Rebel Wilson awarded over $4M in defamation case
A judge awarded Rebel Wilson record damages of AU$4.56 million (C$4.44 million) on Wednesday over magazine articles the actress said cost her roles in Hollywood films.
A Supreme Court jury in Australia’s Victoria state had decided in June the articles claiming she lied about her age, origins of her first name and her upbringing in Sydney were defamatory.
Justice John Dixon said a substantial award amount was required to “vindicate” Wilson after her reputation as an “actress of integrity was wrongly damaged.”
Bauer Media, publisher of the Australian magazines Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, NW and OK, said it was considering the judgment.
In 2015, the magazines Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day, published eight separate articles, which Wilson claimed defamed her as a liar, and she said the articles cost her jobs and damaged her reputation.
The articles cited a former classmate, who accused the Bridesmaids actress of being six years older than what the media had been reporting. The classmate also said that Wilson went by a different name in high school.
The 37-year-old actress was in London on Wednesday and her lawyers were unable to immediately speak to her about the decision.
“Today was the end of a long and hard court battle against Bauer Media who viciously tried to take me down with a series of false articles,” Wilson tweeted Wednesday.
“The judge accepted without qualification that I had an extremely high reputation and that the damage inflicted on me was substantial,” Wilson wrote.
The Pitch Perfect actress said on Twitter that the case “wasn’t about the money.”
“I’m looking forward to helping out some great Australian charities and supporting the Oz film industry with the damages I’ve received,” she tweeted. “Also looking forward to getting back to my career and entertaining everyone!”
Wilson’s lawyer, Richard Leder, said outside court the damages were about four times higher than the previous Australian record for a defamation case.
Leder also said that Wilson’s legal team would apply for Bauer Media to pay all her legal costs. She had sought more than AU$7 million.
Bauer Media had previously branded that damage claim “extraordinarily large” and made on the “most tenuous of basis.”
Bauer lawyer Georgina Schoff told the judge that Wilson had failed to prove the articles caused her financial losses.
Bauer failed to prove the articles published in 2015 were substantially true or that they were unlikely to harm her career.
The jury found Bauer had said Wilson lied about her age, claiming to be six years younger, and had falsely claimed to have been named Rebel at birth.
They also found Bauer had said Wilson lied about having a hallucination about winning an Academy Award while sick with malaria, about her parents being dog trainers, about being related to U.S. entertainment entrepreneur Walt Disney and about being raised in a “ghetto” area of Sydney.
Wilson blamed the articles for her film contracts with Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls being terminated.
In February 2016, Wilson spoke about the reports during an appearance on ABC’s Home Delivery.
“If I was guilty of something, I mean, I don’t really have any skeletons in my closet, which is why it’s quite hard for people to write bad stuff about me,” she said. “You know, I don’t have a drug addiction or a secret child. But I think when I did go to America, I kind of just stopped saying my age.”
She continued: “But the reality is when you work in America, you have to show your passport and your visa for every single job, so it’s not like you can hide how old you were. So for the press to do a story that I was deliberately lying or whatever, no. I was just being a lady and not telling my age when I moved to America. That’s not really a crime. Also, most actresses do that.”
Wilson also explained the accusations about her name. “I went under one of my middle names, Melanie, and my father’s surname. And also, Rebel, at a Christian girl’s school, is not like the best name to have,” she said.
—With files from the Associated PressFollow @KatieScottNews
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.