Eryn Jean Norvill's evidence of sexual harassment by Geoffrey Rush is "rife with contradictions, inconsistencies and recent invention" and she's told "so many false stories she can't keep them straight", the Oscar winner's lawyer says.
Norvill's testimony has to be considered against "a sea of absent witnesses" and the contradictory evidence of fellow actors Robyn Nevin, Helen Buday and Mark Leonard Winter, barrister Sue Chrysanthou told the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday.
Ms Chrysanthou was giving final submissions for Rush as he sues The Daily Telegraph publisher Nationwide News and journalist Jonathon Moran for defamation over two articles and a newsagent poster published in 2017.
They related to an allegation he behaved inappropriately toward a co-star - later revealed to be Norvill - during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
Rush denies the allegation and says the Telegraph portrayed him as a pervert and sexual predator.
Nationwide News denies the newspaper conveyed those imputations about Rush but is arguing they're substantially true after Norvill - who didn't participate in the articles - agreed to testify.
Some of her allegations to the court were that Rush made groping gestures and sexual innuendo toward her in rehearsals, that he stroked her lower back backstage and deliberately touched her breast as he grieved over her character's dead body during a performance.
Ms Chrysanthou took issue with a suggestion by the Telegraph's barrister, Tom Blackburn SC, that the case was essentially a contest between the evidence of Rush and Norvill.
She suggested the outcome of the judge-alone trial would be determined by considering Norvill's evidence against contemporaneous documents, the evidence of other witnesses and her own testimony.
"Similarly, her evidence has to be considered against the sea of absent witnesses - and there's a lot of them," Ms Chrysanthou said.
Norvill repeatedly denied lying when she was in the witness box and Mr Blackburn in his closing submissions on Wednesday told Justice Michael Wigney she had no motive to lie.
He said Norvill had never wanted her informal complaint to the STC to go public, and she'd been an impressive and brave witness.
But Ms Chrysanthou on Thursday said the judge didn't need to wonder why she would lie.
"What could possibly be her motive to lie? Who cares! That's not Your Honour's job," she said.
The lawyer said the only person who told the court they'd seen Rush make groping gestures toward Norvill during rehearsals was Winter, a King Lear actor who gave evidence in the Telegraph's case and said he had a vague recollection.
"He also gave evidence that Mr Rush was an exemplary company leader ... he clearly at no point thought that anything inappropriate had happened," Ms Chrysanthou said.
She said other King Lear actors Nevin and Buday and director Neil Armfield said they would have done something about it if they witnessed it.
"(Norvill) is saying there are other people that are there who saw it and laughed at it. Who are these people? Where are they?," Ms Chrysanthou said.
She said Winter's evidence of Rush's alleged onstage breast touch contradicted Norvill's - and if it happened as she described, the cast, crew and audience of 959 people would have noticed.
It was unimaginable that Rush would engage in such conduct and risk the audience seeing it, Ms Chrysanthou said.
The trial continues.