French director Benoît Jacquot accused in French cinema’s #MeToo wave, charged with rape and assault of actors

Authorities in France say the film director accused of sexual assault and violent, controlling behavior has been handed preliminary charges of rape, sexual assault and violence by a judge investigating the case

Updated - July 05, 2024 12:40 pm IST

Published - July 05, 2024 12:14 pm IST

Benoit Jacquot

Benoit Jacquot | Photo Credit: TOBIAS SCHWARZ

A prominent French film director has been handed preliminary charges of rape, sexual assault and violence by a French judge investigating a case involving female actors, the Paris prosecutor's office said Thursday.

Benoît Jacquot, who has more than 50 director credits in film and television, has become one of the most prominent figures in a belated reckoning within the French movie industry and beyond over sexual violence and physical abuse.

French actor Judith Godrèche, who alleges that Jacquot raped and physical abused her in a six-year relationship that began when she was 14 years old, has taken a lead role in kickstarting the #MeToo wave. The movement struggled for traction before she spoke out publicly earlier this year and emboldened other actors to do so.

The Paris prosecutor's office said the judge investigating allegations against Jacquot made by actor Isild Le Besco and another actor handed him an array of preliminary charges on Wednesday after he was detained earlier this week for police questioning. In France, such charges are filed when a magistrate has determined there is serious and accumulated evidence to indicate that crimes may have been committed, allowing for more investigation before a decision on whether to prosecute.

Le Besco, 41, has previously spoken publicly on French television and in other media and in a book about her relationship with the director that started when she was a teenager and who is 35 years older than her.

A prosecutor's office statement said Jacquot was charged for the alleged rape of Le Besco when she was a minor, over a two-year span from 1998. Jacquot was also named as an assisted witness, a special status under French law, for the alleged rape of Le Besco by a partner over a 10-month span in 2007.

The Associated Press wasn't able to confirm that the other actor named by the Paris prosecutor's office as being another alleged rape victim of Jacquot's consents to being identified publicly. The actor's lawyer, Margot Pugliese, didn't immediately respond to written and phoned requests for comment.

The prosecutor’s office said Jacquot was charged with raping the actor in a yearlong span in 2013 when they were in a relationship. He was also handed charges for the alleged sexual assault of the actor when they were still together in 2018 and of alleged violence against her in 2018 and 2019. Jacquot was also named as an assisted witness for the alleged rape of that actor by a partner from 2014 to 2018, the prosecutor's office said.

Director Judith Godreche, center, poses with hands covering their mouth upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ at Cannes

Director Judith Godreche, center, poses with hands covering their mouth upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga’ at Cannes | Photo Credit: ANDREEA ALEXANDRU

Jacquot will remain free pending further investigation but was ordered to undergo psychological treatment, the prosecutor’s office said. He also is barred from contacting his alleged victims and witnesses. He also cannot work as a director or in any capacity with minors. He also was ordered to pay bail of 25,000 euros ($27,000).

The 77-year-old Jacquot has previously denied accusations against him. In a statement that didn’t directly address the filed charges, Jacquot’s lawyer, Julia Minkowski, said the case has suffered from overexposure in the media and that the director wasn't given access to the evidence when he was questioned by police, even though French law allows that to happen “in cases of flagrant violations of the presumption of innocence.”

"The investigation is at an embryonic stage and it was particularly premature to present it before an investigating judge,” the attorney’s statement said. She condemned the ban preventing Jacquot from working as a director, which also includes restrictions on his public appearances.

“More than a professional ban, this is a real measure of judicial cancellation, based on an embryonic investigation and before any judgment. We will obviously appeal," she said.

Another French director, 80-year-old Jacques Doillon, also was taken in for police questioning but was subsequently released for medical reasons, the Paris prosecutor's office said. Godrèche has accused Doillon of sexual abuse while he was directing a film when she was 15. Doillon has previously denied the allegation.

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