Paul Haggis publicly denies sexual assault accusations – Deadline
Canadian director Paul Haggis, who is currently stuck in Southern Italy awaiting the outcome of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault against him, has strongly denied the accusations in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker was first arrested on June 19 while attending a festival in the town of Ostuni near the port city of Brindisi in the southern Italian region of Puglia, after a woman who had joined him there accused him of subjecting her to non-consensual sex over the course of a number of days.
According to prosecutors, Haggis then accompanied the woman to Brindisi airport and left her there in a “precarious physical and psychological condition”.
In his first major media interview since the case began, Haggis told La Repubblica that he had made mistakes but that he was not guilty of the allegations against him.
“My first mistake was allowing someone who I hardly knew to come and visit me. It was foolish. The second mistake was on the last morning after an incident occurred that I personally found particularly unpleasant, I decided to end this situation; I took this person to the airport hours before her flight. I’m upset with myself for these errors in judgment but cannot comprehend that they resulted in false and damaging accusations against me,” he said.
The director was initially placed under house arrest in a hotel in Ostuni for two weeks but this was lifted last week. He can now move about freely but cannot leave Italy until the investigation is completed. A final decision on whether the case will go to trial is expected in the coming weeks.
Haggis said that while he had put his trust in the Italian justice system to get to the bottom of the affair, he was concerned the trial could last a number of years.
“There are some things that I cannot understand, like how it’s possible that in your country you can start and continue a trial even when the accusation is not corroborated by clear evidence. It seems strange and unjust to me that innocent people can apparently be prosecuted for years,” he said.
“My attorneys explained to me that in Italy, a trial could last many years. I can’t even imagine the damage that kind of prosecution could cause to my family and my ability to provide for them,” he added
A final decision on whether the case will be brought to trial is expected in the coming weeks.
The La Repubblica interview also touched on accusations against Haggis in the US and the civil lawsuit that awaits him in New York, filed by events publicist Haleigh Breest, who accused the director of raping her in 2013.
“I am still bound by the court order I signed almost five years ago and cannot reveal any evidence or information I have learned,” said Haggis. “The woman in the United States did not make a criminal complaint against me; she demanded nine million dollars from me to keep silent, about a consensual one-night encounter we had five years earlier”.
A trial date for the US lawsuit has yet to be set due to a Covid-related backlog. Since Breest went public, another four women have made similar allegations.
Haggis, won him the Oscar for best film and best original screenplay for Crash in 2006, is a regular visitor to Italy and had originally travelled to Puglia for the launch of the Allora Fest in Ostuni, a new festival in which he was one of the founding partners.