Paul Haggis, the Academy Award-winning writer and director of Crash, has been accused of sexual misconduct by four women, according to a new Associated Press report. Three of the women decided to come forward after a civil lawsuit was filed alleging that Haggis raped a publicist, identified in court papers as Haleigh Breest.
The original lawsuit was filed on Dec. 15, after which the filing attorney was reportedly contacted by the three other women. According to the AP, a second women has come forward also claiming that Haggis raped her, after forcing her to perform oral sex; a third alleges Haggis held her down and forcibly kissed her on a street corner before following her into a taxi. The AP says that one of the alleged encounters took place as recent as 2015 and that the allegations overall span 20 years.
The AP reports that Haggis denied the original rape allegation and filed a counter-claim alleging that Breest and her lawyer had demanded a $9 million payment to avoid legal action.
Haggis’ attorney Christine Lespera said in a statement Friday obtained by EW that Haggis “denies these anonymous claims in whole.”
“In a society where one of a person’s fundamental rights is the ability to confront an accuser, that right has now been eviscerated when it comes to anyone being charged in the press with any sort of sexual misconduct,” the statement continued. “Notably, no one has reached out to anyone on Mr. Haggis’ team other than the press to report this.”
Breest’s lawyers responded to Haggis’ counter-claim in a statement obtained Thursday by the AP. “We view Mr. Haggis’s claims against Haleigh Breest as ludicrous, and a further act of aggression. In our system of justice, those who have been wronged have the clear right to seek redress and hold those responsible accountable for their misconduct,” said Jonathan Abady. “In an act of remarkable hubris, Mr. Haggis has the temerity to claim that he, not her, was the victim. It is a preposterous and transparent PR stunt that will not succeed. Ms. Breest will not be intimidated or deterred from seeking justice.”
Haggis has long been a Hollywood heavyweight. He wrote and directed Crash, which controversially won the Academy Award for best picture in 2006, and also received Oscar nominations for writing screenplays for Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima. Haggis is also an Emmy-winning TV producer; most recently, he directed and executive-produced every episode of David Simon’s Show Me a Hero, which starred Oscar Isaac in a Golden Globe-winning role.
The allegations against Haggis come as Hollywood continues to be swept up by a wave of sexual misconduct claims. The trend began with Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced mogul who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 60 women. (Weinstein denies any allegation of non-consensual sex.) Haggis, in October, weighed in on the Weinstein news in an interview with The Guardian. “A lot of people are compromised by Harvey’s alleged actions,” he said. “Although everyone thinks it is vile behavior, you have got to focus on those who may have colluded and protected him. For me, they are as guilty as he is and in some cases more so, if I can say that. I mean, he was a predator and a predator is a predator. But what about those who would rather look the other way?”