Veteran Australian film director Fred Schepisi has told a court Geoffrey Rush faces a strong backlash in Hollywood after Sydney newspaper articles put him in the same league as “some rather disgusting people” exposed by the #MeToo movement.
Mr Schepisi said he and actor Sam Neill had tried to help Rush after the 2017 articles which appeared in The Daily Telegraph but the Oscar-winner was “entirely rattled” and unable to look to the future.
The director was testifying on Friday during Rush’s defamation trial against the Telegraph’s publisher, Nationwide News, and journalist Jonathon Moran over two articles and a poster about the now-67-year-old actor.
They related to an allegation the actor behaved inappropriately towards a co- star – later revealed to be Eryn Jean Norvill – during a Sydney Theatre Company Theatre production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
Mr Rush denies the claims against him and argues the articles made him out to be a pervert and a sexual predator.
Nationwide News and Moran are pleading a defence of truth and Ms Norvill – who didn’t speak with the journalist before the articles were published – agreed in July to give evidence.
Mr Schepisi, a Golden Globe nominee who’s directed films starring actors such as Rush, Neill, Meryl Streep, Ian McKellen and Paul Newman, said the articles seemed like “disgusting overkill” and “trial by media”.
“In the Me Too world, at that moment, when the articles were sort of putting him in the same league as some rather disgusting people, there’s a backlash from that and it’s very strong,” he said.
The director said Mr Rush’s career would never recover even if he was vindicated as an outcome of the defamation action.
Director of King Lear Neil Armfield said Mr Rush’s reputation has been “profoundly” hurt by the article.
He saida cloud had been hovering over the Oscar-winner following the Telegraph’s articles.
“He himself has kind of closed down as a personality and there is, I think, unbelievable and gross damage,” he said.
The judge-only trial before Justice Michael Wigney in the NSW Federal Court continues on Friday.