As part of its truth defence, the Telegraph alleged in court documents that Mr Rush made “groping gestures in the air” near Ms Norvill’s torso during rehearsals in October 2015, made comments or jokes about her body that contained sexual innuendo, and made “lewd gestures” in her direction in late 2015.
Mr Rush is also alleged to have “traced across” the side of her breast during a preview performance in November 2015 as he grieved over Cordelia’s corpse, as well as touching her lower back under her shirt to her waistline and starting to touch her lower back until she asked him to stop.
Mr Rush has denied the claims and told the court on Monday that his memory of the play was that he enjoyed “a very sparky congenial rapport” with Ms Norvill.
On Tuesday Mr Rush returned to the witness box and described the death scene as “the biggest challenge of the whole production” and “not a scene you want to fake”. He told the court that in order to prepare for the scene, in which King Lear is “absolutely imploding emotionally,” he “always imagined that it was my own real life daughter and¬†she’d been hit by a bus on the street near where we lived in Camberwell” in Melbourne.
He choked back tears in the witness box as he told the court: “Every night I would reinvent that scene in my mind.”
“She’s in her early to mid 20s now,” Mr Rush said.¬† “I needed that [emotional] trigger.”
Asked by his barrister, Bruce McClintock, SC, if he stroked Ms Norvill’s torso or made groping gestures in the air, he said: “No, I did not.”
Ms Norvill is expected to give evidence that¬†director Neil Armfield told Mr Rush during a cast meeting following the preview performance that the scene should be performed in a more “paternal” way and it was becoming “creepy and unclear”.
Mr Rush said he could not recall those words being used but Mr Armfield had said not to “pat her with grief”.
“Did you ever intentionally touch her on the breast?” Mr McClintock asked.
“No,” Mr Rush replied.
He denied touching Mr Norvill on her lower back. Asked if she had told him to stop, Mr Rush said: “No, she did not.”
Asked about an interview with the Herald in which he described forming an “immediate stage-door Johnny crush” on Ms Norvill, he said he was “using a very outmoded¬†expression” but it was “intended to be” funny.
Mr Rush said he had not worked at all since the articles were published, and had made “around $45,000” since the the end of last year from completed projects. Prior to the publications the acclaimed actor was making millions of dollars per year.
Mr Rush said on Monday the Telegraph‘s first story, headlined “King Leer” and featuring a full front-page photograph of him in character as King Lear, converted a theatrical image into “what I think looked like a police lineup” and “made a madman from the theatre look criminal in reality”.
“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,” Mr Rush said. “It’s been the worst 11 months of my life.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Rush told the court he was contacted by the chief executive of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, Damian Trewhella, after the stories were published and told there was “blood on the walls” and a “massive fight” had erupted between Channel Seven, Foxtel and members of the AACTA board in the wake of the stories.
Mr Rush, who was president of the screen academy, was due to play a role in the AACTA’s annual awards night on December 5, which was broadcast by both Channel Seven and Foxtel.
He said that he was later issued a document from the AACTA board saying “we want you to resign” or “we will ask you to resign”.
Mr Rush subsequently released a statement on December 2 saying he was stepping down as AACTA president “effective immediately and until these issues have been resolved”.
He said he felt “very regretful” and it was “a wrench but I felt it was the most pragmatic thing to do”.
Mr Rush said the CEO, the chair of AACTA and seven members of the board sent him a letter on December 21 offering a “deep apology” and inviting him back as president but he said his response was it was preferable to “wait and see”.
The hearing continues.
Michaela Whitbourn is The Sydney Morning Herald’s Legal Affairs and Investigations reporter.