- Category : Film - Director
- Type : GE
- Profile : 1/3 - Investigating / Martyr
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 3
Roman Raymond Polanski (pl. Roman Rajmund Pola?ski; born August 18, 1933) is a Polish-French film director, producer, writer, and actor.
Polanski began his career in Poland, and later became a celebrated Academy Award-winning director of both art house and commercial films, making such films as Rosemary's Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and The Pianist (2002). Polanski is one of the world's best known contemporary film directors and is widely considered one of the greatest directors of his time. He is also known for his turbulent and controversial personal life.
In 1969, his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson Family, and in 1977, he was convicted of "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor"; he subsequently fled the United States and is presently (since 27 September 2009) under arrest in Switzerland pending extradition proceedings.
Polanski's first feature-length film, Knife in the Water (1962), made in Poland, won Polanski his first Academy Award nomination (as Best Foreign Language Film, 1963). Polanski left communist Poland to live in France for several years, before moving to England, where he collaborated with Gérard Brach on three films, beginning with 1965's Repulsion. In 1968 he moved to the U.S., directing the 1968 Hollywood horror film Rosemary's Baby. After making several independent films, Polanski returned to Hollywood in 1973 to make Chinatown for Paramount Pictures, with Robert Evans serving as producer. The film was nominated for a total of 11 Academy Awards; stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway both received Oscar nominations for their roles, and the ingeniously plotted script by Robert Towne won for Best Original Screenplay. A major critical and box-office success from the time of its premiere in the summer of 1974, Chinatown is considered Polanski's greatest achievement as a filmmaker. Polanski's next film, The Tenant (1976), was shot in France, and completed his "Apartment Trilogy", following Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby.
In 1977, Polanski was arrested in Los Angeles and pleaded guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor", a 13-year-old girl (he was 44 years old at the time). Released after a 42-day psychiatric evaluation, Polanski fled to France, has had a U.S. arrest warrant outstanding since 1978, and an international arrest warrant since 2005. Polanski for many years avoided visits to countries that were likely to extradite him, such as the United Kingdom, and traveled mostly between France, where he resides, and Poland. As a French citizen, he was protected in France by the country's limited extradition with the U.S. On September 26, 2009, he was arrested, at the request of U.S. authorities, by Swiss police, on arrival at Zürich Airport while trying to enter Switzerland to pick up a lifetime achievement "Golden Icon Award" from the Zurich Film Festival.
After fleeing to Europe following his 1977 U.S. conviction, Polanski continued to direct films, although there was nearly a seven-year break between 1979's Tess (a romantic drama adapted from Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, dedicated to the memory of his late wife, Sharon Tate) and 1986's Pirates, an adventure comedy. Later films include Frantic (1988), Death and the Maiden (1994), The Ninth Gate (1999), The Pianist (2002), and Oliver Twist (2005). The most notable of his later films is The Pianist, a World War II-set adaptation of the autobiography of the same name by Jewish-Polish musician W?adys?aw Szpilman, whose experiences have similarities with Polanski's own (Polanski, like Szpilman, escaped the ghetto and the concentration camps, whilst family members did not). The film won three Academy Awards including Best Director (2002), the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or (2002), and seven French Césars including Best Picture and Best Director. He has also done occasional work in theatre.
Polanski was born Rajmund Roman Liebling in Paris, France, the son of Bula (née Katz-Przedborska) and Ryszard Liebling (aka Ryszard Pola?ski), who was a painter and plastics manufacturer. Polanski's parents were agnostics. His father was a Polish Jew and his mother, born in Imperial Russia due to Partitions of Poland, was brought up as a Catholic as she had a Jewish father and a Polish Roman Catholic mother.
The Pola?ski family moved back to the Polish city of Krakow in 1936, and were living there in 1939, when World War II began. Poland was invaded and occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Nazi racial and religious purity laws made the Pola?skis targets of German Nazi persecution and forced them into the Kraków Ghetto, along with thousands of other Polish Jews.
