ACTOR Geoffrey Rush choked up in the Federal Court on Tuesday as he recalled imagining the death of his daughter in order to trigger his emotion in a play.
Mr Rush, 67, was giving evidence in his defamation trial against The Daily Telegraph after it reported an actor in King Lear had lodged a complaint with the Sydney Theatre Company over his “inappropriate behaviour”.
The actor was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, who played Rush’s daughter Cordelia in the play. Rush had to carry her “lifeless” body on stage at the end of the play each night.
In a pre-trial hearing, the court was told that Ms Norvill would give evidence that she was the target of sexual harassment during the King Lear season including an incident during a preview in which Mr Rush ran his hand “down her torso and traced across her right breast”.
Mr Rush briefly struggled for words as he described how he acted in the final scene with Ms Norvill.
Mr Rush said: “For this scene I’ve always imagined that it was my own real life daughter. And that she’d been hit by a bus on the street were we lived in Camberwell. And I knew she was gone, I’d carried her to the footpath and every night I’d reinvent that scene in my mind.
“I needed that trigger,” he said before breaking down in tears and dabbing his eyes with a tissue.
The Oscar winner denies any wrongdoing and claims two front page articles in the newspaper about the alleged incident painted him as a “pervert” and “sexual predator”.
He told the court he had not touched Ms Norvill inappropriately and said “I do not understand” what is meant by lewd gestures.”
The actor said director Neil Armfield had differing views on how Cordelia’s body should be handled on stage.
Mr Rush said: “At one point I did at some stage … my impulse there would be to caress her shoulders and come down the sides of her arms, feeling the emptiness of this vessel that was still alive a minute ago.
“That was a moment that Neil said I really want you to pick her up like she’s two years old again.”
After they were published he was asked to stand down from his role at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Awards because of a row in the boardroom that had left “blood on the walls”.
The newspaper argues the stories published on November 30 and December 1 last year draw on allegations made by Ms Norvill and are true.
The hearing continues.