Orange Is The New Black actor Yael Stone has accused Academy Award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush of sexual harassment and abuse. In an interview with the New York Times, Stone alleged that Rush used a mirror to watch her shower in their shared dressing room, and danced naked in front of her without her consent.
Stone and Rush worked together on a Sydney production of Gogol’s The Diary of a Madman, which was staged at the Upstairs Theatre from December 2010 to February 2011. Speaking to the New York Times, Stone said that she was initially thrilled at the prospect of working with Rush. “It was the biggest break I had ever had,” she remembers. “This wasn’t a stepping stone. It was a leap across the river.”
But things quickly became “weird” during rehearsals for the play, Stone claims. Stone says that Rush would send her late-night flirtatious, and occasionally vulgar, texts that she would respond to. “I’m embarrassed by the ways I participated,” she told the New York Times. “I certainly wouldn’t engage as the person I am now in the way I did when I was 25.”
In addition to the text messages, which often were sexual in nature, she claims Rush would initiate intimate behavior in the dressing room. Sometimes he would allegedly ask Stone to help him undress during intermission. Other days, when she was asleep in between matinee and evening performances, he would allegedly join her uninvited. The most disturbing aspect of his alleged abuse, Stone says, is the day Rush held a mirror over her cubicle whilst she was showering.
“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,” Stone said. “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.” Another employee on the show, who remained anonymous, told the New York Times they witnessed the incident and heard “Yael scream and tell him to stop.”
On another instance, Stone claims that Rush danced in front her, “totally naked”, one evening as she was removing her makeup. She explained that she felt compelled to respond with good humor, lest he think “I was one of those people who couldn’t take a joke.”
Overall, the tenor of the misconduct Stone alleges is familiar to what many women feel who have felt gaslighted by persistent, egregious conduct that skirts between playful banter and something more sinister. “It was, I suppose, again that line between comical and obscene,” one person who witnessed Rush stripping naked in front of Stone, commented. Another person who worked on the play confirmed that they felt uneasy witnessing the dynamic between Rush and Stone. “The play for me was tainted with a certain discomfort because of the dynamic between Geoffrey and Yael — not knowing what exactly was going on or how to respond,” they told the New York Times. In a diary Stone kept during the production, she wrote, “I’ve never hated acting so much.”
In a statement provided to the New York Times, Rush described Stone's allegations as “incorrect...some instances have been taken completely out of context.” He added, “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.”
This isn’t the first time Rush's name has been mentioned in regards to sexual misconduct: Last year, actor Eryn Jean Norvill claimed that Rush behaved inappropriately with her while they were working on a 2016 production of King Lear. Norvill claimed that Rush touched her breast whilst they were performing on-stage, in an interview with Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. Rush denied the allegations and later sued the newspaper for damages.