The Oscar-winning director and screenwriter Paul Haggis was arrested in the southern Italian city of Ostuni on Sunday after a “foreign woman” claimed he had held her in his hotel room and forced her to have sex over the course of two days, police in the regional capital of Brindisi confirmed to The Daily Beast.
The alleged sexual assault victim is an unidentified, non-Italian woman. According to a local prosecutor, Haggis, 69, is charged with having “non-consensual relations” with the woman while he was in Italy for the international music and film festival Allora Fest, which he had been billed to headline with Oliver Stone, Matt Dillon, Edward Norton, and Marisa Tomei.
The Italian police report indicates that, after assaulting her, Haggis allegedly took the victim to the airport to fly her out of Italy. When she resisted, he abandoned her, despite her alleged compromised physical and psychological states.
A police source told The Daily Beast that the woman may have been working the festival as a sex worker.
At the airport, employees helped the woman to nearby police officers, who then took her to hospital where staff underwent the protocol for rape victims.
Priya Chaudhry, an attorney for Haggis, told The Hollywood Reporter in a statement that, under Italian law, she could not discuss the evidence.
“That said, I am confident that all allegations will be dismissed against Mr. Haggis,” Chaudhry wrote. “He is totally innocent, and willing to fully cooperate with the authorities so the truth comes out quickly.”
Haggis, the first person to have written consecutive Best Picture Oscar winners with 2004’s Million Dollar Baby and 2005’s Crash, has been accused of assault before. In December 2017, a civil lawsuit was filed against Haggis by publicist Haleigh Breest, who accused him of violently raping her in a New York City apartment four years earlier.
“The truth she knows and has lived is that behind the façade of these comments lies another predator, a man willing to force himself on a young woman less than half his age and take pleasure in the fear and pain he caused her,” the filing stated. “Ms. Breest will not look the other way any longer.”
Her lawsuit is ongoing, having been prolonged by the pandemic, according to The New York Times.
In January 2018, following the news of Breest’s suit, the Associated Press reported that three additional women had come forward to allege that Haggis had sexually assaulted them.
Haggis has denied the allegations, with a lawyer telling the AP at the time that the director “did not rape anybody.”
Hours before Breest filed her suit in 2017, Haggis filed his own complaint against her, insisting that the publicist was trying to shake him down for $9 million. His suit maintained that the two had enjoyed a “friendly, and at times flirtatious, relationship.”
Haggis also made headlines in 2009, when he defected from the Church of Scientology. He has indicated that the sexual misconduct allegations are part of a retaliation campaign by church leadership. All four women have denied a connection to the organization.
In a statement written in Italian, the Allora Fest said it “will immediately eliminate any participation of the director from the event. At the same time, we express full solidarity with the woman involved in the matter. The themes chosen for the Festival are those of equality, gender equality, solidarity. As professionals and women we are dismayed and hope that the Festival will be an instrument of information and awareness on such a topical and dramatically increasing theme.”