SYDNEY • Was the journalist trying to find an Australian angle in the wake of accusations levelled at American film producer Harvey Weinstein?
The question was raised by the lawyer of Australian actor Geoffrey Rush, who said he was distraught when he read newspaper articles accusing him of inappropriate conduct.
A court in Sydney on Monday began a hearing of the Oscar winner's lawsuit against News Corporation's Australian arm over articles saying he was the subject of a complaint to Sydney Theatre Company in relation to its 2015 production of King Lear.
Under the headline King Leer and in later articles, Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper said Rush, who played the starring role in the production, had been accused by a co-star of inappropriate conduct.
"It was devastating," Rush, 67, told the court. "I felt as though someone had poured lead into my head. I went into a kind of - this can't be happening - I was numb."
Filed defence documents set out allegations of Rush touching his co-star on the lower back while waiting in the wings and making groping gestures above her breasts during rehearsals.
None of these details was published in the original news reports.
Since their publication, Rush's lawyer said the actor had seen his annual income tumble from millions to thousand of dollars.
Australian courts had previously imposed relatively modest caps on defamation payouts.
Rush is seeking "special damages", a type of payout that is not capped.