Million Dollar Baby Writer Paul Haggis Arrested in Italy on Sexual Assault Charge

Oscar-winning Canadian screenwriter and director Paul Haggis has been arrested in Ostuni, southern Italy, on charges of sexual assault and grievous bodily harm to an unidentified woman who has filed charges.

According to several Italian press releases and a note from the prosecutor of the nearby city of Brindisi, Haggis is accused of forcing a young “foreign” – that is, non-Italian – woman to have intercourse for two days in Ostuni, while he was scheduled to give several masterclasses at the Allora Fest, a new film event launched by Los Angeles-based Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and Spanish art critic Sol Costales Doulton, which will take place in Ostuni from June 21 to June 26.

Bizio has confirmed that Variety that Haggis has been arrested.

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Paul Haggis poses for a photo in Toronto during the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival (AAP)
Paul Haggis, pictured here in 2014, has been arrested in Italy for assault. He was in the country for work. (MONKEY)

“Under Italian law, I cannot discuss the evidence,” Haggis’ personal lawyer Priya Chaudhry said in a statement.

“Having said that, I am confident that all charges against Mr Haggis will be dismissed. He is completely innocent and willing to cooperate fully with the authorities so that the truth comes to light quickly.”

In a statement, The Allora Fest said they were “learned with dismay and shocked at the news that Paul Haggis is in custody for alleged violence”.

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Actress Charlize Theron and director Paul Haggis pose at their film's photocall "In the valley of Ela" in September 2007. (AAP)
Haggis with actress Charlize Theron in 2017. (AAP)

The festival’s directors “immediately removed any director’s participation in the event” and “at the same time expressing their full solidarity with the woman involved.”

“The themes chosen for the festival include those of equality, gender equality and solidarity. As professionals and women, they are mystified and hope that the festival will contribute to more information and awareness on such a topical and increasingly urgent topic ,” the statement continued.

According to an Italian police report, after being attacked, the alleged victim was taken by Haggis to Papola Casale airport in Brindisi and left there at dawn on Sunday morning, despite her “precarious physical and psychological conditions”.

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Screenwriter Paul Haggis, right, nominated for Best Original Screenplay for his work on "Letters from Iwo Jima"arrives with his wife, Deborah Rennard, for the 79th Academy Awards on Feb. 25, 2007. (AAP)
Haggis, pictured here with his ex-wife Deborah Rennard at the 2007 Oscars, is currently in the midst of trial for other sexual assault and misconduct charges. (MONKEY)

At the airport, the alleged rape victim, who was in a “confused state”, was assisted by the airport staff and the border police who, after giving her first aid, accompanied her to the offices of the Italian squadra mobile police -unit.

Police officers then took the woman to A. Perrino Hospital in Brindisi, where the so-called “pink protocol” for rape victims in Italy went into effect.

Subsequently, the alleged victim filed a formal complaint against Haggis.

Haggis, who wrote Million Dollars Baby and co-wrote and directed Crashfor which he both won an Oscar, was sued in 2018 by publicist Haleigh Breest, who alleged that he violently raped her after a 2013 premiere.

The lawsuit prompted three additional women to come forward with their own allegations of sexual misconduct against Haggis, who has vehemently denied the allegations. The process is still pending due to: COVID-19 delays.

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