His father survived the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria, but his mother perished in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Polanski himself escaped the Kraków Ghetto in 1943, and survived the war with the help of Polish Roman Catholic families. After the war he was reunited with his father and moved back to Krakow. Polanski's father married Wanda Zaj?czkowska. He died of cancer in 1984.
Early work in Poland
During the Soviet-imposed communism in Poland, Roman Polanski attended the Polish film school in ?ód?, and graduated in 1959.
In the early 1950s, Polanski took up acting, appearing in Andrzej Wajda's film Pokolenie (A Generation) (1954) and in the same year in Silik Sternfeld's Zaczarowany rower (known in English as Enchanted Bicycle or Magical Bicycle). Polanski's directorial debut was also in 1955 with a short film Rower (known as Bicycle, not to be confused with Zaczarowany rower). Rower is a semi-autobiographical feature film, currently believed to be lost, which also starred Polanski. It refers to his violent altercation with a notorious Krakow felon who promised to sell the then cycling enthusiast a bicycle at a secluded location and instead beat him up severely and stole his money. Several other short films made during his study at ?ód? gained him considerable recognition, particularly Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) and When Angels Fall (1959).
Polanski's first feature-length film, Knife in the Water, was also the first significant Polish film after WWII that did not have a war theme. Made from a script by Jerzy Skolimowski, Jakub Goldberg and Polanski himself, Knife in the Water is an intense, moody, claustrophobic three-hander about a wealthy, unhappily married couple who decide to take a mysterious hitchhiker with them on a weekend boating excursion. A dark and unsettling work, Polanski's debut feature subtly evinces a profound pessimism about human relationships with regard to the psychological dynamics and moral consequences of status envy and sexual jealousy.
Although not well-received by the Polish communist cultural authorities because of its lack of a socially redeeming message, Knife in the Water was nevertheless a major commercial success in the West and gave Polanski an international reputation. The film also earned its director his first Academy Award nomination (Best Foreign Language Film, 1963).
Move to France
Despite his reputation as a major Polish filmmaker, Polanski chose to leave communist Poland and moved to France, where he had already made two notable short films in 1961: The Fat and the Lean and Mammals. While in France, Polanski contributed one segment ("La rivière de diamants") to the French-produced omnibus film, Les plus belles escroqueries du monde (English title: The Beautiful Swindlers) in 1964. However, Polanski found that in the early 1960s the French film industry was generally unwilling to support a rising filmmaker whom they viewed as a cultural Pole and not a Frenchman. So he soon left France to find new opportunities and financial backing in England.
Gérard Brach collaborations
Polanski then made three feature films in England, based on original scripts written by himself and Gérard Brach, a frequent collaborator. Repulsion is a psychological horror film focusing on a young Belgian woman named Carol (Catherine Deneuve), who is living in London with her older sister (Yvonne Furneaux). While working as a beautician's assistant at a salon, Carol is often disturbed by the physical decrepitude of her elderly clients, and throughout the course of the film, she becomes increasingly distressed by sexual advances from the men around her. Her sister departs for a holiday in Italy with a boyfriend, and Carol is left alone in their shared apartment flat. Carol's disordered mind finally breaks from reality as actual threats of domestic and sexual invasion blend into grotesque paranoid hallucinations, causing her to respond with desperate, deadly acts of violence. The film's themes, situations, visual motifs, and effects clearly reflect the influence of early surrealist cinema as well as horror movies of the 1950s – particularly Luis Buñuel's Un chien Andalou, Jean Cocteau's The Blood of a Poet, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Diabolique and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.
