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‘Crash’ Director Paul Haggis Arrested on Sexual Assault Charges in Italy

The woman was forcibly assaulted over a period of two days and was later taken by Haggis to a local airport and left there Sunday morning.

FILE - This June 9, 2014 file photo shows director Paul Haggis at the Los Angeles Premiere of his film "Third Person" in Los Angeles. The film stars Liam Neeson and Maria Bello. (Photo by John Shearer/Invision/AP, File)

Paul Haggis

John Shearer/Invision/AP

Paul Haggis, the Oscar winning director for the 2004 feature “Crash,” was arrested today on charges of sexual assault and aggravated personal injury against an unidentified woman in Italy.

Haggis was in the Italian city of Ostuni in preparation to host several master classes at the Allora Fest, a film event launched by Italian journalist Silvia Bizio and art critic Sol Costales Doulton, set to take place in the city from June 21 to June 26.

Bizio confirmed to Variety, who first broke the story, that Haggis was arrested and that the festival will be releasing a statement soon distancing itself from Haggis. Requests for comment from Haggis’ reps weren’t answered at press time.

According to Italian police, the woman was forcibly assaulted over a period of two days and was later taken by Haggis to a local airport and left there Sunday morning. Airport staff helped the young woman, described as being in a “precarious physical and psychological condition,” and was taken to the police where she filed formal charges against Haggis. She was later treated at an area hospital.

This is not the first time Haggis has been accused of assault. In 2018, publicist Haleigh Breest alleged Haggis violently raped her after a premiere they both attended in 2013. The director allegedly offered her a ride back to her home, but he ended up taking her to his home instead. Breest says she agreed to go inside and have a glass of wine because she felt it would insult him if she declined.

While inside, Haggis allegedly became “sexually aggressive.” The lawsuit claims the director forced Breest into the bedroom, where he tried to tear her tights off. She said she told him to stop but he did not listen, and Haggis then forced her to perform oral sex, fondled her, and raped her. Breest later told friends and a psychologist about the encounter.

Her allegations and subsequent lawsuit saw three additional women come forward with allegations of misconduct by Haggis. Breest’s trial has been delayed during to the COVID pandemic.

Haggis is best known to audiences as the writer and director of the 2004 feature film “Crash,” which would go on to win Best Picture that year. He was also the writer of 2004 Clint Eastwood boxing feature “Million Dollar Baby.” He would reteam with Eastwood, and secure another Oscar nomination, for his 2006 film “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

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