PARIS (Reuters) – French movie director Christophe Ruggia was taken into custody on Tuesday, Paris prosecutors said, over allegations that he sexually assaulted a teenage girl who was cast in one of his movies nearly two decades ago.
Jean-Pierre Versini-Campinchi, a lawyer for Ruggia, said the filmmaker denied any misconduct.
Actress Adele Haenel, who is now 31, has alleged that Ruggia assaulted and harassed her between 2001 and 2004 after she was cast in a Ruggia-directed movie called “Les Diables,” or The Devils.
According to Haenel’s allegations, published in French media outlet Mediapart in November last year, when she was first harassed she was 12 years old and the abuse continued until she was 15.
The Paris prosecutor’s office in November opened a preliminary probe into “sexual assault of a minor under 15 by a person of authority, and sexual harassment”.
Ruggia’s arrest came days after French prosecutors opened a separate investigation into allegations of rape of a child that sent shockwaves through French cultural circles.
In a book published this month, Vanessa Springora, now 47 and head of France’s Julliard publishing house, alleged sexual abuse by Gabriel Matzneff, an 83-year-old prominent author, when she was 14.
Matzneff has said Springora was misrepresenting him as a pervert and abuser.
The #MeToo movement, which began in the wake of the scandal surrounding Hollywood film mogul Harvey Weinstein, has sparked a wave of allegations by people who say they were sexually abused by those in powerful positions.
But the response in France so far has been relatively muted.
While many people in France have embraced the movement, some prominent figures have not. Actress Catherine Deneuve put her name, with 99 other French women, to a 2018 letter saying the #MeToo campaign amounted to “Puritanism” and that men had the right to “pester” women.
(Reporting by Matthieu Protard, Sophie Louet and Simon Carraud; editing by Mike Collett-White)