Craig McLachlan denies lying during defamation trial

Lauren FerriNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Craig McLachlan has denied “deliberately” lying while giving evidence in his defamation trial, with the Australian actor telling the court it was “impossible” he touched his co-stars while performing.

Mr McLachlan is suing his former co-star Christie Whelan Browne, the ABC and Fairfax Media for defamation in the NSW Supreme Court.

The 56-year-old claims the media companies and Ms Whelan Browne defamed him by publishing stories in January 2018 that he says falsely portrayed him as having harassed and bullied female performers in the 2014 run of The Rocky Horror Show. He denies the allegations.

Mr McLachlan returned to the witness stand on Thursday where he contradicted evidence he gave earlier in the week about a conversation he had with a co-star in April 2014.

On Tuesday he denied telling the actor, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, that he “could not wait for the bedroom scene” after going into her dressing room before a show.

However, defence barrister Michael Hodge QC showed Mr McLachlan an affidavit he signed in 2018.

In the affidavit, Mr McLachlan confesses to making the comment.

Camera IconCraig McLachlan has been accused of lying to a jury by a barrister during his defamation trial. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

“Question 63 is... On or about 4 April 2014, before the show commenced did you say ‘I can’t wait for the bed scene tonight”?” Mr Hodge told the court.

“Your answer was yes.”

Mr McLachlan claimed he could recall mentioning the bed scene to the woman, but said it was a joke.

“The only chat about the bed scene I can remember us having was about us corpsing in the scene,” he said.

He described “corpsing” as something actors intentionally did to make each other laugh during the scene.

Mr McLachlan said he does not remember saying he “could not wait for the bed scene”, but rather said “I’m going to make you laugh in the bed scene”.

Mr Hodge claimed the 56-year-old was trying to “spin” the evidence.

The barrister said: “The difficulty you have gotten yourself in with your evidence is you initially denied that you said you couldn’t wait for the bed scene and you were confronted by this and you had to spin it.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Hodge grilled the entertainer about whether he kissed the body of various actors who played the character of Janet during a “bed scene”.

During the scene, Mr McLachlan, playing Frank-N-Furter, disappears below the bedsheets.

He told the court he made “air kisses” while under the sheets for comedy effect.

Mr Hodge accused the 56-year-old of “making the story up” after he was “caught in a lie”.

“You are making this evidence up now,” Mr Hodge said to Mr McLachlan on Thursday morning.

Camera IconThe actor told the court he did kiss Christie Whelan Browne on her hip during a performance. NCA NewsWire / Nikki Short Credit: News Corp Australia

“This proceeding has been on foot for 4½ years … have you ever given this explanation that you had a practice after your head dropped below the bed covering of doing air kisses?”

Mr McLachlan told the court that he had never said it “to his memory”.

“That’s because you made it up … you had to come up with an explanation of why your head dropped below and you did a kiss,” Mr Hodge said.

“It’s a deliberate lie.”

Mr McLachlan replied: “No it is not.”

The 56-year-old admitted to kissing Ms Whelan Browne on the hip when he was once hidden from the audience during a Melbourne run of the show.

“I dropped the e-cigarette and Christie saw it, so I just jokingly kissed her on the hip while I scrambled to find it,” he told the jury.

“It was quite a funny moment.”

He again denied pulling Ms Whelan Browne’s underwear to the side and kissing her multiple times on the buttocks.

Mr McLachlan said it was “physically and temporally impossible”.

“At that point of the scene, I’m making a sound effect, reaching for the pocket and her back is facing me … Ms Whelan Browne is wedged there with her right buttock on the bed,” the actor told the court.

Mr Hodge continued to push: “You did do it, didn’t you?”

“No I did not,” Mr McLachlan replied.

Christie Whelan Browne and Craig McLachlan acted together during the 2014 run of The Rocky Horror Show. Supplied via NCA NewsWire.
Camera IconChristie Whelan Browne and Craig McLachlan acted together during the 2014 run of The Rocky Horror Show. Supplied via NCA NewsWire. Credit: Supplied

He also admitted to going into co-star Erika Heynatz’s dressing room and kissing her while his partner remained just metres away.

Mr McLachlan told the court that he went to Ms Heynatz’s room to console her about a feud she was having with Ms Whelan Browne.

“(Ms Heynatz) said to me she couldn’t wait for the tour to finish. She said Christie had made the whole experience unbearable,” he told the jury,

The court was told Ms Whelan Browne would use derogatory names about her female co-star after she “exploded” in Perth when they were assigned dressing rooms.

Mr McLachlan told the court that Ms Whelan Browne would “mock Ms Heynatz’s appearance” and use “foul” language.

When asked whether he would ever call a woman a “c**t”, Mr McLachlan flatly responded with “no”.

However, Mr Hodge read a poem to the court that Mr McLachlan had sent to his partner Ms Scammell and Ms Whelan Browne.

“There once was a chick who I think had a d**k based on the size of her mitts, with plenty of front the freak was a c**t, regardless of the shape of her bits,” Mr Hodge read.

When he put to Mr McLachlan that the poem was about Ms Heynatz, the actor denied it.

“You know it was, Mr McLachlan,” he pushed.

The actor replied: “No I don’t, Mr Hodge.”

“When you gave evidence to the jury a moment ago that you had never used that word about Ms Heynatz that was a lie,” Mr Hodge said.

Mr McLachlan said he thought the question was about whether he had ever said the name to Ms Heynatz directly.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you thought I was asking if you had ever said it to the woman’s face...I see, you would only use it behind a woman’s back?” Mr Hodge continued.

“That’s the distinction you’re drawing, isn’t it, you wouldn’t say it to a woman’s face, you’d only say it behind her back.”

Mr McLachlan denied ever calling Ms Heynatz any names, even behind her back.

“That is a lie,” Mr Hodge said.

“Once again you are giving false evidence to this jury, aren’t you?”

Mr McLachlan stood firm: “No I’m not Mr Hodge.”

The trial continues.

Originally published as Craig McLachlan denies lying during defamation trial

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