Cul-de-Sac (1966) is a bleak nihilist tragicomedy filmed on location in Northumberland. The general tone and the basic premise of the film owes a great deal to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, along with aspects of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. Indeed, the original title for the film was When Katelbach Comes (named after the actor André Katelbach, who played the role of the master in Polanski's very Beckettian 1961 short film The Fat and the Lean), and among the cast was Jack MacGowran, a veteran of Beckett's stage and television work. The film's setup concerns two gangsters, Dickie and Albie (Lionel Stander and MacGowran), who are on the run after a heist went wrong. The film opens with Dickie pushing their broken-down car along the tidal causeway of Lindisfarne island. It is implied that the shootout which occurred during the heist had left Albie bleeding and paralyzed, and Dickie, who is also wounded but still mobile, now seeks to contact their underworld boss, Katelbach. (Like Beckett's Godot, Katelbach is frequently alluded to throughout the course of the film, but never actually appears.) As he searches the island, Dickie discovers that the famous medieval castle is inhabited by an eccentric, effeminate and neurotically excitable middle-aged Englishman named George (Donald Pleasence), and his adulterous, nymphomaniacal young French wife, Teresa (Françoise Dorléac, Catherine Deneuve's older sister). A series of absurd mishaps, both farcical and tragic, ensues when Dickie decides to take the couple hostage in their castle as he waits (in vain) for further instructions from the mysterious Katelbach.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) is a parody of vampire films (particularly those made by Hammer Studios) which was filmed using elaborate sets built on sound stages in London with additional location photography in the Alps (particularly Urtijëi, an Italian ski resort in the Dolomites). The plot concerns a buffoonish professor named Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) and his clumsy assistant, Alfred (played by Polanski himself), who are traveling through Transylvania in search of vampires. The two of them arrive in a small village near a vampire-infested castle, which they plan to examine. While taking lodgings at the village tavern, Alfred falls in love with Sarah, the local innkeeper's daughter (played by Polanski's future wife, Sharon Tate). Shortly after, Sarah is abducted by the vampires and taken to the castle. The rest of the film concerns Abronsius and Alfred's madcap efforts to penetrate the castle walls and rescue the girl. The ironic and macabre ending is classic Polanski. The Fearless Vampire Killers was Polanski's first feature to be photographed in color with the use of Panavision lenses (the aspect ratio is 2.35:1). The film's striking visual style, with its snow-covered, fairy-tale landscapes, recalls the work of Russian fantasy filmmakers Aleksandr Ptushko and Alexander Row. Similarly, the richly textured, moonlit-winter-blue color schemes of the village and the snowy valleys evoke the magical, kaleidoscopic paintings of the great Russian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall, who provides the namesake for the innkeeper in the film. The film is also notable in that it features Polanski's love of winter sports, particularly skiing. In this respect, The Fearless Vampire Killers recalls Polanski's 1961 short film, Mammals.
Shortly afterwards Polanski established his reputation as a major commercial filmmaker with his first Hollywood film, Rosemary's Baby (1968), based on the recent bestseller of the same name by Ira Levin. It is a horror-thriller set in New York about Rosemary (Mia Farrow), an innocent young woman from Omaha, Nebraska, who is impregnated by the devil after her narcissistic actor husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), offers her womb to a coven of local witches in exchange for a successful career. Polanski's screenplay adaptation earned him a second Academy Award nomination.
In April 1969, Polanski's friend and collaborator, the composer Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969), died from head injuries sustained from a skiing accident, though other accounts of the cause of his death exist. After the short Two Men and a Wardrobe, he scored all of Polanski's feature films (with the exception of Repulsion), and is probably best known in the U.S. for his final collaboration with the director: the haunting soundtrack to Rosemary's Baby.
Polanski's first feature following Sharon Tate's murder was a bleak and violent film version of Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Macbeth. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis appeared in the lead roles. He adapted Shakespeare's original text into a screenplay with the British theater critic Kenneth Tynan, and gained financing for the project through his friendship with Victor Lownes, who was an executive for Playboy magazine in London at the time. Polanski wanted to make the film in the play's actual historical setting of Scotland, but while scouting for locations there he could find no suitable sites that were still unmarked by telephone poles and other such modern installations. He eventually chose to shoot in an area of Britain which would provide him with a much more convincing medieval landscape complete with picturesque Norman castles: the rugged environs of Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. The production took six months to complete and exceeded its initial budget by at least $500,000 mostly due to weather problems (it rained frequently during the location filming in Wales) as well as Polanski's insistence on shooting multiple takes of several technically challenging scenes in these adverse conditions. When the film finally premiered in December 1971, a number of critics were disturbed by its rampant violence as well as the overwhelming nightmarish atmosphere and unredeemed nihilism of Polanski's very modernist interpretation of Shakespeare (influenced by the writings of Polish drama critic and theoretician, Jan Kott). Film critic Pauline Kael commented that the slaughter of Lady Macduff and her household appeared to have been staged in an especially lurid manner that was clearly intended to evoke the Manson killings.
