‘Your honour, I am not lying’ insists actress, as lawyer dismisses ‘ludicrous’ allegation

The actress at the centre of the Geoffrey Rush allegations has been told it is “ludicrous” to suggest such a “dedicated” actor as Geoffrey Rush would have “done anything” to risk ruining the most pivotal scene of a play.

During an intense day in Sydney’s Federal Court – which saw Eryn Jean Norvill spend a second day in the witness stand –  Rush’s barrister Bruce McClintock SC repeatedly accused her of lying.

Eryn Jean Norvill leaves court after a second day in the witness stand at Sydney Federal Court

She had earlier spoken of “a culture of bullying and sexual harassment” in the industry which “enabled” the behaviour of Geoffrey Rush to go unchecked.

Norvill said the cast members of King Lear stayed quiet about Rush’s behaviour because of a “level of hierarchy that kept that level of fear and silence in place”.

The comments follow those of Norvill yesterday when she described the room as “complicit” and part of a “culture problem”.

In often tense scenes in a packed court room, McClintock sought to highlight inconsistencies and omissions in an earlier statement provided by Norvill to that of evidence she gave in the witness stand.

He accused her of “making things up” and “fabricating” stories in order to “blacken his (Rush’s) name and smear him”.

Norvill rejected the assertions, telling the court she had thought constantly about events since the statement and recalled other instances where Rush had acted inappropriately.

She had earlier told the court how Rush, during a preview performance of King Lear, moved his hand from near her armpit and “stroked down across the right side of my breast and to my hip”

In the scene, Rush, playing Lear, grieves over the body of his dead daughter, Cordelia, played by Norvill.

McClintock dismissed the evidence as lies.

“It is ludicrous to suggest an actor as dedicated as Mr Rush would have done anything to risk the drama of that last scene,” he said.

“No, you’re wrong,” Norvill responded.

“He never was inappropriate at any time during the production of King Lear. Do you agree?”

“Unfortunately Mr McClintock I do not agree, He did,” responded Norvill.

“You are lying aren’t you?” McClintock pressed.

Addressing Justice Michael Wigney, the actress said: “Your honour, I am not lying.”

As Novill left the witness stand she looked directly at Rush before taking a seat with her family in the courtroom.

The 34-year-old was giving evidence on the eighth day of Rush’s defamation action against the publisher of The Daily Telegraph, Nationwide News.

He claims a series of articles in the Telegraph last November portrayed him as a “pervert” and a “sexual predator”.

During questions from Justice Wigney, and then McClintock, over the position of her body when Rush was alleged to have deliberately touched her breast, Norvill said it was “possible” that cast members may have seen.

But she doubted whether people in the audience would have noticed, partly because Rush’s hand would have been hidden from view behind her body.

In addition, everyone’s focus would have been on Rush, she said.

“I was a corpse on stage,” Norvill told the court. “I wasn’t moving. I was a dead body. I don’t think I would have been that interesting.”

Earlier, McClintock questioned Norvill about the “complicity” of the room, including co-star Robyn Nevin.

Norvill said Nevin had “enabled” Rush’s behaviour “as did everyone”.

“Robyn had always been kind to me….she is from a different generation and maybe we have different ideas about what is appropriate in the workplace.

“She enabled that, as did everyone else in the room. There was a culture of bullying and harassment in that room and in the industry.”

She added: “There are bullies and sexual predators and sexual harassment and it happened in that room to me. I believe people knew about it…but there was a level of hierarchy that kept that level of fear and silence in place”.

McLintock suggested it was “ludicrous” that Nevin “of all people” would not have done anything if she had witnessed inappropriate behaviour. It’s “ridiculous”, he added.

“No it’s not,” Norvill replied, adding that she bore no ill-feeling towards the stage actress.

“Robyn and I can still be friends,” she said.

Referring to the “powerful personality” of Helen Buday, another King Lear co-star, McLintock suggested she would have “called it out” had comments and “lewd gestures” taken place.

“I don’t believe she would have,” replied Norvill.

Norvill was questioned about two interviews she gave the Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph in late 2015, the former with Rush, Buday and Helen Thompson. Both interviews took place after the alleged inappropriate behaviour started.

McClintock referenced quotes in the Telegraph interview where Norvill described Rush as “forever playful” and “cheeky” and said she was “privileged and proud to be his ‘favourite daughter’”.

Norvill had played Cordelia, the daughter to Rush’s Lear in the Shakespeare play.

“I did feel privileged to work with Geoffrey and I was proud to be in that show,” Norvill said.

“You see, there is no suggestion of fear or discomfort about working with Mr Rush,” McClintock suggested.

“I was talking to a journalist. I would not disrespect him in that forum,” Norvill replied. “He was cheeky but that cheekiness damaged me.”

Questioned about the Sydney Morning Herald interview, and positive comments made by Norvill, she said: “In the context of a journalist asking questions promoting a play, then that is what I will do. I’ll do my job. Maybe I disrespected my experience. I put my work and my job, which is extremely important to me, and in my life, first.”

The case continues.


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