Famed Director Accused Of Sexual Assault Released

Who knows what really happened?

By Michileen Martin | Published

paul haggis

In June, Oscar-winning director and writer Paul Haggis was detained in Italy and ordered to remain under house arrest in a hotel after a 28-year-old woman accused him of sexual assault. Today, it’s likely the filmmaker is feeling a lot more confident in whatever legal proceedings are in store for him. After 16 days in house arrest, Haggis has been released.

Variety reports that Italian judge Vilma Gilli, upon reviewing the alleged victim’s account of the events against statements from Paul Haggis, said that there was what she called an “absence of constricting violent behavior.” The judge also noted that the story that had unfolded was a complex one which did not completely match the understanding which led to the house arrest ruling.

In a report obtained by The Daily Beast shortly after the news broke, the 28-year-old British complainant accused Paul Haggis of raping her “for days.” She claimed she flew into Italy to work with Haggis, but instead he allegedly sexually assaulted her “from Sunday evening to Wednesday.” In the report, the alleged victim said that Paul Haggis drove her to the airport and left her there “before dawn” with money so she could buy an airport ticket. She was reportedly found “cowering in a corner” by a stewardess who said the 28-year-old seemed “destroyed” and had difficulty speaking. A medical examiner confirmed she had injuries consistent with sexual assault so severe that they “left her incapable of having sex.”

Paul Haggis, on the other hand, has maintained that he did have sex with the woman but that the encounters were completely consensual. As The AV Club notes, this is not the first time Haggis has found himself facing sexual assault allegations. In late 2017, film publicist Haleigh Breest sued Haggis, claiming he sexually assaulted her in 2013. The following month, three more women came forward making allegations against Haggis. The trial for Breest’s lawsuit is scheduled to begin in October. The filmmaker had attempted to expedite the trial, arguing that he can no longer afford his legal fees and cannot work until his name is cleared.

There has been speculation that the accusations against Paul Haggis are part of a coordinated effort by the Church of Scientology. In 2018, shortly after most of the allegations against Haggis surfaced, Leah Remini and Mike Rinder posted an open letter defending the filmmaker. Haggis left the Church of Scientology in 2009 and appeared on Remini and Rinder’s show Scientology and the Aftermath. He has been critical of the church, and Remini and Riner believe the allegations could be cooked up by the church. Their letter read, “Those who accuse without going to law enforcement, those who seek hush money to keep their stories secret, those who make accusations to the media anonymously – they are suspect. And when the target of these tactics is someone who is a prominent critic of scientology, it is very suspect.”

Paul Haggis is a two-time Oscar winner, receiving the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Motion Picture in 2006 for Crash. He was also nominated that year for Best Director for Crash, but lost to Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain. He was nominated the year before for Best Original Screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, though the trophy went instead to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And in 2007 he earned a Best Original Screenplay nomination once more for Letters from Iwo Jima, though it went instead to Little Miss Sunshine.