French Director Accused of Sexual Harassment Publicly Responds as Official Investigation Opens

FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP via Getty Images

Christophe Ruggia, who was accused of sexually harassing 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' star Adèle Haenel when she was between the ages of 12 and 15, denied all accusations while publicly apologizing in the press.

Following a bombshell article published on the French news site Mediapart accusing French filmmaker Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing actress Adèle Haenel when she was a minor, the director has officially responded by both denying all accusations and offering up an apology.

In a statement made to Mediapart, Ruggia affirms to have “never engaged in the physical gestures and sexual harassment” that Haenel accused him of in a long and detailed account that was published Sunday.

Ruggia did, however, admit to having “committed the error of playing the Pygmalion, with all the misunderstandings and constraints that such a posture solicits.” He continued: “The adulation and hope that I placed in her may have seemed, given her young age, troublesome at certain moments. If that is the case and if she is willing, then I ask her to accept my apology.”

The accusations sent a shock wave through the French film industry, with Ruggia immediately removed from the French directors’ association the SRF (Société des réalisateurs de films), which he co-presided over for many years.

Unifrance and other outlets have expressed their support for Haenel, while star Marion Cotillard wrote a public letter to the actress on her Instagram account saying that she has “left her mark on history. The history of this liberating revolution.”

Earlier today, the Paris public prosecutor’s office decided to open up an investigation with the OCRVP (Office central de la répression de la violence faite aux personnes), a body responsible for investigating cases of violence and abuse. In the Mediapart article, Haenel stated that she did not wish to bring the case to justice, claiming that “very few abusers are condemned” by the French courts. But the prosecutor’s office decided to act anyway.

Haenel starred in a trio of films that premiered in Cannes earlier this year, including Cécline Sciamma’s best screenplay winner Portrait of a Girl on Fire, to be released by Hulu in December. Ruggia first cast her in The Devils when she was 12 and remained in contact with her for the next three years, during which time the alleged abuse occurred.

Over the past decade, Ruggia was a frequent co-president of the SRF, an association that officially condemned the Harvey Weinstein affair and supported the call for more inclusion in the French film industry. His other directing credits include the Algeria-set coming-of-age dramedy The Kid From Chaaba (1997) and the thriller In Turmoil (2011).