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French director Besson denies rape accusation

May 20, 2018

Famed French director Luc Besson has been accused of rape by a French actress. Police said they were investigating the allegation, which Besson has categorically denied.

Deutschland Berlin - Luc Besson auf der 68. Berlinale
Image: picture-alliance/Photoshot

Police in Paris started an investigation after an actress accused French film director Luc Besson of rape, judicial sources said on Saturday.

A "complaint has been made for acts qualifying as rape by the plaintiff which happened Thursday night into Friday in Paris," judicial sources told the AFP news agency. They added that police were investigating the allegation against the Besson, the 59-year old director.

"Luc Besson categorically denies these fantasist accusations," the filmmaker's lawyer Thierry Marembert told AFP." [The complainant] is someone he knows, towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately."

Sources said the woman went to the 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 Besson for around two years. She said she felt pressured into being intimate with him for professional reasons. A source close to the investigation said Besson was out of the country and had not been questioned.

According to a report on Europe 1 radio, which broke the story, Besson's accuser said she had "drunk a cup of tea, then felt unwell and lost consciousness."  It quoted her as saying that when she came round she remembered being sexually assaulted.

On the heels of #MeToo

Besson is the latest figure in the film industry to be accused of rape. Noted American producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused by numerous actresses of improper conduct. One accuser in particular, Asia Argento, was in Cannes for the film festival and on the closing night on Saturday she again accused Weinstein.

#metoo Protest poster
#MeToo was a very visible theme of the Cannes Film FestivalImage: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/M. Fludra

"In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21-years-old. This festival was his hunting ground," said Argento at the ceremony. "I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again."

She added, "And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women for behavior that does not belong in this industry," said Argento. "You know who you are. But more importantly, we know who you are. And we're not going to allow you to get away with it any longer."

Weinstein has denied allegations of non-consensual sex, and a lawyer representing him said that Argento's claims were false.

"The allegations by Ms. Argento are completely false. Mr. Weinstein had a consensual relationship with Ms. Argento, and she starred in Mr. Weinstein's film 'B. Monkey' in 1998, in which Argento was excellent, and she herself said was a fantastic role for her," Weinstein's attorney in Italy, Filomena Cusano, said in a statement.

At the beginning of the festival, eighty-two women stood on the steps of the Congress Palace in Cannes to protest the limited number of female directors who have been selected to appear at Cannes.It was also a reminder of the #MeToo movement to shine a light on sexual predators in the film industry. 

At the 71st Cannes Film Festival 82 women on stairs call for equality and remind of #MeToo
Eighty-two women at the Cannes Film Festival stand for equality in filmmaking Image: picture-alliance/dpa/invision/J. C. Ryan/Invision

A top French director

Besson is a huge name in the French cinema world with 12 Cesar nominations — the country's equivalent of the Oscars in the United States — and 17 films under his belt.

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

The Fifth Element
Besson directed the sci-fi blockbuster "The Fifth Element"Image: 1997 Gaumont / Collection Musée Gaumont / Jack English

Besson, a high school dropout, learned film-making on the job. After internships as an assistant director, he made his first short film in 1981 and developed it into his first feature-length movie, "The Last Battle," two years later.

He was the best paid French film director last year, earning €4.44 million ($5.23 million). He is also regarded as politically influential after convincing authorities to modify tax rules to make it more attractive to shoot movies in France.

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.

Besson is married to a film producer and has three children with his wife and two more from previous relationships. He has been married four times.

av/sms (AFP,DPA)

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