Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter behind Million Dollar Baby and Crash (the latter of which he also directed), has been accused of sexual misconduct by four women, according to a new Associated Press report. Two of the victims claim the Hollywood veteran raped them.
The first accuser, named in court documents as publicist Haleigh Breest, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Haggis, alleging that he raped her after luring her back to his Manhattan apartment following a film premiere back in 2013. Haggis has denied Breest’s rape allegation in a counter-complaint, suggesting that her demand of a $9 million payment settlement was a form of extortion.
Despite his denial, Breest’s lawsuit has since inspired three additional women to speak up about their disturbing encounters with Haggis, all of which took place between 1996 and 2015. In each of their accounts, Haggis was painted as a Hollywood predator, whose MO involved inviting women early in their careers to “private or semi-private places under the guise of discussing productions or a subject of a professional nature,” as AP notes. When his sexual advances were refused, he’d often turn aggressive, said two of the women.
One of the new accusers said she was assaulted while working as a publicist for one of Haggis’ TV shows in 1996. During a supposed meeting over press photos, the woman, then 28, claimed Haggis began kissing her. “I just pulled away,” she told AP. “He was just glaring at me and came at me again. I was really resisting. He said to me, ’Do you really want to continue working?’” the woman said. “And then he really forced himself on me. I was just numb. I didn’t know what to do.” She said Haggis then forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her while on the floor.
The second accuser met with Haggis at his Los Angeles office in the late 2000s in order to pitch him a potential TV show when he made a pass at her. She said she managed to leave the room and run to her car, though Haggis tried to catch up with her outside. “I felt like my life could have been over,” she recalled.
It was in Canada in 2015 that the third accuser was allegedly assaulted by Haggis, whom she knew from various film events. The woman, who was in her late 20s at the time, said Haggis forcibly kissed her while on a street corner and then followed her into a taxi that was headed to her home.
“She said that when the taxi arrived at her apartment, Haggis threw money at the driver, chased her and kissed her again before she was able to get into her residence and shut the door,” writes AP. “She said Haggis waved his hands at her once she was inside and sent her harassing text messages for the next 24 hours, until she blocked him.”
When asked to comment on the three new accusers, Christina Lepera, an attorney for the 64-year-old Haggis, simply said, “He didn’t rape anybody.”
Haggis, of course, is one of many, many Hollywood fixtures who’ve been accused of sexual misconduct since Harvey Weinstein.