Rush denies Stone harassment claims
LEADING Australian actor Yael Stone claims Hollywood star Geoffrey Rush used a small mirror to watch her shower over a partition when the pair worked together on a play in Sydney.
In an interview with the New York Times published online today, Stone, who stars in the hit TV program Orange is the New Black, says Rush also danced naked in front of her in their shared dressing room.
She also claims he sent her "erotic" text messages which gradually "became more sexual in nature".
Stone said the incidents occurred during the Belvoir Street Production of Diary of a Madman in 2010-11 when Stone was aged 25 and Rush was 59.
Rush has issued a statement vehemently denying the actor's claims.
In a statement to News Corp, Rush said: "From the outset I must make it clear that the allegations of inappropriate behaviour made by Yael Stone are incorrect and in some cases taken 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 eight 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 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."
Stone told the Times she was showering in a cubicle in a shared dressing room when she suddenly realised he was using a mirror to watch her.
"I remember I looked up to see there was a small shaving mirror over the top of the partition between the showers and he was using it to look down at my naked body.
"I believe that it was meant with a playful intention, but the effect was that I felt there was nowhere for me to feel safe and unobserved."
"I said some words to the effect of, 'Bugger off, Geoffrey.' I was walking a very delicate line where I needed to manage these uncomfortable moments but never, never offend him."
"There was no part of my brain considering speaking to anyone in any official capacity. This was a huge star," she said. "What were they going to do? Fire Geoffrey and keep me?"
Stone made the allegations in a New York Times article titled "The Cost of Telling a #MeToo Story in Australia, Why Yael Stone is terrified to talk about Geoffrey Rush."
In the interview she expresses regret that she did not say "no" to Rush at the time and on occasion may have even encouraged some of his behaviour.
She did so, she says, out of fear of offending a mentor and friend.
"Gradually the text messages became more sexual in nature, but always encased in this very highfalutin' intellectual language," Stone said.
"I'm embarrassed by the ways I participated," Ms Stone said, conceding she had "enthusiastically and willingly" responded to the texts.
"I certainly wouldn't engage as the person I am now in the way I did when I was 25."
She also did not speak out when she claims Rush danced "totally naked" around her one evening as she removed her make-up.
She said she responded with an attitude of "Oh, you're a very naughty boy."
"I didn't want him to think I was no fun, that I was one of those people who couldn't take a joke," Stone said.
"I've been in that particular dressing room in Sydney on many occasions with many wonderfully talented actors and many wonderfully talented clowns.
"And people have made me belly laugh till I couldn't breathe. Never once has someone needed to show me their penis to do that."
Stone claims another unwanted approach by Mr Rush occurred at an awards show connected to the play.
She told the Times Rush touched her back "in a very sensual manner" that was "unwanted and sustained." She claimed Rush wrote to her and apologised the next day calling it "uncalled-for but had to." The actor said she made nothing of the incident at the time.
NIDA graduate Stone, 33, a native of Sydney and two-time Sydney Theatre Awards winner, has achieved considerable success in theatre in Australia and also appeared in the locally produced dramas All Saints and Spirited.
Stone, who had her first child, baby girl Pemau with partner Jack Manning Bancroft in May this year, moved to New York in 2011 where she co-founded an experimental theatre company.
But just four months later, she was cast in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black in the role of Lorna Morello, a prisoner from New Jersey.
Stone said she was extremely reluctant to come forward with her claims and she was not interested in punishing Rush.
In his statement to The New York Times Rush expressed surprise at Stone's decision to come forward.
Rush sued The Daily Telegraph in Sydney for defamation over a series of articles at the end of 2017 in which the newspaper reported he was the subject of a sexual harassment complaint by another actor during the Sydney Theatre Company's production of King Lear in 2015-16.
The newspaper defended the articles on the basis that they were true.
Rush denied all allegations of wrongdoing during his time at the STC. Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney will hand down his decision in that matter early in 2019.
Stone repeated her story in a television interview with Leigh Sales of the ABC's 7.30 last night.
Ms Stone said she had struggled with her decision to make public her allegations against Rush.
"It's been a really long road to get here," she told 7.30.
"There's been some really dark nights of the soul, I have to say."
She said that when she was cast alongside Rush, she felt honoured to be working with a "national treasure".
"I immediately put myself at the bottom of the ladder," she told the ABC.
"I didn't advocate for myself, I was just there to serve him.
"I was always treading that line of trying to protect myself, not quite knowing how, and never, never wanting to offend him."
She also said that she was willing to risk speaking up despite the fact as a woman she believed it could damage her reputation.
"Whenever women speak up about issues like this, their career generally suffers," she told 7.30.
"If that happens. I think it's worth it."