Actress Yael Stone has accused actor Geoffrey Rush of sexual misconduct ranging from sending her inappropriate texts to spying on her in the shower, the New York Times reports. Stone and Rush starred together in an Australian theatrical adaptation of Nicolai Gogol’s short story “Diary of a Madman” in 2010 and 2011. Rush said in a statement that the allegations were “incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context.”
Rush, who casts a long shadow over the Australian entertainment industry, is already embroiled in a defamation suit against the Daily Telegraph for reporting a year ago that an actress in a 2015 production of King Lear had also alleged misconduct on his part. (The Telegraph didn’t name Rush’s accuser or specify what he was accused of doing, but because of the lawsuit, she was later identified as Eryn Jean Norvill, Cordelia to his Lear.) As the Times outlines, Australians face a unique set of legal challenges when coming forward with these sorts of allegations: there’s no constitutional guarantee of free speech, and the defendant bears the burden of proof in defamation cases. In Rush’s case, Filmmaker Sophie Mathisen explained to the Times how the #MeToo movement plays out against that legal landscape:
The question in our current context is not, Do you want to come forward and speak on behalf of other women? The question is, Do you want to come forward and set yourself on fire publicly?
Stone, who is bracing for a lawsuit, alleges that the actor gradually pushed her boundaries over the course of the production of The Diary of a Madman, beginning with text message conversations that, in her words, gradually “became more sexual in nature, but always encased in this very highfalutin intellectual language.” She also describes “strange intimacies in the dressing room”—they shared a dressing room—which culminated when Rush allegedly spied on her in the shower:
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 alleges that on one occasion, Rush exposed himself to her, although she clarifies that his unsolicited, unexpected nude dance around their dressing room was done in a “playful, clownish manner.” The role was a big break for Stone, who was 25 at the time, and the power differential meant she tried to manage her co-star herself rather than file any official complaints:
I was walking a very delicate line where I needed to manage these uncomfortable moments but never, never offend him. … 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, who had maintained a friendship with Rush over the years, had not planned to come forward publicly, instead writing Rush a heartfelt e-mail explaining how she had felt during the production back in 2017 when news of the King Lear allegations broke. Rush never replied. Stone says she is not out for vengeance, just honesty:
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 decision in Rush’s defamation suit over the King Lear allegations is expected early in the new year.