The Paris prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation Wednesday into Christophe Ruggia, the filmmaker who has been accused by French actress Adele Haenel of sexual harassment and unwanted touching for several years from the time she was 12.
“Following the publication of an article in Mediapart on Nov. 3, the Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation into sexual aggression against a minor by a person of authority and sexual harassement,” the prosecutor’s spokesperson confirmed to Variety.
Although Haenel has not filed a police complaint and told Mediapart she wouldn’t pursue legal action against Ruggia, the Paris prosecutor went ahead with opening the preliminary investigation, according to the spokesperson.
In the article published in Mediapart, an investigative website, Haenel said that Ruggia, who directed her in the 2002 drama “The Devils” (“Les diables”), repeatedly made advances toward her, including unwanted touching and kisses, and harassed her for three years starting when she was 12. “The Devils” was the first film she starred in.
Ruggia issued a long letter Wednesday in response to Haenel’s accusations. He denied that he ever made the “physical gestures and [exhibited] the behavior of a sexual harasser.” Instead, he wrote, “I committed the error of playing Pygmalion with the misunderstanding and the pitfalls which such a posture triggers.”
In his previous statement to Mediapart, Ruggia had said he and Haenel had enjoyed a “professional and affectionate” relationship.
Ruggia was expelled from the French directors’ guild (SRF) almost immediately after the Mediapart story was published. Several other film organizations have also issued statements in support of Haenel, including the French film promotion body UniFrance.
Haenel, 30, is one of France’s biggest stars. She has two Cesar awards and most recently headlined Celine Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” which won the screenwriting prize at Cannes this year.