Rebel Wilson ordered to pay £2.3 million to publisher after a court overturns record defamation payout

Australian actress Rebel Wilson has been ordered to repay £2.3 million to a magazine publisher after a court overturned her record defamation payout over stories in which it was claimed she invented her backstory to boost her career.

Despite winning the defamation case against Bauer Media last year, the Victorian Court of Appeal has ordered Wilson, who appeared in the Pitch Perfect series and Bridesmaids, to repay the bulk of her initial £2.6 million in damages, plus £34,000 in interest.  She will also have to pay 80 per cent of the publisher’s appeal costs.

Wilson sued Bauer Media over a series of articles published in its magazines in 2015 which claimed  the 38-year-old  lied about her name, age and being related to Walt Disney.

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A jury found that she had been defamed and a judge then granted her a record payout, accepting her claim that the articles damaged her career and cost her roles in the films  Kung Fu Panda 3 and Trolls.

But the appeal court slashed the damages amount, saying it had “no basis in the evidence”.

Wilson (far-right) in Pitch Perfect 2

Wilson had claimed she intended to donate her payout to charity and the Australian film industry. She said she hoped her case would inspire other celebrities to fight against untruths about them that appeared in the media.

After she lost the appeal, Wilson said on Twitter, where she has 2.96 million followers, that “everybody knows I lost money after those maliciously defamatory articles were printed about me”.

“That’s now $4 million [£2.2 million] less going to less fortunate Australians and leaves a billionaire corporation, proven guilty of malicious defamation, being able to get away with their seriously harmful acts for a very low pay day!” she said. “Clearly not fair. Come on, Australia.”

The three-week defamation trial attracted much interest, partly due to Wilson’s courtroom antics, which included cracking jokes, crying and  rapping an Academy Award acceptance speech.

But the surprising size of the payout prompted concerns in Australia about its strict defamation laws and the potential impact on free speech.