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Paul Haggis Rape Accuser Faces Cross-Examination As New York Civil Trial Continues

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Haleigh Breest, the woman accusing Oscar-winning Crash director Paul Haggis of raping her in 2013, finished her direct testimony Friday with a last round of friendly questioning from one of her lawyers, Zoe Salzman — and then faced a more combative interrogation lasting almost three hours without a break.

A Haggis lawyer, Priya Chaudhry, confronted Breest about her sex life, drinking, prescription drug use and her actions on the night she went to Haggis’ apartment in Manhattan.

As a six-person jury of three men and three women looked on, with three alternates also seated, Chaudhry walked Breest through her earlier testimony in the sexual assault civil trial in New York. Under a cross-examination that sometimes turned sharp, Breest, a freelance film publicist at the time, said she went willingly to the moviemaker’s apartment after a film screening after-party that she had helped to organize and run, and drank wine with him after she had been drinking at the party.

In testimony steered by questions from Chaudhry, with Breest often straining at being limited to yes or no answers, she said she stayed in the apartment even after Haggis had kissed her without warning. “He slobbered over my face,” she testified, with Chaudhry pushing back, “Yes or no, did he kiss you for a few seconds?” “Yes,” Breest replied.

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She said that as they drank wine in the kitchen, Haggis suddenly backed her up against a refrigerator and said, “You’re scared of me, aren’t you?” He also asked her age, and when she said 26, he replied, “Don’t act like a f*cking 18-year-old.”

She said she really was scared — “I was so scared and embarrassed” — but answered “no” to his question, which she said on cross-examination wasn’t true. She put on a “front,” she said, with a man she has previously described as a friend of her boss at the movie events company. She made no effort to collect the shoes and tote bag she had dropped in the kitchen, close to a hallway leading to a private elevator to the lobby, and she accepted a tour of the apartment that ended in the guest bedroom, where she said the rape took place. 

“Mr. Haggis did not force you into that room, did he?” Chaudhry asked.

“No,” Breest said.

Breest said Haggis pushed her on to the guest bed, and during a struggle got her tights, dress and sweater off. “But during the struggle you never once kicked him, is that right?” Chaudhry said.

“Correct,” Breest said.

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She said Haggis, kneeling on the bed, then took his own clothes off.

“You’re just sitting there naked on the bed watching Mr. Haggis take his shirt off?” Chaudry asked. Breest called that a “mischaracterization.”  

The three-hour exchange ended shorty after that, and will resume after jurors return from lunch.

The trial got underway in a Manhattan courtroom this week with graphic testimony over three days from Breest. Describing the assault, she said, “I was like a trapped animal,” she told jurors Thursday. 

Breest went public with her rape claim in 2017 amid a flurry of news reporting about film producer Harvey Weinstein serially sexually abusing women. Those revelations spawned a movement and a hashtag, #MeToo, encouraging victims to come forward with their experiences of sexual violence at the hands of powerful — and seemingly untouchable — men. 

Breest has said that she decided to finally speak up four years after the assault when she heard Haggis condemn Weinstein. “The hypocrisy of it made her blood boil,” Salzman told the court.

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As Breest testified Thursday, jurors in a federal courthouse around the corner were reaching a quick verdict in another high-profile sexual misconduct case involving a major film industry figure, and a story of a traumatic encounter in a New York apartment — but decades earlier — that also blew up in the year of #MeToo. 

That jury ruled that Anthony Rapp had failed to prove his claim that in 1986, when he was 14, a 26-year-old Kevin Spacey tried to coerce him into sex. The original #MeToo moment has reverberated through a handful of trials pitting accusers against well-known men.

Spacey, like Haggis, is facing multiple accusers. Breest’s lawyers say they plan to call as many as four other women who will claim they, too, were victims of Haggis. 

Haggis has said the sex with Breest was consensual and in opening arguments his lawyers pointed to texts Breest sent a friend and co-worker that described the sex as “rough and aggressive” but didn’t characterize it as rape. Salzman, in opening arguments, read the same text exchange, in which Breest also wrote, “Never, ever again … And I kept saying no.” 

Haggis has also argued that Breest could be a cat’s paw for the Church of Scientology, which Haggis belonged to, then quit and publicly criticized the organization —  known for the celebrities in its ranks and for its willingness to sue critics — as a “cult.” 

The last leg of direct questioning from Breest’s lawyer addressed this point. 

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“Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Church of Scientology” Salzman asked.

“No,” said Breest, adding that she has no family members in the organization, has never attended any Scientology events.

“Has Scientology provided you with any kind of support whatsoever in this case?” Salzman asked. Breest said no, explaining that hers is a contingency fee arrangements in which her lawyers only get paid a portion of any judgement she might receive if jurors find Haggis liable and award her money. 



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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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