Written by Polanski and previous collaborator Gérard Brach, What? is a mordant absurdist comedy made in the spirit of Roger Vadim and Terry Southern and loosely based on the themes of Alice in Wonderland and Henry James. The film is a rambling, shaggy-dog story about the sexual indignities that befall Nancy (Sydne Rome), a winsome young American hippie hitchhiking through Europe. After escaping a farcical rape attempt in the back of a truck, she soon finds herself stranded in the hothouse atmosphere of a remote Italian villa inhabited by a band of decadent, lecherous grotesques — the main trio are played by Marcello Mastrioanni, Hugh Griffith and Polanski himself. What? is also significant in that it is Polanski's only film to date in which a character breaks the fourth wall. The film was a failure with audiences and critics, although in the years since its release What? has attracted a minor cult following and a modicum of critical notice.
In 1973, Polanski returned to Hollywood to make Chinatown for Paramount Pictures, with Robert Evans serving as producer. The film was nominated for a total of 11 Academy Awards; stars Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway both received Oscar nominations for their roles, and the ingeniously plotted script by Robert Towne won for Best Original Screenplay. A private detective, Jake Gittes (Nicholson), is hired to investigate a case of suspected adultery, but instead winds up uncovering a nefarious cabal of corrupt public officials and crooked businessmen who are secretly defrauding city hall and local taxpayers by undermining the publicly owned water supply as a means to facilitate a vast land grab in the San Fernando Valley. As the detective finds out, the ringleader of the conspiracy is responsible for the libel and murder of the city's water commissioner as well as an incestuous rape. Polanski appears in a cameo role as a hoodlum who slices Nicholson's nose with a knife in a failed attempt to scare him off the case. A major critical and box-office success from the time of its premiere in the summer of 1974, Chinatown is considered Polanski's greatest achievement as a filmmaker.
Return to Europe
Polanski returned to Europe for his next film, The Tenant (1976), which was based on a 1964 novel by Roland Topor, a French writer of Polish-Jewish origin. In addition to directing the film, Polanski also played the lead role of Trelkovsky, a timid Polish immigrant living in Paris who seems to be possessed by the personality of a young woman who committed suicide by jumping out of the window from her apartment — the very apartment that Trelkovsky now occupies. Many have noted the similarities with Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, and together with these two earlier works, The Tenant can be seen as the third installment in a loose trilogy of films (the "Apartment Trilogy") exploring the themes of social alienation and psychic and emotional breakdown. For The Tenant, Ingmar Bergman's regular cinematographer, Sven Nykvist, served as cameraman, and the distinguished actors Isabelle Adjani, Shelley Winters, Melvyn Douglas and Jo Van Fleet appeared in supporting roles. The Tenant also marked the first of three consecutive occasions that French composer Philippe Sarde would score a Polanski film.
Unwilling to return to the United States for fear of jail, Polanski continued to work in Europe. He dedicated his next film, Tess (1979), to the memory of his late wife, Sharon Tate. According to the director, after spending time with him in London in the summer of 1969, Tate left a copy of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles on Polanski's nightstand, along with a note suggesting that it would make a good film. Tess was Polanski's first film since his 1977 arrest in Los Angeles, and because of the American-British extradition treaty, Tess was shot in the north of France instead of Hardy's Dorset and Wiltshire; a replica of Stonehenge was constructed at Morienval for the final scene. Nastassja Kinski (with whom Polanski had been romantically involved) appeared in the title role opposite Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson. The film became the most expensive made in France up to that time, causing producer Claude Berri considerable anxiety when there was difficulty finding a North American distributor for the picture, which was nearly three hours long. Matters were also complicated when cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth died in the middle of production and had to be replaced by Ghislain Cloquet. Tess was eventually released in North America by Columbia Pictures, which had also distributed Polanski's earlier Macbeth. Ultimately, Tess proved a financial success and was well-received by both critics and the public. For Tess, Polanski won French César Awards for Best Picture and Best Director and received his fourth Academy Award nomination (and his second nomination for Best Director). The film received three Oscars: best cinematography, best art direction and best costume design. In addition, Tess was nominated for best picture (Polanski's second film to be nominated) and best original score.
