A frightened Eryn Jean Norvill told veteran actor Robyn Nevin she was "in the eye of the storm" after a Sydney newspaper published articles about an allegation Geoffrey Rush behaved inappropriately toward her, according to court documents.
Norvill, the young actor now at the centre of Rush's defamation battle against the publisher of the Daily Telegraph and journalist Jonathon Moran, told Nevin she was being hounded by the media and it was "pretty scary" following the newspaper's 2017 stories.
The articles, which didn't identify Norvill, related to an allegation Rush behaved inappropriately toward a female co-star during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
"There are many stories not just mine. But I'm fairly alone right now. And the truth is I tried to keep out of it. But here I am, in the eye of the storm," Norvill said in one text message to Nevin in the early hours of December 2.
"I just want to do my job and feel safe."
The text exchange was tendered in the NSW Federal Court on Monday, as Nevin gave evidence at Rush's defamation trial over two articles and a newsagent poster about the allegation of inappropriate behaviour.
The Oscar winner denies the claims against him and argues the Telegraph's articles portrayed him as a pervert and a sexual predator.
Nationwide News and Moran are pleading a defence of truth and Norvill - who didn't speak with the journalist before he published his articles - has agreed to give evidence.
Nevin, who starred in King Lear with Rush and Norvill, had initiated the text exchange with the younger actor after the Telegraph story broke by asking "Oh dear girl, are you OK??"
She told Norvill she hoped she would be protected and to just ask if she needed anything, according to court documents.
But Nevin, who gave evidence for Rush on Monday, said she didn't see anything during King Lear to justify the young actor's complaint and she believed it to be baseless.
Under cross-examination by defence barrister Tom Blackburn SC, she said she didn't confront Norvill or question her about it in the messages as "the damage was done".
"My concern was for the kind of effect this would have on her when she didn't want it made public," Nevin said.
She said a tearful Norvill had told her during another Sydney Theatre Company production in 2016 that being back at the venue reminded her of the trouble she'd had during King Lear some months earlier.
Nevin said she thought Norvill was reflecting on the "great struggles" she had playing the character of Cordelia.
She strongly denied there was any indication of inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, or that she responded: "Oh I thought Geoffrey had stopped doing that. Poor Jane (Rush's wife)."
Nevin became emotional when she recalled Rush's "state of confusion" after the articles were published about what he was supposed to have done.
Fellow actor Judy Davis had earlier said Rush had a "very serious heavyweight reputation" as an actor before the articles appeared, and she loved working with him.
Following their publication, Davis said she'd heard people say his career was finished.
The judge-alone trial continues.
Australian Associated Press