Geoffrey Rush may never act again, according to his wife Jane Menelaus.
The Australian actor – known for his work in The King’s Speech and Pirates of the Caribbean – was accused in a series of articles, by the Sydney Daily Telegraph, of inappropriate behaviour during a 2015 production of King Lear.
Rush is suing the newspaper for defamation for portraying him as a “pervert” and “sexual predator” who engaged in “scandalously inappropriate behaviour in the theatre”.
On Wednesday his wife gave evidence to support his case and claims he broke down when he saw the Telegraph’s “King Leer” headline in November 2017.
“He cried. He said, ‘they’ve just destroyed everything I’ve tried to do’ [then] he put his arm around me and wept,” Menelaus said, reported by the Guardian. “I saw a man so altered and changed, his eyes sunk into his head, he retreated very much from, well, from the world,” she said.
“It’s very painful to relive something we’ve actually [been] trying terribly hard to forget for 11 months. We’ve gone round and round in circles asking why someone would hate him so much.
“He doesn’t wish to act again.”
Rush denies acting inappropriately towards his colleagues during the 2015 stage production but admits he might have said a younger co-star looked “yummy.”
The Telegraph is arguing a truth defence against the libel claims by putting forward evidence against the actor by his King Lear co-star Erin-Jean Norvill, who played Lear’s daughter Cordelia.
She claims he made “groping” and “hour-glass” gestures towards her during the run as well as trace his fingers over the side of her right breast during one performance and stroke her back under her shirt while waiting to go on stage before another.
Rush is also accused of making similar gestures towards Georgia Gilbert, a stagehand at the Sydnet Theatre Company where the production was being held.
The trial is ongoing.