More than a month after actress Sand Van Roy accused Luc Besson of rape, new allegations of sexual assault, harassment and workplace abuse have surfaced against the acclaimed French director, centering on alleged encounters dating back to 2000.
In an extensive report by French investigative magazine Mediapart, Besson is accused of assaulting a casting director and sexually harassing an employee of his film company, EuropaCorp, as well as another actress he first met in Los Angeles and later allegedly assaulted during a meeting in his Paris office. The women making the allegations spoke to Mediapart on condition of anonymity.
Besson has denied Van Roy’s rape allegation, which is under investigation, and declined to comment on the new accusations. His representative did not respond to repeated requests from Variety for comment Tuesday. Besson’s lawyer, Thierry Marembert, was quoted by Mediapart as saying that Besson was reserving his response for authorities “so that his innocence can be proven.”
The Mediapart report, which was published Monday, detailed Van Roy’s account of an abusive affair with Besson that culminated in an alleged rape May 17 at the Bristol Hotel in central Paris. Van Roy, 28, reiterated that account to Variety on Tuesday, in the Dutch-Belgian actress’s first interview with a news organization outside France.
She said Besson started flirting with her during filming of his big-budget sci-fi epic, “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” which marked her first role in a feature film. She told Variety that she did not push the director away because she saw him flirt with many other young women working on the film and did not want to appear as if she were judging him or the other women, and she “didn’t want to get fired.”
A few days after meeting him during the costume fitting for “Valerian” in late February 2016, Van Roy said Besson invited her to have an informal meeting for him to “get to know [her] professionally” and to discuss her “writing and acting skills.” The meeting – the first of many – took place at Fouquet’s, a hotel, in a suite where Besson conducted his professional meetings when he wasn’t at La Cite du Cinema on the outskirts of Paris.
Van Roy said Besson spent time helping her with the writing of her film project “Olga,” which she had been working on since 2014. Besson gave her feedback, invited her to attend his masterclass and connected her with some of the students at his film school.
“He basically used my [project] to see me a lot, and once he established this basis of friendliness and trust, he made a move in a way that was coercive,” Van Roy said. “He would talk about other girls, like ‘she did that [thing to hurt me], so I did that to her.’ I got a strong sense that, if I walked out, I would be blacklisted and never work again because he’s done that to other girls, and every time I refused he would punish me directly or indirectly and make me feel guilty….
“You end up lowering your guard because he’s like the reincarnation of Winnie the Pooh: He drinks tea, he never does drugs, and he talks about his wife and kids, he likes to cuddle, he dresses modestly,” Van Roy said. “And when you refuse to have sex with him, he makes you feel awful, like some superficial piece of junk, as if the only reason why you refused is because he doesn’t look like Brad Pitt.”
Van Roy alleged that, during unwanted sexual encounters with Besson, the way he behaved was in stark contrast with the affable image he cultivates. “He likes to make you suffer, and he gets a kick out of controlling you and hurting you when you don’t expect it,” Van Roy said.
“I became his private Barbie doll whom he could control, dress and break,” added Van Roy, saying that he would make disparaging comments about her weight, which led her to shed nearly eight pounds and go down to 119 pounds for the filming of “Taxi 5.”
Their encounters “became more and more violent during the last few months, after the Weinstein scandal broke out,” Van Roy said, “because I was becoming sarcastic and cynical with him.”
On May 17, Van Roy met Besson at the Bristol Hotel, where he had been working since about September 2017. She said he raped her, after which she received a heavy blow to her back that made her lose consciousness. She said a medical report attesting to the abuse is currently in the hands of the police.
After Van Roy filed her official complaint, Marembert, Besson’s lawyer, told French media that Besson “categorically denies these fantasist accusations” and that Besson had “never behaved inappropriately” toward Van Roy.
Last Friday, Van Roy went back to the police to report several other alleged assaults on her by Besson. The same day, the casting director cited in Mediapart’s report sent a letter to the Paris prosecutor to denounce the abuse she allegedly received from Besson and the inappropriate behavior she says she witnessed during the years she worked with him, between 2000 and 2005.
The Mediapart report also cited an alleged assault involving “Mona,” an actress living in Los Angeles. In an interview several weeks ago, shortly after Van Roy’s rape allegation became public, the actress told Variety that she felt relieved that someone had spoken out against Besson. She said that she herself was introduced to Besson in Los Angeles in the early 2000s to discuss a possible role in a film, and that the meeting, which took place in a hotel room, went well.
But when she visited him in his Paris office for a second meeting, the woman said that he “pounced on [her] like a bear” and that she was able to escape only by dropping to the floor and crawling out of the room. She said she never heard from Besson again, and the experience left her feeling distressed and guilty.
Since publication of the Mediapart story, the stock of EuropaCorp has dropped by 6.97% to €1.94 per share.
The company is currently seeking to raise capital to repay its debt, which is valued at about €230 million. Besson’s latest film, “Anna,” in which Van Roy has a small role, is expected to be released by Lionsgate later this year.