Rebel Wilson ordered to pay back US$3 million plus interest

Rebel Wilson claimed that Bauer Media committed acts of defamation against her. (AFP pic)

MELBOURNE: Hollywood actress Rebel Wilson was ordered to return almost US$3.1 million (RM12.5 million) with interest to an Australian publisher on Wednesday after a defamation payout was slashed on appeal.

The “Pitch Perfect” star was awarded A$4.5 million (RM13.3 million) in damages against Bauer Media last September over articles claiming she lied about her age and background to further her career.

It was the largest defamation win in Australian legal history and Bauer appealed, arguing the size of the settlement set a dangerous precedent and there were errors of law in the judgement.

The Victorian Court of Appeal agreed and cut the payout to just A$600,000 (RM1.8 million) earlier this month in a decision the actress called “absolutely flippant”.

Bauer had already handed over the money and the Court of Appeal on Wednesday ordered Wilson to repay nearly A$4.2 million (RM12.5 million), including costs and more than A$60,000 (RM180,000) in interest.

The star did not dispute that the money needed to be returned, but argued the interest should be charged at the prevailing Reserve Bank cash rate of 1.5%, rather than the 2% sought by Bauer.

The appeal court disagreed and ordered interest be paid at the higher rate.

Wilson vowed after the initial judgement to give any payout to charity and the Australian film industry. It is not clear whether she has already done so.

She had claimed a series of articles in Woman’s Day, Australian Women’s Weekly, and OK Magazine in 2015 had portrayed her as a serial liar and damaged her reputation.

The Sydney-born actress told the trial she was fired from DreamWorks animated feature films “Trolls” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” following the stories.

But the Court of Appeal said there was no basis for her to receive financial damages for the potential loss of roles.

It found that the previous judge had relied on evidence from Wilson and two Hollywood agents to draw the conclusion that she had lost job opportunities.