Geoffrey Rush resigns from Australian Academy over misconduct allegations

Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actor Geoffrey Rush resigned Saturday as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts. The move follows allegations earlier in the week of inappropriate behavior, and comes just days before the academy hands out its annual awards.

One of the world’s best-known performers, Rush has credits that include “The King’s Speech,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Shakespeare in Love.” He won the Best Actor Oscar for “Shine.”

The allegations against him emerged Wednesday when the Sydney Theatre Company revealed that it had received a complaint about Rush after he appeared in “King Lear” there two years ago. Neither the STC nor Rush have provided any detail of the allegations.

Rush has accused the STC of smearing his name. But in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and other sexual harassment allegations that have rocked the entertainment industry, his denials have failed to quell the storm.

On Saturday, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, or AACTA, said it accepted and respected Rush’s decision “to voluntarily step aside” as the organization’s president. “We have been deeply concerned about the situation and support a course of action that both respects Geoffrey’s rights to the presumption of innocence and due process, but also acknowledges good corporate governance in these circumstances,” the AACTA said in a statement posted to its website.

Rush explained his move in a statement issued Saturday through his lawyers. “Certain recent media reports have made untenable allegations concerning my standing in the entertainment community. It is unreasonable that my professional colleagues should be somehow associated with such allegations,” Rush said.

“In the circumstances, I have decided to step aside in my ambassadorial role as president of AACTA effective immediately and until these issues have been resolved. This decision has not been made lightly. However, in the current climate of innuendo and unjustifiable reporting, I believe the decision to make a clean break to clear the air is the best for all concerned.”

The scandal could not have come at a more sensitive moment for the Australian academy. The organization is scheduled to hold its annual awards lunch Monday. The 7th edition of its annual awards follows on Wednesday evening.

“Mr. Rush has not been approached by the Sydney Theatre Company and the alleged complainant nor any representative of either of them concerning the matter you have raised,” Rush’s lawyers, HWL Ebsworth, said in a statement. “In other words, there has been no provision of any details, circumstances, allegations or events that can be meaningfully responded to.

“It is a great disappointment to Mr. Rush the STC has chosen to smear his name and unjustifiably damage his reputation in this way,” the statement continued. “Not to afford a person their right to know what has been alleged against them, let alone not inform them of it but release such information to the public, is both a denial of natural justice and is not how our society operates.”

Rush has been nominated four times for Academy Awards, and won for “Shine.” He has also been nominated five time for AFI Awards, the predecessors of the current AACTA awards, winning for “Shine.” Additionally, he won the AFI’s Longford lifetime achievement award in 2009.

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