Adèle Haenel, star of this year’s festival favorite “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” has publicly accused “The Devils” director Christophe Ruggia of sexual harassment. Details first emerged in the Paris-based journal Mediapart, before being reported by Deadline.
Haenel alleges that Ruggia made advances on her after she was cast in his 2002 drama “The Devils” beginning at the age of 12, and that the harassment continued until she was 15 years old. According to the French report, Haenel does not intend to pursue legal action, stating that she thinks “justice ignores” voices such as hers.
In response to the piece, Ruggia sent a missive to Mediapart via his legal team categorically refuting any harassment or misconduct, and said that he and Haenel maintained a “professional and affectionate relationship” while calling the report “slanderous.”
Haenel says that the incidents unfolded between 2001 and 2004, and when the director was 36 years old through 39. The misconduct allegedly took place both on the set of “The Devils,” and following its release, and consisted of “touching [on the] thighs and torso” and “forced kisses on the neck.” Haenel alleges that the harassment unfolded at the director’s apartment, and during film-festival travel, as well.
Per the report, Haenel has revealed she was inspired to come forward after seeing HBO’s Michael Jackson documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which features intimate, detailed testimonies from Jackson’s alleged molestation victims. Haenel told Mediapart that by voicing her experience, she is hoping to “denounce the system of silence and complicity that makes this [conduct] possible.”
The Mediapart investigation drew from primary sources such as “love letters” sent to Haenel from Ruggia, and took place over a period of six months, with more than 30 people linked to the pair interviewed. The testimonials included conversations with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” director Celine Sciamma, and its producer Bertrand Faivre. Faivre produced Ruggia’s 2011 drama “In Turmoil” but said he will now cease any collaborations with Ruggia.
Haenel has been nominated for six César Awards, and won for “Love at First Fight” and “Suzanne.” The lesbian romance “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” will open stateside from Neon on December 6. In May 2019, the film won the Best Screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
IndieWire has reached out to the film’s representatives for additional comment.