French director accused of harassing star hits back

by Fiachra GIBBONS, Sophie LAUBIE
Christophe Ruggia said Adele Haenel's 'hate' for him came from him having 'promised to write another role for her... but my producer didn't want to hear of it'

The film director accused of sexually harassing French star Adele Haenel when she was still a child has claimed that she hated him because he denied her a part in another film.

Haenel rocked the French film industry last month by claiming that Christophe Ruggia "constantly" harassed her from the age of 12 to 15 on her first film, "The Devils".

The emotional livestreamed interview in which she made the claims was seen by many as a turning point for France's #MeToo movement.

The star of "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" -- one of the most acclaimed arthouse films of the year -- has since brought formal charges against Ruggia, who she said was nearly 40 when he "forced kisses on the neck".

But Ruggia hit back in a so-called counter investigation to be published Thursday by the French weekly Marianne.

He said her "hate" for him came from him having "promised to write another role for her... but my producer didn't want to hear of it".

"Adele was betting everything on my film, and the day after I got an extremely violent letter from her saying that she was going to give up cinema, and that I had betrayed and manipulated her."

Ruggia, now 54, at first fiercely denied harassing Haenel on the 2002 movie before asking her to forgive him.

- 'Playing Pygmalion' -

"I did not see that my adulation and the hopes I placed in her, might -- given her young age -- be distressing," he said.

Ruggia also disputed parts of a seven-month investigation of her accusations published by the website Mediapart, which first broke the story last month.

He insisted that his ex-partner, fellow director Mona Achache, did not walk out on him after he confessed to his fascination with the teenage Haenel, as she told the website.

"Mona left me after she met someone else on a film," he said.

While Ruggia continues to deny that he molested Haenel, he admitted "playing the pygmalion" after discovering her when she was 12 years old.

Pygmalion is a sculptor who falls in love with the statue he created in the Roman poet Ovid's "Metamorphoses".

He insisted that he had a "professional and affectionate relationship" with Haenel.

However, the French society of film directors (SRF), which Ruggia had help lead for several years, expelled him when the allegations came to light.

Haenel, 30, initially refused to go to the police about Ruggia because of the "contempt with which the judicial system treats women. One rape in 10 ends up with a conviction," she said.

Christophe Ruggia said Adele Haenel's 'hate' for him came from him having 'promised to write another role for her... but my producer didn't want to hear of it'