Nearly seven years passed before Polanski completed his next film, Pirates (1986), a lavish period piece starring Walter Matthau, which the director intended as an homage to the beloved Errol Flynn swashbucklers of his childhood.
Pirates was followed by Frantic (1988), starring Harrison Ford and the actress/model Emmanuelle Seigner. She would go on to star in two more of his films, Bitter Moon (1992) and The Ninth Gate (1999).
Recent work and honours
In 1997, Polanski directed a stage version of his 1967 film The Fearless Vampire Killers, a musical, which debuted on October 4, 1997 in Vienna as Tanz der Vampire (Dance of the Vampires), the German title of the film version. After closing in Vienna, the show had successful runs in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin, and Budapest.
On March 11, 1998, Polanski was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
In 2002 Polanski released The Pianist, a World War II-set adaptation of the autobiography of the same name by Jewish-Polish musician W?adys?aw Szpilman, whose experiences have similarities with Polanski's own (Polanski, like Szpilman, escaped the ghetto and the concentration camps, whilst family members did not). In May 2002, the film won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) award at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as Césars for Best Film and Best Director, and later the 2002 Academy Award for Directing. Polanski did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood because he would have been arrested once he set foot in the United States. After the announcement of the "Best Director Award", Polanski received a standing ovation from most of those present in the theater. In 2004, he received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.
During late 2004, Polanski shot a new film adaptation of the Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist, based on Ronald Harwood's screenplay. The shooting took place at the Barrandov Studios in Prague, Czech Republic. The actors included Barney Clark (Oliver Twist), Jamie Foreman (Bill Sykes), Harry Eden (the Artful Dodger), Ben Kingsley (Fagin), Leeanne Rix (Nancy), and Edward Hardwicke (Mr. Brownlow). Besides the cast, the director gathered some collaborators from The Pianist: Ronald Harwood (screenplay), as noted, Allan Starski (production designer), Pawel Edelman (director of photography), and Anna Sheppard (costume designer).
Damian Chapa has completed an unauthorised biopic of Roman Polanski titled Polanski, which Chapa co-wrote and directed in addition to playing the lead.
Polanski is known for making cameo appearances in his movies and others, the latest was a cameo in Rush Hour 3 (2007) as a French police official. An attempt to adapt Robert Harris' Pompeii was abandoned in 2009.
In September 2009 Polanski was awarded a lifetime achievement "Golden Icon Award" by the Zurich Film Festival, which he was travelling to receive when he was arrested on 26 September.
Prior to his September 2009 arrest in Switzerland, Polanski was directing an adaptation of Harris' The Ghost, a novel about a writer who stumbles upon a secret while ghosting the autobiography of a former British prime minister. It will star Ewan McGregor as the writer and Pierce Brosnan as the prime minister. Filming takes place in Germany. The Ghost is being co-produced as of February 2009 by the Babelsberg Studios.
Polanski's first wife, Barbara Lass (née Barbara Kwiatkowska), starred in When Angels Fall. The couple were married in 1959 and divorced in 1961, when she left him for German actor Karlheinz Böhm.
Martin Ransohoff introduced Polanski and rising actress Sharon Tate shortly before filming The Fearless Vampire Killers, and during the production the two of them began dating. On January 20, 1968, Polanski married Sharon Tate in London. In his autobiography, Polanski described his brief time with Tate as the best years of his life. During this period, he also became friends with martial-arts master and actor Bruce Lee. This marriage ended with the death of Tate in the Manson murders, leaving Polanski devastated.
Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner married in 1989. They have two children, daughter Morgane and son Elvis, who is named after Polanski's favorite singer, Elvis Presley.
On August 9, 1969, Tate, who was eight months pregnant with the couple's first child (a boy), and four others (Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring, Wojciech Frykowski, and Steven Parent) were brutally murdered by members of Charles Manson's "Family", who entered the Polanskis' rented home at 10050 Cielo Drive in the Hollywood Hills intending to "kill everyone there". Terry Melcher (son of film icon Doris Day) and his girlfriend at the time, actress Candice Bergen, had lived at the house, but had moved out in February 1969. The following month, Polanski and Tate moved in. Melcher had angered Charles Manson because he had declined to record some of his music.
When Manson ordered members of his group to go to the property and kill everyone, they obeyed. After Parent, Sebring, Frykowski, and Folger had been murdered, Tate pleaded for the life of her unborn son. Susan Atkins replied that she felt no pity for her and began stabbing her.
Polanski was at his house in London at the time of the murders and immediately traveled to Los Angeles, where he was questioned by police. As there were no suspects in the case, police checked on the past history of Polanski and Tate to try to determine a motive. After a period of months, Manson and his "family" were arrested on unrelated charges, which revealed evidence of what came to be known as the Tate-LaBianca murders. Polanski returned to Europe shortly after the killers were arrested. He later said that he gave away all his possessions as everything reminded him of Tate and was too painful for him. His greatest regret was that he was not in Los Angeles with Tate on the night of the murders.
Sex crime conviction
In 1977, Polanski, then aged 44, became embroiled in a scandal involving 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Samantha Geimer). It ultimately led to Polanski's guilty plea to the charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
According to Geimer, Polanski asked Geimer's mother if he could photograph the girl for the French edition of Vogue, which Polanski had been invited to guest-edit. Her mother allowed a private photo shoot. According to Geimer in a 2003 interview, "Everything was going fine; then he asked me to change, well, in front of him." She added, "It didn't feel right, and I didn't want to go back to the second shoot."
Geimer later agreed to a second session, which took place on March 10, 1977 at the Mulholland area home of actor Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles. "We did photos with me drinking champagne," Geimer says. "Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn't quite know how to get myself out of there." She recalled in a 2003 interview that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and how she attempted to resist. "I said, 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!', and then I didn't know what else to do," she stated, adding: "We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this".
Geimer testified that Polanski gave her a combination of champagne and quaaludes, a sedative drug, and "despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her", each time after being told 'no' and being asked to stop.
Charges and guilty plea
Polanski was initially charged with rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance (methaqualone) to a minor. These charges were dismissed under the terms of his plea bargain, and he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, according to the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the court ordered Polanski to report to a state prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, but granted a stay of ninety days to allow him to complete his current project. Under the terms set by the court, he was permitted to travel abroad. Polanski returned to California and reported to Chino State Prison for the evaluation period, and was released after 42 days. All parties expected Polanski to get only probation at the subsequent sentencing hearing, but after an alleged conversation with LA Deputy District Attorney David Wells, the judge "suggested to Polanski's attorneys that he would send the director to prison and order him deported". In response to the threat of imprisonment — "court sources said the film director, imprisoned in Auschwitz by the Nazis during World War II, was repelled by the thought of possibly serving more time behind bars" — Polanski fled the United States.
Polanski fled initially to London on February 1, 1978, where he maintained residency. A day later he traveled on to France, where he held citizenship, avoiding the risk of extradition to the U.S. by Britain. Consistent with its extradition treaty with the United States, France can refuse to extradite its own citizens, and an extradition request later filed by U.S. officials was denied. The United States government could have requested that Polanski be prosecuted on the California charges by the French authorities. Polanski has never returned to England, and later sold his home there. The United States could still request the arrest and extradition of Polanski from other countries should he visit them, and Polanski avoided visits to countries (such as the UK) that were likely to extradite him and mostly travelled and works in France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.
