Police are investigating accusations that French film director Luc Besson drugged and raped an actress in a Paris hotel, in the latest of a string of sexual assault claims to shake the cinema industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
News of the allegations broke during the closing ceremony of the Cannes film festival, where an Italian actress who says she was raped by Mr Weinstein made an emotional speech and warned that more male cinema figures would be held to account.
Mr Besson, the 59-year-old director of The Big Blue, Lucy, and The Fifth Element, has categorically denied the rape claims.
His accuser, a 27-year-old French actress whose name has not been made public, filed the complaint with police on Friday in Paris. The alleged assault took place the night before at the exclusive Bristol hotel in the French capital, according to judicial sources.
She told them she had been in a relationship with Mr Besson, who is currently out of the country and has not been questioned by police, for around two years but said she felt pressured into sexual relations with him for professional reasons.
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Europe 1 radio, which broke the story, said the alleged victim told police how she had "drunk a cup of tea, then felt unwell and lost consciousness", and when she came round she remembered being sexually assaulted.
Thierry Marembert, a lawyer acting for Mr Besson, said the claims were "fantasist accusations" and that the actress was someone the director knew but "towards whom he has never behaved inappropriately".
Mr Besson, whose 2017 blockbuster Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a box office flop, is among France’s most famous filmmakers, having written, directed or produced nearly 100 films, including the three Taken movies, Nikita, and Leon.
His second wife, the actress Maiwenn, whom he met when she was 15 and he twice her age, has said that the 1994 film Leon, which centres on a 13-year-old girl (played by Natalie Portman in her screen debut) and her relationship with a much older man, was based on Mr Besson’s relations with her.
The news of the sexual assault accusations against Mr Besson broke on Saturday evening shortly before the Italian actress Asia Argento took to the stage at the closing ceremony of the film festival in Cannes, where she says she was raped by Harvey Weinstein in 1997.
"I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground," the 42-year-old actress told a star-studded audience that had assembled to find out which films were to get the Palme d’Or and the competition’s other top prizes.
She told them that the festival had been a prime stalking ground for movie industry abusers in the past and that many of these men had yet to be unmasked.
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"Even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women for behaviour that does not belong in this industry,” she said.
“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,” said Ms Argento, who is the daughter of the Italian horror film director Dario Argento.
Mr Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.
He has been accused of rape or sexual misconduct by dozens of women since the scandal broke last October when The New York Times and The New Yorker documented decades of alleged sexually predatory behaviour.