A lawyer for News Corp Australia travelled to the United States last month to “dig up dirt” on actor Geoffrey Rush before his upcoming defamation trial, the Federal Court has been told.
- The Daily Telegraph published articles alleging Rush was inappropriate toward a fellow actress
- Rush is suing the paper’s publisher, Nationwide News, and one its reporters for defamation
- The actor’s lawyer says a News Corp lawyer tried to dig up dirt on Rush from former colleagues in the US
The Academy Award-winning actor is suing publisher Nationwide News and its reporter Jonathon Moran for defamation over articles alleging he was inappropriate towards actress Erin Jean Norvill during the Sydney Theatre Company’s 2015-16 production of King Lear.
On Monday, Mr Rush’s barrister Sue Chrysanthou told the court in the past couple of weeks her client had been contacted by several former colleagues in the US, saying News Corp lawyer Michael Cameron had spoken to them, seeking information that has “nothing to do” with the current defamation case.
“My client is getting calls from people overseas telling him they are receiving emails from in-house counsel from the first respondent [News Corp] trying to investigate him,” Ms Chrysanthou told the Federal Court.
“He is finding it very upsetting to be receiving these communications two weeks out from trial.
“It’s a highly distressing situation for him.”
Ms Chrysanthou said she had a copy of one of Mr Cameron’s emails which began with the words: “I am currently visiting the United States to investigate …”.
“In effect, [Mr Cameron is] trying to dig up dirt on Mr Rush amongst his former colleagues and people he has worked with in the United States,” she said.
Barrister for Nationwide News, Lyndelle Barnett, told the court Mr Cameron was on holidays in the United States and joked that she would be reluctant to tender his scuba diving photos from Facebook.
“Mr Cameron’s sole purpose of this trip was not to investigate,” Ms Barnett said.
“There is nothing improper about a lawyer on behalf of a respondent making enquiries in relation to the case.”
Ms Chrysanthou applied for access to all the communications Mr Cameron made before and during his trip to the US.
Justice Michael Wigney said that request was far too broad, but granted her access to some of the communications.
The 13-day trial begins in Sydney in a fortnight and Mr Rush is expected to attend.
Ms Chrysanthou told the court witnesses would be flying in from “all around the world and parts of [Australia]” to give evidence.
Ms Norvill, who was Mr Rush’s co-star in King Lear, is expected to be one of the defence witnesses.
Her statement detailing Rush’s alleged inappropriate behaviour has been tendered to the Federal Court, however it has not been made public.