Top French actress files abuse charge against director

Fiachra GIBBONS
Adele Haenel initially refused to bring charges because she said so few sexual assault cases come to court in France

French star Adele Haenel lodged a formal complaint on Tuesday against a film director she claims sexually harassed her between the ages of 12 and 15, her lawyers said.

The actress shook the French film industry earlier this month with accusations about being repeatedly touched and kissed by Christophe Ruggia, who directed her in her first film role.

The 30-year-old winner of two French Oscars initially refused to bring charges because she said so few sexual assault cases come to court in France.

But she changed her mind and went to a police station in a Paris suburb on Tuesday to make a formal complaint against Ruggia.

The director, now 54, initially denied the accusations before asking Haenel to forgive him, saying: "I did not see that my adulation and the hopes I placed in her, might -- given her young age -- be distressing (for her)."

- Emotional interview -

Paris prosecutors had already opened a preliminary investigation after she detailed the alleged abuse in a lengthy livestreamed interview to investigative website Mediapart.

The interview was seen as a turning point for the #MeToo movement in France, where the film industry has not been rocked in the same way as Hollywood.

It helped galvanise renewed criticism of controversial director Roman Polanski, whose new film "An Officer and a Spy" was released in France earlier this month.

Polanski, who has French citizenship, has been a fugitive from US justice since 1978 after admitting to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in a plea bargain to avoid a trial on more serious charges.

Days before his historical thriller opened, a French photographer claimed that Polanski had raped her in 1975 when she was 18 after beating her "into submission" at his Swiss chalet.

Valentine Monnier, a former model and actress, said she was pushed to finally speak out when the director compared himself to Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer wrongly persecuted as a spy by the French army at the turn of the 20th century.