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Sexual harassment and assault

French director Luc Besson denies ‘fantasist’ accusations after rape complaint by 27-year-old actress

French authorities said they were investigating a rape accusation against ‘Valerian’ filmmaker Luc Besson, who denies wrongdoing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 May, 2018, 11:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 May, 2018, 10:29pm

A young actress has lodged a complaint for rape against French film director Luc Besson, judicial sources said, the latest in a string of sexual abuse allegations in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The filmmaker’s lawyer Thierry Marembert said he categorically denied the claims calling them “fantasist accusations”, adding that the complainant was someone he knew “towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately”.

Police in Paris opened an investigation after the actress accused the 59-year-old The Big Blue, Nikita and Leon director of raping her, the judicial sources said.

A “complaint has been made for acts qualifying as rape by the plaintiff which happened Thursday night into Friday in Paris,” they said, adding that police were investigating.

News of the allegation emerged soon before the closing ceremony of the Cannes Film Festival which was marked this year by an emotional speech by a Weinstein accuser.

Sources said Besson’s accuser went to police on Friday to file a complaint against Besson after the alleged assault at the Bristol hotel in the French capital.

The complainant said she had been in a relationship with him for around two years, stating she felt pressured into being intimate with him for professional reasons.

One source close to the investigation said Besson was out of the country and had not been questioned.

According to Europe 1 radio, which broke the story, Besson’s accuser said she had “drunk a cup of tea, then felt unwell and lost consciousness”.

The station quoted her as saying that when she came round she remembered being sexually assaulted.

Besson, who is married to a film producer, has three children with his wife and two more from previous relationships.

He has been married four times, including to US actress Milla Jovovich.

Besson is a top name in the French cinema world with 12 Cesar nominations – the country’s equivalent of the Oscars – and 17 films under his belt.

His 1998 sci-fi blockbuster The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman and Jovovich, won him his only Cesar national award to date.

Besson’s production company EuropaCorp has been battling financial difficulties over the past year with its blockbuster Valerian 3D space opera proving a flop.

He was however the best paid French film director last year, earning 4.44 million euros (US$5.23 million).

He has also campaigned for greater visibility of poor communities in depressed French suburbs, not just through his films but by setting up his Cite du Cinema film studio and school in Seine-Saint-Denis north of Paris, one of France’s poorest regions.

The allegations against Besson are the latest sexual misconduct claims to emerge following the Weinstein scandal which has claimed high-profile casualties from not just showbiz but also politics and the aid sector.