Court told Eryn Jean Norvill brave and honest


A Federal Court judge said he would never call a colleague “yummy or scrumptious” but it might be okay for a man like Geoffrey Rush to describe fellow actors this way.

“I wouldn’t say ‘yummy’ or ‘scrumptious’ to anybody in my workplace but I’m a boring lawyer, and Mr Rush is an actor in a theatrical workplace where people use florid language,” Justice Michael Wigney said.

The Daily Telegraph’s barrister Tom Blackburn SC said “in a modern workplace it’s just inappropriate”.

Justice Wigney said while there isn’t a different set of norms for theatrical workplaces, he struggled to see the importance of the words. In earlier testimony Mr Rush conceded he may have called Ms Norvill “yummy” and “scrumptious” during rehearsals.

“Obviously some people see tremendous significance but I have to say depending on the context I am grappling with it,” he said.

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The judge is hearing closing submissions in Mr Rush’s defamation case with The Daily Telegraph over a series of 2017 articles which reported that a young actress had lodged a complaint with the Sydney Theatre Company over his alleged “inappropriate behaviour.”

The actress was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, who alleges Mr Rush’s inappropriate behaviour towards her included calling her “yummy and scrumptious” while making hourglass gestures and licking his lips as they rehearsed for the play.

The court heard how Ms Norvill received a text from Mr Rush in June 2016 saying “I was thinking of you, as I do more than is socially appropriate”, next to a winking emoji with its tongue hanging out.

Mr Blackburn said: “This was an invitation, Mr Rush was putting it out there to see if he would have got a response.”

Justice Wigney said: “An invitation to do what?”

Mr Blackburn said: “That’s real flirting … he’s throwing it out there to see what kind of response he got, it’s obvious.”

Justice Wigney said: “I’ll be blunt. Are you seriously suggesting he’s expecting to have some sort of affair with her? That’s bizarre.”

Mr Blackburn said: “It has a sexual connotation, your honour.”

Justice Wigney replied: “I have to confess. I struggle to see the sinister aspect, maybe it’s just me. It’s not as if he says do you want to meet at a cafe tomorrow night or some other rendezvous.”

Ms Norvill earlier told the court that she had felt “trapped” as Mr Rush “slowly” and “deliberately” ran his fingers over her right breast as she played dead on the stage.

She said he also ran his fingers on the bare skin of her back along the waist-line of her low-cut jeans as they waited in the wings.

She said she felt “belittled, embarrassed” and “shamed” after the Hollywood star gestured groping her breasts while bulging his eyes and licking his lips during play rehearsals.

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”.

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 judge said he couldn’t give any weight to a 2016 email sent by an STC staffer following Ms Norvill’s complaint which referenced to Mr Rush’s “reputation”.

Ms Norvill said at the show’s closing night after party in January that year she told then STC Casting Manager Annalies Crowe: “I’m not okay, I’ve had a bad time with Geoffrey. I think I need some mental health support.”

Ms Crowe wrote in a subsequent email to the STC’s boss: “knowing Geoffrey’s reputation I’m afraid I’d assumed he may have been the cause”.

But Justice Wigney said as Ms Crowe hadn’t been called as a witness he had no clue as to whether her remark was “just pernicious gossip” or not.

“It could be his reputation for having bad body odour for all I know,” he said.

“No your honour it couldn’t … it couldn’t possibly be about bad body odour,” Mr Blackburn said.

Actress in Rush trial ‘honest’ and ‘brave’, court told

A FEDERAL Court judge was told today he had to choose between the word of Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush or the young actress he is accused of inappropriately touching on stage.

Justice Michael Wigney heard actress Eryn Jean Norvill was an “absolutely, fundamentally honest witness” who simply wanted to make sure the sexual harassment “didn’t happen again”.

The Daily Telegraph’s barrister Tom Blackburn, SC, said Ms Norvill “desperately wanted to stay out of the limelight” and only gave evidence in the defamation trial because she “had a true story to tell”.

Mr Blackburn was making his closing submissions in Mr Rush’s defamation case with The Daily Telegraph over a series of articles late in 2017 which reported that a young actress had lodged a complaint with the Sydney Theatre Company over his alleged “inappropriate behaviour”.

The actress was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, 34, who played Mr Rush’s daughter Cordelia in the STC production.

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Mr Blackburn said: “There is absolutely nothing in these proceedings for Ms Norvill except for stress and anxiety.

“She didn’t receive any money from The Daily Telegraph or anyone else. She never sought for the complaint to be made public or even for Mr Rush to be told.”

He said Ms Norvill “was a very brave witness” who had not exaggerated or embellished what happened to her or told lies as Mr Rush’s barrister had suggested.

Mr Blackburn said: “If Ms Norvill really had some motive for telling a pack of disgusting lies, one would have thought she would have gone into the witness box and beefed up her complaints, but she didn’t. Her refusal to do that shows just how honest she is.”

And he questioned evidence given by fellow King Lear actress Robyn Nevin, following a weekend spent with Mr Rush, 67, and his wife Jane Menelaus, that she could not recall Ms Norvill discussing the harassment with her.

On the day of the newspaper publishing a second article, which did not name Ms Norvill, Ms Nevin sent her a text saying: “Oh dear girl, are you okay?”

The court was told The Daily Telegraph did not identify Ms Norvill in any of its articles at the time yet Ms Nevin somehow knew Ms Norvill was the person at the centre of the STC complaint.

“Ms Nevin was unable in her evidence to account for how she knew the person concerned was Ms Norvill,” said Mr Blackburn.

“It’s significant,” said Mr Blackburn, “that nowhere in the text exchange she said ‘why are you making this accusation against one of my very best and closest friends, a man of incredible integrity and reputation?’ It just doesn’t make sense.”

He said that was entirely consistent with Ms Nevin being told about the harassment and saying to Ms Norvill: “Oh I thought Geoffrey had stopped doing that, poor Jane”.

Ms Norvill earlier told the court that she had felt “trapped” as Mr Rush “slowly” and “deliberately” ran his fingers over her right breast as she played dead on the stage. She said he also ran his fingers on the bare skin of her back along the waistline of her low-cut jeans as they waited in the wings.

She said she felt “belittled, embarrassed” and “shamed” after the Hollywood star gestured groping her breasts while bulging his eyes and licking his lips during play rehearsals.

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”.

The newspaper argues the stories published on November 30 and December 1 last year draw on allegations made by Ms Norvill and are true.



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