Hollywood funny girl Rebel Wilson put on a serious face when she took publishing giant Bauer Media to court for defamation in 2017. The actress later won her case, but that wasn’t the end of the matter. You see, less than a year later, something shocking happened in the course of her legal claim.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Rebel Wilson broke onto the Hollywood scene in 2011 when she nabbed a co-starring role in the comedy smash Bridesmaids. And not long afterward, she starred in Pitch Perfect, another box office hit.
In fact, Pitch Perfect’s success allowed Wilson to reprise her role as Fat Amy twice more, with the second and third movies in the series released in 2015 and 2017, respectively. It was at the moment of Pitch Perfect 2’s release, though, that Wilson’s legal woes would spark.
Around about that time, Bauer Media published multiple stories about Wilson in Woman’s Day magazine. And although tabloid mentions are all part of being a celebrity, these articles made claims about Wilson which the actress said weren’t true.
For starters, they claimed that Wilson had lied about her age. Indeed, People magazine later wrote that the actress’ birthday was on March 2, 1980, making Wilson slightly older than the press had originally reported.
To this, the comedienne had a typically hilarious response. Wilson wrote on Twitter, “I’m actually a 100-year-old mermaid formerly known as ‘CC Chalice’… thanks, shady Australian press.” Seemingly unmoved, though, the publication continued to expose what they believed to be Wilson’s lies.
But this time they went further: their stories also scrutinized Wilson’s upbringing as she presented it in the press. Bauer Media’s attorney, Georgina Schoff, would later say that the actress claimed to have “grown up in a ghetto,” when, according to The Guardian, in reality she went to an “elite private boarding school.”
The publication even called into question Wilson’s name, saying she had lied about that, too. In total, Bauer Media ran eight articles in 2015 about her alleged lies. The actress didn’t take the series of stories lying down, though, not least since she claimed she had lost out on film roles because of them.
By 2017, then, she was in court after filing a defamation suit against Bauer Media. What’s more, her lawyer, Matthew Collins QC, told the jury that Wilson’s “world [had] collapsed” in the wake of the company’s allegations against her.
Although Bauer Media did, of course, defend its position, the jury had the final say – and they unanimously ruled in Wilson’s favor. But the biggest shock of all would come when the award for damages was revealed. The court demanded the actress be paid AU$4.5 million, or $3.6 million in American money.
The settlement was broken down into two figures: Wilson had won AU$650,000 in general damages, along with AU$3.9 million for the roles she claimed to have lost out on because of the defamatory articles. Her lawyers lauded the court’s decision, calling it the “largest defamation damages award in Australian history.”
Wilson, too, shared her thoughts after the judgment, saying, “I had to stand up to a bully, a huge media organization, Bauer Media, who maliciously took me down in 2015.” It turned out, though, that her fight wasn’t over yet.
And in 2018 she and Bauer Media were back in court. Although the jury’s decision wasn’t up for debate, the amount of money Wilson had been awarded was. You see, an appeals court were deliberating as to whether or not the defamatory articles were responsible for the actress’ lost roles.
Of course, Wilson had her thoughts about the media company’s move, and she once again shared them on Twitter. “What happens is to do with the losers @bauermedia quibbling about how much they now have to pay me,” she wrote.
Wilson also noted that she never wanted to fight the organization for a big payout but for the sake of her good name. “While this case was never about the money for me, I do hope to receive as much as possible to give away to charities and to support the Australian film industry,” she tweeted.
But Bauer Media and other journalism organizations worried that the extra-large payout could hurt the free press. And debate in Australia centered on whether, in the future, publications might avoid running a “public interest” story for fear of facing a huge lawsuit.
In the end, though, it was up to the appeals court to decide. And so, on June 14, 2018, they handed down their decision – and slashed the amount of money Wilson was set to receive from AU$4.56 million to just AU$600,000.
But there was a reason for reducing the actress’ payout. And all the details were contained in the judgment. “The court has rejected the finding that Rebel Wilson lost the opportunity to earn AU$15 million by being cast in lead or co-lead roles in Hollywood films from mid-2015 to the end of 2016,” it read.
In the wake of the court’s decision, though, Wilson remained defiant. Commenting on the appeal court’s decision to reduce her damages, she wrote on Twitter, “Everybody knows I lost money after those maliciously defamatory articles were printed. The learned trial judge and Australian jury on the case who heard all the evidence clearly agreed.”
Meanwhile, although a new verdict had been reached, Wilson vowed that this wasn’t the end of her fight. “I was hoping the Court of Appeal would deliver a reasonable judgment today. Seeing as that has clearly not happened, I look forward to appealing,” she tweeted.