Director Paul Haggis opens up on his ongoing sex abuse case in Italy as prosecutors there seek to place him back under house arrest.
A judge in the Italian city of Brindisi last week found an “absence of constraining violent behavior” and released the “Crash” director from a 16-day detention at his hotel where Haggis had been for a film festival. The two-time Oscar winner recently gave a lengthy interview to Italian publication La Repubblica, in which he pleaded innocent and discussed the professional consequences of the allegations against him in the US and abroad.
“Being accused of sexual violence, something I didn’t do, was devastating and something I hope no innocent person will ever experience,” Haggis said in a translated interview published by the Italian broadcaster on Tuesday .
The 69-year-old also admitted mistakes on which the allegations are based. According to Italian media, a 30-year-old English woman who knew Haggis before going to the film festival claimed he forced her to have sex with him at a bed and breakfast in Puglia for two days and then dropped her off at an airport in the Near while she was in a state of confusion.
“As I told the judge, my first mistake was allowing someone I barely knew to visit me. It was foolish,” Haggis said. “The second mistake was that on the last morning, after an incident that I personally found particularly uncomfortable, I decided to end this situation; I took this person to the airport hours before their flight. I am upset by these misconceptions but cannot understand why they have led to false and harmful allegations against me.”
Haggis claimed that he has never been charged with a crime and no woman has filed criminal charges against him. He also said he waited five years to clear his name in the US after a civil lawsuit alleging rape, but lamented that the case in Italy was seen as a precedent against him, even though he is not yet before a US court had been.
“I’m still the only person asking a prosecutor to investigate,” he said. “As for my work, after five years I recently landed two screenwriting jobs. When I was arrested in Italy, I lost both.”
When the reporter likened Haggis’ personal and professional woes to a “bad script,” Haggis replied, “In fiction, the only way to know a character’s heart is to put terrible pressure on them. I think that’s the same in life. I have always tried to behave with dignity and not speak out or defend myself. I will rely on the courts to uphold the truth and deliver justice.”
Variety reported Tuesday that prosecutors and the alleged victim’s attorneys have appealed the judge’s decision to release Haggis from custody — a decision made last week during a pretrial hearing in which Haggis faced his accuser.
When asked if he thinks there might be a connection between his high-profile departure from the Church of Scientology in 2009 and “what’s happened to him since,” the director didn’t rule it out entirely.
“I don’t have proof in this case yet, but from what I’ve learned dealing with Scientology, they’re capable of absolutely anything. If you speak out against them, they will use any means necessary to destroy your reputation, your career and your family,” Haggis claimed.
“They refer to this ruthless tactic as ‘fair game’. You can ask people who know more than me [former Scientology spokesman] Mike Rinder, who for many years oversaw what they call Scientology’s “black ops” or any of the dedicated and courageous journalists like Bryan Seymour who have spent their careers investigating this dangerous cult,” he added.
Haggis was an outspoken critic of the church. He took part in the bombastic documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief in 2015 and the documentary Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath in 2016 and criticized the organization in the New Yorker.
Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, dismissed Haggis’ comments on Tuesday.
“This has been Paul Haggis’ playbook all along – now accused of rape and horrific sexual assault by five different women, he refuses to take responsibility for his actions and instead dodges, using the press to expose the.” falsely accusing the church and shaming its alleged victims with false and defamatory rhetoric,” Pouw told The Times in an email.
Haggis is scheduled to go on trial in New York in October in a separate case related to allegations made in 2017 by film publicist Haleigh Breest that Haggis raped her in his New York apartment in 2013. Haggis denied the allegation and sued Breest, accusing her and her attorney of attempting to extort $9 million in “hush money.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-07-12/paul-haggis-italy-la-repubblica-interview-sex-abuse-case-scientology Paul Haggis says he made mistakes in Italian sex-abuse case