Samuel Theis, the French co-star of Justine Triet’s awards season hopeful Anatomy Of A Fall has been accused of rape by a crew member on his upcoming directorial feature Je Le Jure and has been forced to continue directing from a remote location, according to a report in France’s Liberation newspaper on January 5.
The alleged rape occurred last summer at a party where the crew member said they were too inebriated to consent to a sexual encounter with Theis in an apartment rented by the production in Metz, France.
While Theis claims the interaction was consensual, the crew member immediately quit the production, prompting producer Avenue B Productions to take swift action to ensure the final few weeks of filming could be completed.
Avenue B is run by Caroline Bonmarchand, an active member of French parity organisation Le Collectif 50/50 who was named French producer of the year in 2021, earning the Cesar Academy’s prestigious Daniel Toscan du Plantier prize. According to Liberation, Bonmarchand and her production team met with crew members and cast members and opted to continue production to preserve the presumption of innocence until proven guilty but for Theis to direct remotely, with no non-consensual physical contact with cast or crew.
The rest of the shoot was subject to strict protocols whereby Theis had to inform production when he wished to intervene, so that anyone who was uncomfortable being on set in his presence, could adapt accordingly and anyone who wanted to work with him directly, could visit him at his remote address to work side by side.
While continuing to maintain his innocence, Theis agreed to the protocol in order to complete the film.
According to another report on Telerama, the crew member lodged an official complaint. But Theis’ lawyer Marie Dosé told Liberation the actor-director has not been summoned by authorities or officially charged with any crime to date.
Je Le Jure is Theis’ third feature as a director following the Camera d’Or-winning Party Girl co-directed with Claire Burger and Marie Amachoukel and Softie that premiered at Cannes Critics’ Week in 2021. Je Le Jure follows an alcoholic man who works at a recycling centre who is summoned for jury duty and finds himself responsible for the fate of a young pyromaniac accused of manslaughter.
The film shot in France’s Grand Est region and features a high-prorfile French cast including Marina Fois, Micha Lescot, Louise Bourgoin and Emmanuel Salinger. Now in post-production, Ad Vitam will release the film in France, but has not set a release date and no international sales agent is yet attached.
MeToo gathers momentum
The swift move by producers to directly engage cast and crew in dialogue to determine the best course of action and then to isolate Theis following the charges is a sign of a wave of change in France in the wake of the global MeToo movement.
The CNC has been taking action to promote safe environments on set and since 2021 has conditioned financial aid on sexual harassment prevention courses. It passed a new measure in early December calling for compulsory training for all members of a production team at the start of each film shoot to prevent sexual violence of any nature on set.
Training had been mandatory for crew members since 2020, but will now be extended to directors, producers, actos and anyone involved in the production.
Bonmarchand told Liberation: “In the end, what we’re discovering is that no matter how many kits, white papers and resources we have, when it comes to actually dealing with this type of situation, we’re not equipped.”
Theis stands to be nominated for his role in Anatomy Of A Fall at the Cesar awards later this month. However, the French Academy last year banned any nominees who have been accused or convicted of acts of sexual violence from attending its February ceremony and related events, so should the charges stand, he will not be able to attend – but can still be nominated.
Theis plays the husband of Sandra Huller’s character who falls through a window before his wife is put on trial for his murder. In her Golden Globes acceptance speech on Sunday evening after winning awards for best screenplay – motion picture and best motion picture – non-English language, Triet thanked the film’s cast members Milo Machado Graner, Sandra Huller, Swann Arlaud, Antoine Reinartz and even Snoop the dog, but neglected to make any mention of Theis.