Geoffrey Rush sues paper in Australia for 'inappropriate behaviour' claim


Melbourne (AFP)

Academy award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush Friday filed defamation proceedings against a News Corp newspaper in Australia over a story claiming he engaged in "inappropriate behaviour" at a Sydney theatre.

The 66-year-old denied any wrongdoing after Sydney's Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story last month reporting that the Sydney Theatre Company received a complaint about him when he was working with them.

The veteran Australian star launched action in the Federal Court against the Murdoch-owned publication to "redress the slurs, innuendo and hyperbole that they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and in the greater community".

"The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative and demeaning claims, splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages," Rush told reporters at his lawyer Nicholas Pullen's office in Melbourne.

He said the claims had "created irreparable damage" and was "extremely hurtful" to his family and colleagues in the industry.

"The situation is intolerable and I must now seek vindication of my good name through the courts in Australia."

Rush did not take questions from the media.

The Telegraph's editor Chris Dore said in a statement that his newspaper "accurately reported the Sydney Theatre Company received a complaint alleging that Mr Geoffrey Rush had engaged in inappropriate behaviour".

"We will defend our position in court."

Pullen said a trial date had yet to be fixed, but that Rush would be making a claim for damages and was keen to have the matter "heard as quickly as possible".

Last week Rush resigned as head of film industry body Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), which he had led for several years.

Apart from the "inappropriate behaviour" claim, no further information about the nature of the complaint or who made it was revealed.

The newspaper said the allegations related to Rush's time playing King Lear for the company in 2015 and 2016.

The legal action comes just months after Hollywood actor Rebel Wilson won Aus$4.5 million (US$3.4 million) -- the largest defamation payout in Australian history -- after successfully suing Bauer Media.

Bauer had published magazine articles which claimed the Australian star had lied about her age and background to further her acting career.

The publisher has since said it would appeal the payout as the "unprecedented" amount had major implications for the media industry.

Rush won the Best Actor Academy Award in 1997 for his role in "Shine" and is one of the few actors to have also won a primetime Emmy and a Tony Award.