Geoffrey Rush labels Yael Stone allegations “incorrect”

Yael Stone raises questions around power, consent and an industry grappling with respectful behaviour.

Acclaimed actor Geoffrey Rush has labelled claims made by actress Yael Stone as “incorrect” and “out of context” but regrets if he caused her any distress.

Stone, whose credits include Orange is the New Black, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Deep Water, was a relatively unknown 25 year old actress when she landed a stage role alongside Rush in The Diary of a Madman, directed by Neil Armfield.

She told 7:30 and the New York Times, in separate interviews, it was the role of a lifetime.

“It was the biggest break I had ever had,” she said. “This wasn’t a steppingstone. It was a leap across the river.”

But of the course of the production, she alleges, Rush’s interest in her went beyond her performing work to playful flirtation including late night texts she reciprocated. She acknowledges the complexities of consent.

“They [the text messages] became increasingly sexual in nature,” she said.

“I was very willing to accommodate all this behaviour, I was enthusiastically trying to keep up with this banter.”

She added, “I’m embarrassed by the ways I participated. I certainly wouldn’t engage as the person I am now in the way I did when I was 25.”

Stone said Rush even referred to his “tumescence”, an arcane synonym for an erection. When she grew increasingly uncomfortable the young actress did not know how to make it stop.

“The thought of not responding to one of his text messages and coming in the next day feeling that I’d let him down, that I’d disappointed him, was not an option for me.”

She also claimed Rush exposed himself in a dressing room and used a mirror over a shower cubicle.

“I believe it was made in the spirit of a joke. The fact is it made me incredibly uncomfortable,” she said.

“I think I dealt with it by words to the effect of, ‘Bugger off, Geoffrey’.”

But Stone confirms she did not speak up, either to Rush nor Neil Armfield for fear of jeopardising the production, her career, or both.

“Are they going to cancel the show? Are they going to refund all those tickets? Are they going to boot him and keep me? No-one is there to see me! What happens to the New York season?’,” she said.

“I was always treading that line of trying to protect myself, not quite knowing how, and never, never wanting to offend him.

“That was at the top of the list: ‘Don’t offend Geoffrey because it will affect the next performance and ultimately it will affect your career.'”

Stone believes the entertainment system being built around the famous and powerful involves too much affirmation that can encourage certain behaviour.

“Certain behaviour has been allowed, if not encouraged along the way and suddenly, a lot of people have stood up and said, ‘No, actually. No’,” she said.

The allegations follow a separate defamation trial for Rush following a front page Daily Telegraph story, surrounding Sydney Theatre Company’s King Lear production (also directed by Neil Armfield). A verdict is expected on that in the new year.

Rush declined interviews but gave a statement to both ABC and the New York Times:

From the outset I must make it clear that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by Yael Stone are incorrect and in some instances have been taken completely out of context.

However, clearly Yael has been upset on occasion by the spirited enthusiasm I generally bring to my work.

I sincerely and deeply regret if I have caused her any distress. This, most certainly, has never been my intention.

When we performed in The Diary Of A Madman 8 years ago, I believe we engaged in a journey as artistic comrades.

Over the years we have shared correspondence that always contained a mutual respect and admiration.

As I have said in the past, I abhor any behaviour that might be considered as harassment or intimidation to anyone – whether in the workplace or any other environment.