One of the stars of Netflix’s hit ensemble series, “Orange is the New Black,” has made new and explosive allegations on Australia’s national broadcaster against the award-winning film and theatre actor Geoffrey Rush.
During a two year run of the stage play Diary of a Madman from 2010, Yael Stone alleges that Rush exposed himself, dancing naked in her dressing room, peppered her with sexually suggestive text messages, and attempted to spy on her in the shower.
- The star of “The King’s Speech” has spent much of 2018 in court and is seeking damages for defamation from the newspaper that published recent allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the Sydney theatre scene.
- Stone told the ABC she is speaking publicly to help bring about change in the entertainment industry.
“Orange is the New Black” star Yael Stone has followed up with allegations first told to The New York Times on Sunday with an explosive 45-minute interview on Australia’s national broadcaster detailing the alleged instances of inappropriate behaviour by her former mentor Geoffrey Rush.
By airing allegations of sexual misconduct with the ABC and through The Times on Sunday night, the Australian-born actor is confronting both the power at the top of Australian theatre as well as the country’s upside-down libel laws.
Stone has alleged through both the Times and now the ABC that Rush “danced naked in front of her in their dressing room, used a mirror to watch her while she showered, and sent her occasionally erotic text messages while the two shared the stage 7 years earlier performing at Sydney’s Belvoir Theatre in “The Diary of a Madman.”
In the ABC interview, Stone recounted instances of inappropriate conduct, including when she was showering after a show, and caught Rush attempting to watch her from the shower adjacent.
“I looked up and saw a small shaving mirror being held over the top of the cubicle, to be used in a way to look down at my naked body,” she told the ABC.
“I believe it was made in the spirit of a joke. The fact is it made me incredibly uncomfortable. I think I dealt with it by words to the effect of, ‘bugger off, Geoffrey’.”
Stone told the ABC she has come forward is speaking publicly to help compel change.
But that is easier said than done in Australia, where Rush, alongside the other Academy Award-winning Australian actor Cate Blanchett, completes a powerful double act that dominates the Australian theatre industry.
A young Australian stage actor who had informally made a complaint late last year with the Sydney Theatre Co. over Rush’s alleged “inappropriate behaviour,” has found this out to her own detriment, being called as the star witness in a defamation case derived from her own complaint to the theatre that employed both her and Rush.
The actor was later named as Eryn Jean Norvill, 34, who played Rush’s daughter Cordelia in the 2017 Sydney Theatre production of King Lear.
That entire unfortunate process – Rush is happily now awaiting the court’s decision on just how many his millions in damages may be – could easily be seen as a black eye for the transparency needed to ensure movements like #MeToo survive the various bureaucratic setbacks and booby traps hidden inside legal and social systems worldwide.
Stone’s allegations span 2010 and 2011 and since then the actor said she has spent many “long, dark nights of the soul” deciding what to do.
Not just for her career, or the careers of those who face similar burdens. The reality for Stone and others like her is that she still faces an Australian legal system where the burden of proof in defamation is on the publisher to prove that the allegations against the plaintiff are true, not the reverse as it is almost everywhere else.
Rushing for a change of atmosphere
Rush, has himself spent much of 2018 in court, suing a national newspaper for defamation following allegations of sexual harassment put forward by another young female stage actor.
The Daily Telegraph published several front-page stories at the end of last year, wherein Rush was lampooned for behaviours similar to those allegations made by Stone on Sunday.
Enter the New York Times, where Stone and the publishers live in a world where the legal burden is on the person who claims to have been defamed: He or she must prove that the allegations are false.
And in the states, people who sue must prove that the publisher acted with reckless disregard of the truth, even if the statements prove false.
In Australia, it’s the opposite: The burden is on the publisher to prove that the allegations against the plaintiff are true. Where it might get freshly murky of course is that The New York Times is read in Australia and publishes to Australian readers via its website, so while libel litigation in this case might be unlikely, it would be informative to media-law buffs.
The 67-year-old Rush might be hard to picture, but he is a multiple Golden Globe winning actor (1997, 2005) and plays Captain Barbosa opposite Johnny Depp in “The Pirates of the Caribbean” series.
In Australia he is a legend. Australian of the Year in 2012, a year after Stone alleges the harassment took place.
In a statement to The Times, Rush roundly rejected the allegations.
“From the outset I must make it clear that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by Yael Stone are incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context,” he wrote.
“However, clearly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work.”
Rush’s full statement is available here.
At the timer, Stone admitted that she didn’t complain to director Neil Armfield or confront Rush, as a 25-year-old finding her way into a career that she sought desperately to protect.
Even hinting at what was happening, might sidetrack the production, she said.
“Are they going to cancel the show? Are they going to refund all those tickets? Are they going to boot him and keep me? No-one is there to see me! What happens to the New York season?’,” Stone told the ABC.
As Rush’s court case played out favourably in the media spotlight last year, Stone told The Times that she “swore” to stay in the shadows.
“I would never come forward. My intention was to keep it private.”
But after Rush failed to reply to an empathetic email Stone wrote on December 11, last year, under the subject, “Challenging times,” the penny dropped.
Stone told the ABC that she has weighed the pros and cons of coming forward, but decided that in the end what happened is “in the public interest.”
“Whenever women, particularly, speak about issues like this, their career generally suffers. I’ve factored that into my calculations and if that happens I think it’s worth it.”
Rush has told the ABC that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour are incorrect, but sincerely regretted if his “spirited enthusiasm” had caused any distress.
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