Geoffrey Rush has “voluntarily” stepped down as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts following allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” while he starred in a Sydney theatre production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”.
“AACTA acknowledges the decision today of Geoffrey Rush to voluntarily step aside as President of AACTA and accepts and respects his decision to do so,” said the AACTA in a statement, reports Deadline. “We have been deeply concerned about the situation and support a course of action that both respects Geoffrey’s rights to the presumption of innocence and due process, but also acknowledges good corporate governance in these circumstances,”
Rush, who has vehemently denied the allegations, confirms stepping down in a statement issued via his lawyer, Nicholas Pullen, explaining his decision. “Certain recent media reports have made untenable allegations concerning my standing in the entertainment community. It is unreasonable that my professional colleagues should be somehow associated with such allegations,” says Rush in his statement.
“In the circumstances, I have decided to step aside in my ambassadorial role as president of AACTA effective immediately and until these issues have been resolved,” he added. “This decision has not been made lightly. However, in the current climate of innuendo and unjustifiable reporting, I believe the decision to make a clean break to clear the air is the best for all concerned.”
According to Australia’s ABC News, a spokesperson for the Sydney Theatre Company issued a statement that the company — for which Rush had performed in several productions over the years — “received a complaint alleging that Mr. Geoffrey Rush had engaged in inappropriate behaviour.”
In response, Pullen issued a statement declaring that Rush immediately contacted the theatre upon learning of the allegation, but was not given any information about the complaint (which was reportedly lodged approximately 21 months earlier after he starred in an STC production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear”).
“The moment I became aware of rumours of a complaint I immediately phoned and spoke to senior management at the Sydney Theatre Company asking for clarification about the details of the statement,” said Rush, who has been nominated for four Oscars and won Best Actor honours for his performance in 1997’s “Shine”.
“They refused to illuminate me with the details,” added Rush, 66. “I also asked why this information was being withheld, and why, according to standard theatre practice the issue had not been raised with me during the production via stage management, the director, my fellow actors or anyone at management level. However, no response was forthcoming.”
According to the STC spokesperson, “The company received the complaint when Mr. Rush’s engagement with the company had ended,” adding that the complainant had wished to remain anonymous.
Rush’s lawyer, however, is blasting the theatre for its handling of the allegation, stating it gives Rush no way to respond while a cloud of suspicion hangs over his head.
“It is a great disappointment to Mr. Rush the STC has chosen to smear his name and unjustifiably damage his reputation in this way,” said Pullen in his statement.
“Not to afford a person their right to know what has been alleged against them, let alone not inform them of it but release such information to the public, is both a denial of natural justice and is not how our society operates,” he continued.
“Until there is the decency afforded to Mr. Rush of what the ‘inappropriate behaviour’ actually is then there is nothing more that can be said at this stage,” he added. “The public and the media need to note this is a highly stressful and frustrating time for Mr. Rush and his family, especially when there are no details concerning the ‘inappropriate behaviour’.”
Below is the statement from Rush’s attorney in its entirety: