Geoffrey Rush emoji to actress ‘a mentor’s act’
A KING Lear cast member has defended Geoffrey Rush sending a text message with a panting tongue emoji to a younger actress as "a wonderful example of really good mentoring" in the Federal Court yesterday.
Mad Max actress Helen Buday was giving evidence in Mr Rush's defamation trial against The Daily Telegraph.
Mr Rush is suing the newspaper over a series of articles late in 2017 which reported that a young actress had lodged a complaint with the Sydney Theatre Company over alleged "inappropriate behaviour".
The actress was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, who played Mr Rush's daughter Cordelia in the STC production alongside Ms Buday.
Ms Norvill alleges 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".
Ms Buday, 56, who was flown in from her home in France by the Rush camp gave a theatrical performance which included singing, mime, laughing and yoga stretches in the witness box.
In answer to a question as to whether she heard Mr Rush describe Ms Norvill as "scrumptious" she started singing the song Truly Scrumptious from the musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
In denying she heard Mr Rush describe Ms Norvill as "yummy" she started singing the 1960s hit "Yummy Yummy Yummy (I've got love in my tummy)."
Justice Michael Wigney noted that she had delivered "the most dramatic" reading of the oath he had heard but asked her to focus on answering counsels' questions.
Under cross-examination Ms Buday agreed that experienced actors such as Mr Rush had a duty to act "like parents" towards younger actors in the theatre.
She was asked by the newspaper's barrister Tom Blackburn SC about a text Mr Rush sent Ms Norvill in June 2016 in which he said "I was thinking of you, as I do, more than is socially appropriate" next to a winking emoji with its tongue hanging out.
Ms Buday said she thought it was "appropriate" for Mr Rush to send such a text to an actress more than 30 years his junior.
Ms Buday mimed the emoji face and said it was "a way of getting into 'young speak'." She said: "I think it's a wonderful example of really good mentoring actually."
When she was discharged, Ms Buday initially declined to leave the witness box until urged to do so by a fellow witness, director Simon Phillips. "Come on, Helen," he said.
She then burst into tears outside the courtroom.
Earlier King Lear director Neil Armfield denied telling longtime friend Mr Rush during rehearsals that his onstage actions towards Ms Norvill were becoming "creepy" and "unclear".
Mr Armfield, who has worked with Mr Rush in 22 plays and films, including Candy starring Heath Ledger, added he never saw any "gratuitous action" when he carried Ms Norvill's character's "lifeless" body in the final death scene.
UK-based actor Trevor Smith also gave evidence via video link from London, where Mr Rush visited in June after the allegations were published - having dinners, brunch and trips to art galleries. Mr Smith, who first met Mr Rush in a rock opera play in 1970, said he also convinced his "bestie" to come to Adelaide when he travelled to Australia this year.
"He (Mr Rush) said 'I don't want to go out in Adelaide, I think people might spit on me'," Mr Smith said. "But people just loved him as though there was not anything written at all."
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 drew on allegations made by Ms Norvill and are true.