Facebook Twitter Comments Slate Plus

Four Women Accuse Paul Haggis of Aggressive Sexual Behavior, Ranging From Unwanted Kissing to Rape

Director Paul Haggis attends the 'UNA' Premiere Screening at Sunshine Landmark Cinema on October 4, 2017 in New York City.  / AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS        (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images

Four women working in entertainment have accused filmmaker Paul Haggis of aggressive unwanted sexual advances, ranging from unwanted kissing to rape, according to the Associated Press.

Three of the women were inspired to come forward after a first accuser, publicist Haleigh Breest, accused the writer-director-producer of raping her in his apartment in 2003. Breest claims that Haggis initially offered her a ride home following a New York film premiere, but when he invited her up to his apartment for a drink instead, she felt she could not decline. Once in the apartment, Haggis quickly became “sexually aggressive,” according to Breest’s account, kissing her before forcing her into a bedroom where he forced her to perform oral sex on him, fondled her, asked if she liked anal sex, and raped her. When Breest froze in fear, Haggis asked her, “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?” according to the lawsuit.

Haggis has denied the rape allegation and launched a counterclaim, characterizing Breest’s initial behavior as extortionary.

The other accusers, who remain anonymous, approached Breest’s lawyers and the Associated Press after her claim became public. The women’s allegations are spread out over 20 years, but all came at an early point in their career, under the guise of a professional setting.

Another publicist described Haggis sexually assaulting her in 1996, in a similar manner to that described by Breest. The woman, then 28, was working late one night on a TV show being produced by Haggis, when Haggis insisted on speaking to her in back office. Once there he began kissing her, and when she resisted he threatened her, saying “Do you really want to continue working?” He then forced her to perform oral sex on him before raping her. The woman’s told a friend at the time, but she never went to the police, fearing professional retribution.

“The power, the anger, the financial resources, you feel like you are not really a match for that,” she said.

The two other women described being forcibly kissed by Haggis, with both fearing much worse as they attempted to escape his aggressive advances. In a late 2000s incident, Haggis told a woman during a one-on-one pitch meeting that he had an arrangement with his wife allowing him to have sex with other people. When he tried to kiss her she fled to her car, with Haggis pursuing her, but managed to escape. The second woman said that Haggis forcibly kissed her, before following her into a cab in 2015. Once home, she was able to flee inside her apartment and lock the door, with Haggis again in pursuit. He then sent her harassing messages until she blocked his number.

In October, when the conversation was still mainly centered around Harvey Weinstein as an individual, Haggis condemned those who had protected the producer in an interview with the Guardian. “You have got to focus on those who may have colluded and protected him,” he said. “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?”

He also said that Hollywood encourages people to sell their souls in order to succeed. “People make compromises, but you don’t have to,” he said. “I did sometimes, of course, especially in my early TV days.”

One more thing

You depend on Slate for sharp, distinctive coverage of the latest developments in politics and culture. Now we need to ask for your support.

Our work is more urgent than ever and is reaching more readers—but online advertising revenues don’t fully cover our costs, and we don’t have print subscribers to help keep us afloat. So we need your help. If you think Slate’s work matters, become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.

Join Slate Plus