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Actress too ‘intimidated by Geoffrey Rush’s power’ to object when he allegedly made groping gestures

An actress says she was ‘panicked’ and intimidated when Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush sent her a tongue emoji in a text message and made ‘groping gestures’ at her.

Eryn Jean Norvill says she felt shocked, belittled and embarrassed when she realised the star actor was making ‘groping’ gestures over her body to the tittering laughter of a ‘complicit’ rehearsal room.

The Oscar winner was bulging his eyes, licking his lips and smiling as he made the gestures toward her during a rehearsal for the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of King Lear, Norvill has told the NSW Federal Court.

She told the Federal Court she ‘probably panicked’ when she received the message ‘because I believed Geoffrey to be unsafe’.

Norvill said she felt ‘bewildered’ by the message from Rush in which he was also said to have written: ‘I was thinking of you as I do more than is socially appropriate’.

The actress, who had longed to work with Rush before the production, alleged his lewd gestures and sexual innuendo became normalised in rehearsals but she didn’t say anything as ‘his power was intimidating’.

Eryn Jean Norvill says she felt shocked, belittled and embarrassed when she realised star actor Geoffrey Rush (pictured) was making ‘groping’ gestures over her body to the tittering laughter of a ‘complicit’ rehearsal room

‘Everyone else didn’t seem to have a problem about it, you know, so I was looking at a room that was complicit; my director didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so I felt quashed in terms of my ability to find allies,’ she said today.

Norvill was speaking publicly for the first time about her allegations against Rush, with the 67-year-old actor suing Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran.

The Telegraph last year published an allegation Rush behaved inappropriately toward a co-star, later revealed to be Norvill, during a production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.

Norvill (pictured), who had longed to work with Rush before the production, alleged his lewd gestures and sexual innuendo became normalised in rehearsals but she didn’t say anything as ‘his power was intimidating’

Rush strongly denies the claims and argues the newspaper portrayed him as a pervert and sexual predator.

Norvill testified they had been rehearsing a scene in which her character Cordelia, the daughter of Rush’s Lear, was dead when she opened her eyes at the sound of laughter and saw him making the groping gestures over her.

This included him allegedly making comments about her body, licking his lips, and telling her that she looked ‘yummy’ and ‘scrumptious’, Norvill said.

‘I felt belittled and embarrassed and I guess shamed,’ she added. 

Norvill was speaking publicly for the first time about her allegations against Rush (pictured), with the 67-year-old actor suing Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran

Norvill was speaking publicly for the first time about her allegations against Rush (pictured), with the 67-year-old actor suing Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran

It was during a preview performance of the scene she alleges Rush deliberately stroked across the side of her right breast and on to her hip as he delivered a monologue.

Norvill said it hadn’t happened before, with Rush usually touching her face and sometimes her head, shoulder and arm.

‘It couldn’t have been an accident because it was slow and pressured,’ she said.

Several times while waiting to walk on stage, Rush would brush his fingers against hers and trace them on the palm of her hand.

The actor said once when he stroked her lower back, her ‘panic levels shot up’ and she felt ‘unsafe and probably sad … because I think Geoffrey’s idea of friendship was different to mine’.

Cross-examined by Rush’s lawyer, Bruce McClintock SC, Norvill denied fabricating parts of her evidence.

Cross-examined by Rush's lawyer, Bruce McClintock SC, Norvill (pictured) denied fabricating parts of her evidence

Cross-examined by Rush’s lawyer, Bruce McClintock SC, Norvill (pictured) denied fabricating parts of her evidence

She said she ‘100 per cent’ disagreed her claim of sexual harassment by Rush was a ‘complete lie’.

Mr McClintock also put it to Norvill that she’d made up an allegation about director Neil Armfield telling Rush his touching her during the death scene was becoming ‘creepy’ and ‘unclear’.

Armfield told the trial last week he had no memory of making the comment and denied using the word ‘creepy’.

 Norvill (pictured) testified they had been rehearsing a scene in which her character Cordelia, the daughter of Rush's Lear, was dead when she opened her eyes at the sound of laughter and saw him making the groping gestures over her

 Norvill (pictured) testified they had been rehearsing a scene in which her character Cordelia, the daughter of Rush’s Lear, was dead when she opened her eyes at the sound of laughter and saw him making the groping gestures over her

Mr McClintock questioned her over an exchange of nickname messages in 2014 when she referred to Rush as God of Generic Lust, Jersey Cream Filled Puff and Galapagos Lusty Thrust.

When the lawyer suggested Rush was just continuing what Norvill had done in those messages by writing in 2016 that he thought about her ‘more than is socially appropriate’, she said, ‘I hadn’t spent months sexually harassing him’.

Norvill agreed an email she sent Rush during the final days of King Lear read as ‘quite loving’ but said she was just trying to ‘keep it normal’ and wasn’t being sincere.

The judge-alone trial before Justice Michael Wigney continues and is expected to last another two weeks.

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