Actress Adèle Haenel Accuses French Director of Sexually Harassing Her As a Teen

Adèle Haenel Photo: MIKE COPPOLA/Getty Images for Film at Lincoln

Portrait of a Lady on Fire actress Adèle Haenel has come forward with allegations of sexual harassment against French director Christophe Ruggia. Haenel told news site Mediapart that the alleged abuse occurred when she was a young girl, and that she didn’t think to come forward until after she watched Leaving Neverland, an HBO documentary about child-sexual-abuse allegations against Michael Jackson. “It made me see I had too long clung to the version of Christophe Ruggia, that it had all been a story of love,” she told Mediapart. “It made me understand the mechanisms of control and fascination.”

Haenel and Ruggia met when she was cast in his film Les Diables (The Devils). She was 12 years old and he was 36. “[Ruggia] put a system in place to isolate me, to have me at his place every weekend,” she explained. “It was a man of nearly 40 who every week got himself into a room with a young girl who was between 12 and 15 and tried to touch her up. There was no ambiguity in the situation … it wasn’t romantic, it was pure pressure. I was stuck to the sofa. I froze in the centre of all this.”

Mediapart spoke to dozens of witnesses over seven months — including those who worked on Les Diables, a film about two 12-year-old siblings’ incestuous relationship — who expressed concern for Ruggia’s treatment of Haenel. At 15, Haenel says she tried to cut off contact with Ruggia, with little help from his entourage. The two-time César Award winner refuses to file a police complaint due to the “contempt with which the judicial system treats women.” However, a public prosecutor has opened an investigation into “sexual aggression on a minor carried out by someone in authority,” according to Mediapart. Ruggia has also been expelled from the French film directors’ guild. In a statement to the news site, Ruggia denied the allegations, saying that he and Haenel had a “professional and affectionate” relationship. On November 6, he published a letter saying, “I had boundless admiration for her love of cinema and the talent I had detected in her, and was offended that many of the people around me didn’t see what I saw in her.”

“You have to recognize it, it is more violence denying it,” Haenel said in a livestreamed interview with Mediapart. “And I am even more shocked by the fact that he says he discovered me, because really he destroyed me.”

Adèle Haenel Says Director Sexually Harassed Her As a Teen