene in which he carried Cordelia's body.

"It couldn't have been an accident because it was slow and pressured," she told the court, adding that she had felt "trapped".

Ms Norvill was not named in the newspaper's reports. Her testimony on Tuesday is the first time she has spoken publicly about the allegations.

'His power was intimidating'

Speaking in court, the actress said that Mr Rush's behaviour during rehearsals had made her feel uncomfortable.

This included him allegedly making comments about her body, licking his lips, and telling her that she looked "yummy" and "scrumptious", Ms Norvill said.

The actress testified that she had felt "embarrassed" and "shamed", and reluctant to speak out.

"I was at the bottom of the rung. He was at the top. His power was intimidating," she said.

Mr Rush has vehemently rejected any allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Last week, he told the court that he and Ms Norvill had enjoyed a "very sparky, congenial rapport".

He had prepared for the scene in which he carried Ms Norvill across the stage by imagining his own daughter had died, the actor testified.

Mr Rush is suing Nationwide News - owned by News Corp Australia - and journalist Jonathon Moran. He is seeking aggravated damages, arguing the articles significantly damaged his reputation.

The publisher is standing by the stories.

The trial is expected to run for another two weeks.

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