The Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush has launched defamation proceedings against the Sydney Daily Telegraph, accusing the paper of splashing “spurious claims with bombastic titles on their front pages”.

“Today I filed defamation proceedings in the federal court of Australia against the Daily Telegraph,” he said at a brief press conference in Melbourne. “This is to address the hyperbole, lies and the spurious claims about me in entertainment community. They have splashed spurious claims with bombastic titles on their front pages.

“This has created irreparable damage to my reputation, which has been extremely hurtful to my wife, daughter and my son, as well as to my extended family and many colleagues in the film, television and theatre industries. This situation is intolerable and I must now seek vindication of my good name through the courts in Australia.”

In November the Sydney Theatre Company released a statement to the Daily Telegraph saying it had received a complaint against Rush from someone who accused him of “inappropriate behaviour” during the company’s staging of William Shakespeare’s King Lear two years ago. The company did not disclose details of the allegation, saying the complainant asked that the allegation be dealt with confidentially and did not want Rush notified or involved in any investigation.

The Daily Telegraph led its front page with the story on 30 November.

Rush denied the allegations in a statement to the Daily Telegraph issued through his lawyers. He said he had not been informed of the nature of the complaint by the complainant or the theatre company, either at the time the complaint was made or since.

“In this current environment, ‘inappropriate behaviour’ may mean abuse, bullying or other forms of reprehensible activity,” the statement said. “These are matters that deserve forthright and objective levels of discussion. It must be made clear from the outset that Mr Rush abhors any form of maltreatment of any person in any form.”

On 2 December Rush announced he had stepped down as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts due to the allegations in order to protect his colleagues from being associated with the allegations.

Rush won an Academy Award for best actor in 1997 for the film Shine and was named Australian of the year in 2012. He appeared in the STC’s production of King Lear between November 2015 and January 2016 and has worked several times for the company.

The suit was filed on Friday. A court date is yet to be set.

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