One of the summer’s most anticipated Australian productions will be released on January 17, as its lead actor Geoffrey Rush denies allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
- The release of Storm Boy, starring Geoffrey Rush, is scheduled for January 17
- The judgment in his defamation trial against The Daily Telegraph is expected early next year
- An advocate says the film could suffer if Mr Rush loses his case
Storm Boy, filmed in South Australia last year, was initially touted for release in 2018 but was delayed until early 2019, before being delayed another week by distributor Sony Pictures.
This week, Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone made explosive allegations about Rush while working with him in 2010 and 2011.
He has denied the allegations and released a statement in which he said he “sincerely and deeply” regretted if he had caused Ms Stone “any distress”.
Mr Rush is also in the midst of defamation proceedings against the publisher of The Daily Telegraph newspaper and one of its journalists over stories alleging he behaved inappropriately towards another colleague.
Sony Pictures told the ABC the decision to delay Storm Boy’s release was prompted by discussions with local cinemas, but would not comment on whether his court case was a factor.
“The film was originally slated for a January 10 release, but was pushed back one week to January 17,” Sony said in a statement.
“January is a very competitive time for family films as it is the summer school holidays.
“With regards to your other questions we cannot make any comment on these.”
Screen Australia, which helped to fund Storm Boy, would not be drawn on the case’s potential impact on the film’s release.
“It would be inappropriate for Screen Australia to comment on any active court case,” the agency said in a statement.
It has been produced by Sydney-based film house Ambience Entertainment but the company did not respond to the ABC’s requests for comment.
Stories published in The Daily Telegraph late last year alleged Mr Rush behaved inappropriately towards younger colleague Eryn Jean Norvill during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
Federal Court Justice Michael Wigney is expected to hand down his decision early next year but is not bound by any particular deadline, and the judgment could coincide with Storm Boy’s release date.
According to Federal Court documents, Mr Rush earned $500,000 for the new film, which features the Oscar-winning actor as the grown-up version of the character Mike, who was played by Greg Rowe in the 1976 original.
Promotional material relating to the film was tendered to the court during the 15-day defamation trial.
Rush’s reputation ‘smashed and destroyed’
Mr Rush’s lawyer, Bruce McClintock, SC, told the court his client’s reputation had been “smashed and destroyed” by The Daily Telegraph’s articles.
Rush arrives in court in October for his defamation case against Nationwide News. (AAP: Dean Lewins)
Before the defamation trial, veteran Australian film director Fred Schepisi — who later appeared as a character witness for Mr Rush — prepared an expert report on the impact of the articles on Mr Rush’s future career.
In his report, Mr Schepisi likened Mr Rush’s situation to actor Kevin Spacey, who was written out of Netflix drama House of Cards and edited out of feature film All the Money in the World following allegations of sexual misconduct.
“Studios and producers and distributors are highly sensitive about casting or even being involved with anyone who is alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct,” Mr Schepisi said.
“Their concern is only about its affect on their box office.
“Kevin Spacey is an example. After he was accused of sexual misconduct in October 2017, his role in All the Money in the World was re-cast and his scenes were re-shot to replace him with Christopher Plummer.
“Mr Spacey hasn’t been found guilty of anything in a court of law yet.”
Film could face potential backlash, victim advocate says
Katherine Teh, managing director of consultancy Futureye and board member for NOW Australia, said Sony and the film’s producers were facing a potential dilemma if Mr Rush lost his case.
“They’re going to have to understand what the impacts on sales might be, because it wouldn’t be outside any reasonable person’s thinking to think that there might be a boycott,” she said.
“A boycott can be something that’s officially organised or it can be simply what people decide to do.”
She said the other dilemma was it would be too late to edit him out of the film.
But even if Mr Rush loses his case, it would be unlikely that Storm Boy scenes would be reshot to edit him out of the film, Ms Teh said.
“It’s a very imminent release date so it’d be hard for them, unlike what happened with the reshooting of Kevin Spacey where they cut him out of the film,” she said.
“There was a bit more time there.
“In this case, I imagine they’ve got the release dates already scheduled for Storm Boy so the producers don’t have the chance to reshoot his sections.”
Katherine Teh believes the film could face a backlash, depending on the court’s decision. (Facebook)
Speaking generally about changes to the entertainment industry, Ms Teh said there had been a noticeable shift in attitudes towards sexual harassment within the sector, and society more broadly, in recent times.
“What people go to see a movie for is to forget the reality of the world for a moment, and they assume the people up there [on screen] are people we can look up to because they’ve got values similar to us,” she said.
“That’s a new development in society … that’s simply because of the level of maturity that society has on these issues today.
“A few decades ago, no-one would have expected the values of an actor would or should be the same as an average human.”
Storm Boy was filmed last year on location in Adelaide and the Coorong region.