Geoffrey Rush

Geoffrey Rush vs. The Daily Telegraph #

Geoffrey Rush, a world renown actor, won a defamation case against the Murdoch rag, The Daily Telegraph for alleging inappropriate sexual behavior in a production of King Lear.  Using large bold sensationalist headlines “King Leer”, obviously to evoke tantalizing instances of salacious titillation and arouse prurient curiosity merely to increase sales, was in my view totally irresponsible – but what do you expect from a Murdoch tabloid – the Lord of the gutter press?   The Telegraph compounded their infamy by referring to Rush as a “sexual predator” and “pervert” without testing any evidence.  Trial by Media at its worst.

Justice Michael Wigney declared the tabloid reckless as to the truth or falsity of its imputations of presented evidence.  It failed to properly inquire into the facts.  In his opinion, it was recklessly irresponsible in reaching conclusions that simply did not stack up.

It is widely accepted that the court got the right result, but many question the process.

Unfortunately, due to a deeply flawed, past its use-by-date, antiquated, adversarial court system, which requires Judges to deify one party while demonizing the other, no one won - or more aptly - everyone lost.  Eryn Jean Norvill, who never made an official  complaint, dragged into the case against her will,** **needed to be found an unreliable witness, according to Judge Wigney.  He found her at times prone to exaggeration and embellishment.

The tragedy of King Lear, turned into a tragic case for all.

Rush said: “There are no winners in this case, it has been extremely distressing for everyone involved.”

The main defence witness Eryn Jean Norvill agreed: “There are no winners, only losers.”

Justice Michael Wigney had the same sentiment: “This is a sad and unfortunate case., ”

The greatest loser was the media, because of its further self inflicted corrosion of trust.

Everyone lost, except, as Richard Ackland argued – the legal industry: 

Of course, there are winners. The lawyers are the winners and on the Rush team that’s where you find the triumph – so much so that the applicant’s barrister Bruce McClintock started to give the media a little lecture about its responsibility.

This from a barrister who had a steady trade defending Channel Nine’s stories and acting for Eddie Obeid.

Rush’s lawyers argued “There will be many people, particularly in the context of the ‘#Me Too’ movement, who will not accept the court’s findings irrespective of what they are,”.  This likely was designed to maximise his claims for damages.

“There’s definitely sympathy for Geoffrey, but there’s also sympathy for Eryn Jean Norvill.  “Nobody’s a winner here.

It is also pertinent that there was an exchange of a number of flirtatious emails between Rush and Norvill indicating his attention was not unwelcome.

The Australian entered the fray with subtle, but cautious and guarded criticism of the judgment, by selective derisive quotes from the theatrical industry:

A Melbourne Theatre Artist, Declan Greene twittered: “Incredible victory for the cabal of dinosaurs at the top ranks of Australian Theatre. I have never been more ashamed to be part of the Industry”.

Theatre critic Cassie Tongue declared that “the theatre industry had failed  Eryn- Jean Norvill, when she was at work, failed her during her trial, failed Yael Stone, failed so many of us.  We work in an actively harmful system.  This cannot continue.

Jane Monty Griffiths, professor of theatre performance at Monash wrote that: “Integrity and respect are hollow words in the rehearsal rooms”.  

This is arrant self serving tosh from the supporting stable mate of the Telegraph – The Australian.  It is worth noting that the irresponsible Editor of the Daily Telegraph, Christopher Dore,  has since been promoted by Murdoch to Chief Editor of **The Australian. ** An award for services rendered?

Actors thrive in a world of pretense - make  believe, where they have to simulate deep human emotions and passions.  Geoffrey Rush has played many roles where he simulated the sexual act - sometimes convincingly, or as in Lantana, as a perfunctory act.  Any actor who can pretend to be listless, making love to Barbara Hershey, is a consummate performer.  Acting is a sensual, tactile career.  If you can’t stand to be touched, stay out of the industry.

While the #MeToo movement has made worthy contributions to our understanding of sexual predation, we should be on guard for a new wave of puritanism that can drive sexual instincts underground. 

There always has to be a delicate balance. 

We are all sexual beings and any attempts to suppress this inherent need, usually ends up as perversion or hypocrisy.  Much better an open acknowledgement of our sexual demands.  Mature adults openly banter about our innate attraction to each other. Women too make advances. It is better to be honest than to pretend it doesn’t exist.  Only surreptitious, clandestine, furtive or coercive approaches should arouse suspicion and condemnation.  Any open advances should be dealt with appropriately – graciously declined or gratefully accepted.  No need for damaging, demeaning and humiliating allegations, unless they persist with unwelcome advances, these need to be reported, acted upon with as much force as possible.

If not, let’s just all grow up and live in the real world.

The revered French actor Catherine Deneuve insisted that women were “sufficiently aware that the sexual urge is by its nature wild and aggressive. But we are also clear-eyed enough not to confuse an awkward attempt to pick someone up with a sexual attack.”

Time will tell if* Plácido Domingo’s: It wasn’t sexual harassment, they were ‘gallant gestures’ will pass muster.

Celibacy may be a worthy ideal, but usually creates its own problems.  The Catholic Church has proven time and time again the only way to a clean pure life is through enforced celibacy. It worked for some 900 years and it has only been the last 25 years of revelations of rampant predation of compliant choir boys to raise a few minor concerns.  It relied on discreet choir boy’s ability to open their mouths to receive the benediction of  “Omnia membri sancto fellanto” *  but keep their mouths shut during subsequent secular, forensic, procedural investigations.

“Omnia membri fellanto”  - All cocks must be sucked – quoted from Life Sentence by Christie Blanchard, referring to  pompous Canadian Judges, courtesy of dogged researcher Kirsten Smith’s contact with Alban Walsh of Newfoundland.  It uses the rare form of future imperative that is used only for legal/court documents.  I simply added the “sancto” to make it applicable to power hungry ecclesiastical officials as well.  This is precisely the crime an Australian court jury managed to find George Pell, the third highest ranked Cardinal in the world, guilty of.

This marks a major turning point for Australian Justice, courtesy of the **Royal **Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual AbuseJustice Peter McClellan proved to be a chair intolerant of disingenuity, and made it clear that status could not buy immunity. He challenged pillars of the community and senior church figures that they were not above the law.

Let Julie Szego from The Age  have the final say:

*But while I applaud his [*Justice Michael Wigney’s] decision, much of  his reasoning invites precisely the kind of social commentary that #MeToo has unleashed. Reading his lengthy judgment, I struggled to glimpse reality in its pages. I saw scant appreciation of the complex dance of gender and power that defined relations between the ambitious and attractive Eryn Jean Norvill, who played Lear’s daughter Cordelia, and Rush, the masterful elder of an industry in which sexualised horseplay is so ubiquitous it’s gone virtually unnoticed. Until now.

The problem all along was that even if Norvill’s claims about Rush’s conduct were substantiated, they amount to subtleties so subtle they evaporate on closer view. At worst, a sort-of/possible half-breast grope as she lay “dead” on stage during one performance, which would only rate as an actual half-breast grope if it was deliberate and that’s virtually impossible to prove.

Otherwise: episodes of him tracing the outline of her body in the air, simulating boob cupping, remarks about her being “yummy” and “scrumptious”, a back rub on her bare skin. Nothing within patting range of an indecent assault; nothing you could even call harassment because other than cutting short one alleged back-rub, neither Norvill nor anyone else gave Rush an inkling that conduct he’s previously described as “spirited enthusiasm” was unwelcome. Nothing remotely justifying the “King Leer” headline with creepy photo of Rush emoting, garland crowning his head.