Actor Craig McLachlan has been accused of deliberately lying about giving "air kisses" to actresses while out of sight of the audience during a bed scene in The Rocky Horror Show.
In the Federal Court on Thursday, McLachlan, 56, was grilled about seemingly conflicting accounts of whether he continued to kiss the body of the actress playing the character Janet during the scene after he had disappeared under the bedsheets.
After McLachlan claimed he made air kisses for comedy, defence barrister Michael Hodge QC accused him of making the story up after seeing video footage of him continuing to make kissing sounds after dropping beneath the covers.
"It's a deliberate lie," Mr Hodge said.
"No, it's not," McLachlan replied.
McLachlan is suing the ABC, Fairfax, and actress Christie Whelan Browne, 39, for defamation over publications in January 2018 relating to claims of misconduct during the 2014 production of The Rocky Horror Show and other productions.
McLachlan admitted "jokingly" kissing Whelan Browne once on the hips while underneath the bedsheets after scrambling to find his dropped prop e-cigarette.
"It was quite a funny moment," he told the jury.
He denied pulling back Whelan Browne's underwear and kissing her buttocks during that same scene, saying the move was physically and temporally impossible.
"You were using the bed scene with Janet as an opportunity to kiss and touch the bodies of the women playing Janet, weren't you," Mr Hodge suggested.
"Certainly not," the actor replied.
McLachlan has admitted giving one Rocky Horror cast member, who cannot be named, a "quick playful peck" on the lips and kissing another actress, Erika Haynatz, 47, on the lips after saying he was infatuated with her and, in an impression of Jim Carrey from The Mask, said he had fallen in love with her.
The jury was told of a dressing room feud in which Whelan Browne was accused of relentlessly bullying Haynatz and making the 2014 Rocky Horror production "unbearable". McLachlan claimed he kissed Haynatz in a visit to her dressing room to comfort her while his partner Vanessa Scammell was in the theatre.
Mr Hodge accused both McLachlan and Scammell of concocting this story, pointing out that, on the actor's own evidence, he had not actually said anything to Haynatz about the alleged bullying when he visited for the kiss.
While McLachlan told the court Haynatz had not described the extent of the alleged bullying to him, excerpts from a Spotlight interview on Channel Seven in May last year played to the jury showed the actor claim he had been told of the details.
From the witness box, he apologised for being in an emotional state during the interview, saying he chose his words badly.
In another Spotlight clip, McLachlan is seen claiming that he had merely given a "greeting kiss" to Haynatz.
"You can see the absurdity of that explanation, can't you?" Mr Hodge said.
When the actor said he had not informed theatre management of Whelan Browne's apparent behaviour towards Haynatz, including saying she had "man hands" and looked like a man, Mr Hodge suggested McLachlan would have been a hypocrite as he had also used similar language about the actress.
Mr Hodge took the jury to a limerick sent by McLachlan to Whelan Browne and his partner in early 2014 about a woman who was a "c***" and "a chick who I think had dick based on the size of her mitts".
After the actor denied the poem was about Haynatz, Mr Hodge again accused him of giving false evidence to the jury.
The actor has denied the allegations in the publications, and has accused Whelan Browne and two other women of approaching the media for notoriety or money.
The hearing continues on Friday.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.