Geoffrey Rush is seeking further details about a colleague's relationship which may show distress about a break-up affected her claims he acted inappropriately toward her, a Federal Court has heard.
The actor is suing The Daily Telegraph's publisher and reporter Jonathon Moran over articles about allegations he behaved inappropriately toward fellow cast member Eryn Jean Norvill. The 67-year-old denies the claims.
Norvill played Cordelia - the daughter of Rush's character King Lear - during a Sydney Theatre Company production of the Shakespeare play in 2015 when he allegedly touched her inappropriately.
When asking the court for access to the details on Wednesday, Rush's barrister Bruce McClintock SC said "there is obviously something significant about this relationship" they are entitled to test.
But Justice Michael Wigney rejected Mr McClintock's request to access all documents relating or referring to Norvill - specifically a relationship and its break-up - since October 2015.
Justice Wigney labelled it "too broad" but agreed a series of emails could be made available to Rush's lawyers.
Mr McClintock told the preliminary hearing he was "open to excluding material that's wholly irrelevant" but sought "materials going to the core of the relationship and the ending of it, and whatever was happening in the course of the dates" in 2015.
"If there was something going on, it might very well affect ... the complainant's assertions against my client," Mr McClintock said.
"These are very grave allegations.
"Small matters may make, ultimately, a very great difference."
Barrister Lyndelle Barnett, for Nationwide News and Norvill, argued the bid for further documents was a case of "classic fishing" and "trawling".
"I accept that the submission can be put that there was another cause of distress," Ms Barnett said.
"Really what the applicant is doing is hoping there was something going on in this relationship which might affect Ms Norvill's credit."
Nationwide News and Moran will attempt to prove a defence of truth when the case goes to trial in October.
According to documents lodged in the Telegraph's amended defence last month, Rush allegedly "moved his hand so that it traced down the complainant's torso and across the side of her right breast" during a scene when King Lear was meant to be grieving his daughter's death.
The defence documents also claim that during shows Rush placed his hand on Norvill's back when they were backstage. One occasion allegedly included a light, slow and deliberate touch lasting for 20 to 30 seconds.
Rush's lawyers have criticised the Telegraph for publishing the original articles without speaking to Norvill, who only agreed to give her account more than seven months after the first article on the alleged conduct went to print.
Australian Associated Press