UPDATED to include comment from the Church of Scientology.
(UPDATED WITH STATEMENT FROM CHARITY) In what looks to be the first face-to-face in a case of alleged sexual assault in Hollywood’s post-Harvey Weinstein era, Paul Haggis will be grilled by his accuser’s lawyers later this month in a deposition by the Oscar-winning director. This follows Haggis earlier this year quietly leaving the poverty fighting charity he helped start back in 2009. Artists for Peace and Justice say that Susan Sarandon and Ben Stiller will now take over the organization’s board.
Being both filmed and recorded on January 29 at the NYC offices of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, the legal sit-down also comes as the now multiple accused Haggis was called a “disgrace” by Haleigh Breest this week. The comment was one among many scathing assertions in the publicist’s response to Haggis’ preemptive legal action late last year against Breest’s claims he raped her in 2013 in his Manhattan apartment. The Crash helmer said that he had to go after Breest first as she was threatening to go after him if Haggis didn’t hand over a $9 million payment.
Now joined by a trio of other women with allegations of their own against the Million Dollar Baby screenwriter, Breest filed her own lawsuit in mid-December in what she and her attorneys call “a shocking and egregious case of rape and sexual assault.”
“The only thing worse than raping a woman is raping her, then suing her for trying to stand up for herself,” said Breest in the January 8 filing in New York Supreme Court (read it here). “Mr. Haggis’ complaint is a disgrace. It says nothing about what happened on January 31, 2013. It fails to deny any of the horrific details of what happened in Mr. Haggis’ apartment. It is not even a sworn statement,” the six-page response adds.
“It is nothing more than a PR stunt and an attempt to silence and intimidate Mr. Haggis victim. Shame on him.”
Weaving in his former faith of Scientology, his charity work, back problems and estimations that he and Breest had a “friendly, and at times flirtatious, relationship” at the time, Haggis has denied the initial allegations. As well as spotlighting a supposed shakedown from Breest, Haggis has also rejected the claims of the other three women who came forward earlier this month. Again, Scientology, which Haggis left in less than rosy circumstances in 2009 after 30 years was mentioned.
“Mr. Haggis also questions whether Scientology has any role here, which he notes has been attacking him for years with false accusations,” his reps said at the time. Haggis’ team did not responded today to a request for comment on Breest’s filed reply of yesterday.
Update: The Church of Scientology has denied any involvement in what it calls Haggis’ “absurd, paranoid and bigoted conspiracy theory.”
However, Artists for Peace and Justice have seemingly replied in a fashion to the accusation surrounding Haggis. Even though he was a founder of the non-profit nine years ago and noted on the APJ website up until late last year as a board member, Haggis’ name is now nowhere to be seen now.
Unlike Haggis’ reps today, the poverty fighting organization on Tuesday did reply to requests from Deadline on why the director was no longer on the board with Olivia Wilde, Ben Stiller, Madeleine Stowe and others.
“On January 4th we accepted founder of Artists for Peace and Justice Paul Haggis’ resignation of Chair of the Board,” the organization told Deadline. “We thank him for his vision and years of dedication to the cause.” Susan Sarandon has joined the organization as co-chair now along with Stiller, who has worked with APJ for years.
In both his action against Breest and her’s against him, Haggis is represented by lawyers at Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP.