Filmmaker Paul Haggis was accused of rape in a lawsuit filed Friday by publicist Haleigh Breest. Haggis denied the accusation and responded with a lawsuit against Breest that claims he was the victim of a $9 million extortion attempt.
In the lawsuit, obtained by Variety and Deadline, Breest says the rape occurred in 2013 after Haggis offered her a ride home from a movie premiere. She says that Haggis forced her to come up to his apartment for a drink and “almost immediately began to make unwanted sexual advances and to forcibly kiss her.”
“Eventually, Mr. Haggis succeeded in getting Ms. Breest into a bedroom where he began violently to try and remove her tights,” the suit says. “She resisted, struggling to push him off, but he continued. After multiple, forcible attempts to remove her tights, he succeeded. Mr. Haggis forced her to give him oral sex and aggressively inserted his finger into her vagina. He told her he liked anal sex. Then, he raped her.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that Breest was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder last summer, and that the ordeal caused her “profound and lasting” emotional and psychological damage. “The emotional and psychological damage to Ms. Breest from the attack cannot be overstated: it has been profound and lasting,” the suit says.
In Haggis’s suit, Breest’s accusations are called “quite simply, extortion.” The filmmaker says that a lawyer for Breest contacted him before her suit was filed to ask for a $9 million settlement. He characterizes their relationship as “a friendly, and at times flirtatious,” but in the suit says “there was no such ‘violence, then or ever.”
“Since Defendant has threatened to file and publicize lurid factual (and false) assertions against Plaintiff unless he agrees to let her effectively bankrupt him, Plaintiff has experienced severe emotional distress, while simultaneously trying to go on with his life without letting it paralyze him,” Haggis’ lawsuit asserts.