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Geoffrey Rush sues Sydney newspaper over theater story

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Geoffrey Rush is suing a Sydney newspaper for allegedly portraying him as a sexual predator in its reporting of an actress's complaint of "inappropriate behavior" against the Oscar-winning actor.

The Daily Telegraph's reporting and advertising over the past week carried the defamatory meanings that the 66-year-old Australian actor was a "pervert" and a "sexual predator" while starring in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of "King Lear" two years ago, according to documents filed in the Australian Federal Court on Friday.

The case cites headlines including "King Leer" and "Star's Bard Behavior" plus an advertising poster: "Geoffrey Rush in Scandal Claims."

The News Corp. masthead broke the story last week that the Sydney Theatre Company had confirmed receiving the complaint. The company has released no details of the complaint other than to say the allegation involved "inappropriate behavior" while Rush was an employee and was not raised until after he had left. Rush has denied any misconduct.

Rush told a news conference at his lawyer's Melbourne office that the newspaper's reporting had damaged his reputation and hurt his family and colleagues. He did not take questions.

"It is an action I am taking in order to redress the slurs, innuendo and hyperbole that they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and in the greater community," Rush read from a prepared statement.

The Daily Telegraph editor Chris Dore said in a statement that his newspaper had accurately reported that the theater had received the complaint.

"We will defend our position in court," Dore said.

Rush's lawyer Nicholas Pullen did not specify the damages that Rush was seeking.

"It is certainly the desire of Mr. Rush to have this matter heard as quickly as possible in order to vindicate his name," Pullen said.

Last weekend, Rush stepped down as president of the Australian screen academy over media reports that he described as containing "untenable allegations."

His court documents reveal that he had been asked to step aside ahead of the academy's annual awards this week.

The defamatory meanings listed in the court action include that Rush had inappropriately touched an actress in "King Lear" and that his behavior was so serious that the company would never work with him again.

Rush has performed at the Sydney Theatre Company for 35 years. He won the 1997 best actor Academy Award for "Shine" and has three other Oscar nominations. He is perhaps best known as Captain Barbossa in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.

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