ROME—When director Paul Haggis was accused by four women of sexual abuse in 2017, he claimed that it was a conspiracy by the Church of Scientology, even though there was no evidence the women belonged to the church.
Five years later, Haggis has been accused of repeatedly raping another woman while attending a festival in Italy, and his lawyer is offering a new defense, saying the Oscar winner’s accuser wanted to be a Bond girl.
An Italian lawyer speaking for Haggis told The Daily Beast and other reporters that the woman willingly sought out the filmmaker for a sexual encounter in exchange for a movie part—even though he has not worked in years and has no upcoming film in production.
Prosecutors have alleged that the woman, who is a dual Russian-British citizen, “suffered repeated non-consenting sexual assaults” including one so violent she was “forced to seek medical attention” before Haggis drove her to the airport and abandoned her there.
“I was raped for days,” the woman told the investigating prosecutor Antonio Negro. “We were supposed to work together, but instead he raped me from Sunday evening to Wednesday.”
Haggis’ lawyer, Michele Laforgia, is trying to paint that encounter as a simple business transaction. She said Haggis met the woman in Monte Carlo this year and agreed to meet him at the Allora film festival in Ostuni, Puglia, which Haggis helped launch.
Laforgia claims the woman “agreed to have sex with him in exchange for a role in an upcoming Bond film” in what he described as a “product of show business.”
Seemingly forgetting the vast implications that grew out of the #MeToo movement, Haggis’ lawyer said his client, who co-wrote James Bond films Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, agreed.
“Haggis told the judge the sex was consensual and there was no violence, so there was no crime,” Laforgia said, claiming police had misinterpreted the medical examination of the woman.
The Daily Beast could not confirm any alleged misinterpretation of the medical report with the police in the Italian port town of Brindisi, where officers encountered the woman. A spokesman for the police station said he was not aware of any change in what was originally reported and, in fact, repeated the original claims, which are part of the public record.
No lawyer for the accuser has come forward to comment on claims by the Haggis defense team.
Haggis lost his bid for freedom Wednesday after a court decided he must remain under monitored house arrest while the investigation into the reported attack carries on.
When asked why the judge, then, would not allow Haggis to remain free, Laforgia said, “The judge said Haggis was not a flight risk, but decided to keep him under house arrest while the investigation proceeds.”
A memo signed by Haggis submitted to the court that was leaked to various press outlets purports to say that the woman “invited herself” to visit him in Ostuni and had consensual sex with him several times over the course of the three days she stayed in his room. The defense memo describes the woman as being upset that Haggis would not hold her hand in public and, on one occasion, returning drunk and initiating sex while telling him she wanted to be a Bond girl.
The film festival distanced itself from the director, canceling the events he was scheduled to lead.
Among the four women who previously accused the director of sexual assault, is his former publicist Haleigh Breest, who sued him in 2017. That case has been held up in court for various reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, he asked a judge to speed up the case, claiming he could barely pay his bills and that the false claims had nearly bankrupted him. He told variety that he needed to quickly clear his name to work again.
Haggis denies all claims of abuse and has blamed the Church of Scientology, of which he was a member for 35 years, for retaliating against him after he left in 2009. He has been among the most vocal former members to speak out against the church’s often peculiar policies and has repeated counter claims that the Church of Scientology has motivated to destroy its reputation.