Geoffrey Rush has denied claims levelled at him by Orange Is the New Black star Yael Stone that he sexually harassed her when they worked together on a production of The Diary of a Madman at Sydney‘s Belvoir Street Theatre in 2010-11, as The Sydney Morning Herald writes.

Stone made the accusations in an interview with the New York Times published overnight. ABC‘s 7.30 will air an interview with Stone and Leigh Sales tonight.

She told the NYT about “strange intimacies in the dressing room” when they co-starred in the production, directed by Neil Armfield.  He would ask her to remove his contact lenses for him, take off his sweaty costume at intermission, or slip beside her uninvited under their makeup desks to nap between matinee and evening performances.

Stone also said that Rush danced naked in front of her in their dressing room, and once used a mirror to watch her shower. Both claims have been substantiated by witnesses who also worked on the production.

I remember I looked up to see there was a small shaving mirror over the top of the partition between the showers and he was using it to look down at my naked body. I believe that it was meant with a playful intention, but the effect was that I felt there was nowhere for me to feel safe and unobserved.

Stone also said he sent her erotic text messages. While Stone, flattered by the attention of a man so revered in the industry, admits that she “enthusiastically and willingly” replied to Rush’s texts, she says she’s now “embarrassed” by her actions, but acknowledges she would not have “engaged as the person I am now in the way I did when I was 25“.

Gradually the text messages became more sexual in nature, but always encased in this very highfalutin intellectual language.

Some of the details of Stone’s claims were confirmed to the publication by three other people who worked on Diary of a Madman, as well as family and friends to whom Stone confided at the time.

Stone also wrote Rush an email last year, telling him that he made her uncomfortable during the course of the production, but she never received a reply:

In the name of years of friendship I wanted to share with you what I have always been afraid to say. I hope it’s possible for you to receive this in the spirit that it is meant. With a view toward healing.

Another woman who co-starred with Rush on a Sydney theatre production, Eryn Jean Norvill, with whom he worked on the Armfield-directed King Lear at Sydney Theatre Company in 2015-16, spoke out publicly against the Oscar-winning actor in the midst of his defamation trial against The Daily Telegraph earlier this year.

Norvill alleged that he “slow[ly]” and “deliberately” caressed her breast when they were on stage, “playing a dead body“. She also claimed that Rush sent her lewd text messages.

In the same way as Norvill spoke about “wanting to be a part of [Rush’s] world” and feeling reluctant to call out Rush’s behaviour, Stone has also admitted to finding it difficult to come forward to expose the actions of an actor she once admired.

There was no part of my brain considering speaking to anyone in any official capacity. This was a huge star. What were they going to do? Fire Geoffrey and keep me?

Stone told the ABC she never complained to Rush or to Armfield at the time of the incidents. But she says, then, she feared how such a scandal would impact both the production, which went on to play in New York, and her career.

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?

That was at the top of the list: ‘Don’t offend Geoffrey because it will affect the next performance and ultimately it will affect your career.’

In Rush’s statement to the NYT, released today, he called Stone’s allegations “incorrect” and “in some instances […] taken completely out of context“. Instead he referred to his behaviour as “the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work“.

I abhor any behaviour that might be considered as harassment or intimidation to anyone – whether in the workplace or any other environment,” Rush concluded.

This is his full statement:

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.

However, clearly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work.

I sincerely and deeply regret if I have caused her any distress. This, most certainly, has never been my intention.

When we performed in The Diary Of A Madman 8 years ago, I believe we engaged in a journey as artistic comrades.

Over the years we have shared correspondence that always contained a mutual respect and admiration.

As I have said in the past, I abhor any behaviour that might be considered as harassment or intimidation to anyone – whether in the workplace or any other environment.

Stone explained why she felt the need to come forward with her allegations against Rush – but does not intend to pursue criminal proceedings.

If Geoffrey had written back and said I’m sorry and offered to work with me to inspire positive change in our industry, it may have transformed both of our lives for the better,” she said. “I despair that I am now in this situation. I do believe it’s a matter of significance to the public.

The possibility of redemption must always be on the table. Not all #MeToo stories are the same. Each dynamic is different. For some, a criminal process is essential. In my case, I’m not interested in punishment. I am looking to change my industry and to work toward healing and growth.

A judgment on the Daily Tele defamation case is due to be made in the new year.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Image: Orange Is the New Black