In a 2003 interview, Samantha Geimer said, "Straight up, what he did to me was wrong. But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us." Furthermore, "I'm sure if he could go back, he wouldn't do it again. He made a terrible mistake but he's paid for it." In 2008, Geimer stated in an interview that she wishes Polanski would be forgiven, "I think he's sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don't think he's a danger to society. I don't think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever — besides me — and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It's an unpleasant memory ... (but) I can live with it."
In 2008, a documentary film of the aftermath of the incident, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Following review of the film, Polanski's attorney, Douglas Dalton, contacted the Los Angeles district attorney's office about prosecutor David Wells' role in coaching the trial judge, Laurence J. Rittenband. Based on statements by Wells included in the film, Polanski and Dalton sought review of whether the prosecutor acted illegally and engaged in malfeasance in interfering with the operation of the trial.
In December 2008, Polanski's lawyer in the United States filed a request to Judge David S. Wesley to have the case dismissed on the grounds of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. The filing says that Judge Rittenband (now deceased) violated the plea bargain by keeping in communication about the case with a deputy district attorney who was not involved. These activities were depicted in Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. In January 2009, Polanski's lawyer filed a further request to have the case dismissed, and to have the case moved out of Los Angeles, as the Los Angeles courts require him to appear before the court for any sentencing or dismissal, and Polanski did not intend to appear. In February 2009, Polanski's request was tentatively denied by Judge Peter Espinoza, who said that he would make a ruling if Polanski appeared in court. The same month, Samantha Geimer filed to have the charges against Polanski dismissed from court, saying that decades of publicity as well as the prosecutor's focus on lurid details continues to traumatize her and her family.
There is no statute of limitations for sex crimes in the state of California, nor for the felony of failure to appear. A statute of limitations would only be applicable to a person who hadn't been charged.
Arrest in Zürich
On September 26, 2009, Polanski was arrested by Swiss police at Zürich Airport while trying to enter Switzerland, in relation to his outstanding 1978 U.S. arrest warrant. Polanski had hoped to attend the Zurich Film Festival to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. The arrest followed a request by the United States that Switzerland apprehend Polanski. U.S. investigators had learned of his planned trip several days earlier, which had given them enough time to negotiate with Swiss authorities and lay the groundwork for an arrest. The United States had been seeking his arrest and extradition worldwide since 2005. While there had been a U.S. arrest warrant for him since 1978 and he had been on the Interpol "red notice" wanted list for several years, an international arrest warrant was issued in 2005. The United States must make a formal extradition request within 40 days to have Polanski extradited and stand trial.
The Swiss Justice Ministry said Polanski was put "in provisional detention." An arrest warrant or extradition to the United States could be subject to judicial review by the Federal Criminal Court (Bundesstrafgericht) and then the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgericht), according to a ministry spokesman. Polanski announced that he intends to appeal extradition and hired lawyer Lorenz Erni to represent him
Reactions to the arrest
In reaction to the arrest, the foreign ministers of both France and Poland urged Switzerland to release Polanski, who holds dual citizenship of both countries. The arrest provoked particular outrage in France, where over the years many had downplayed the severity of Polanski's crime, highlighting instead his achievements as a film director and the many years that had passed since his flight from the U.S. In Switzerland, the arrest caused widely varying reactions in the media and in politics, while Swiss minister of justice Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf defended the arrest as legally required under the Swiss-U.S. extradition treaty and as a matter of equality before the law.
French minister of Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, was especially vehement in his support, all the while announcing his "very deep emotion" after the questioning of the director, "a French citizen" and "a film-maker of international dimension ": "the sight of him thrown to the lions for an old story which doesn't make much sense, imprisoned while traveling to an event that was intending to honor him: caught, in short, in a trap, is absolutely dreadful". Polanski, Mitterrand continued, "had a difficult life" but had "always said how much he loves France, and he is a wonderful man". There is, he added, "a generous America that we love, and a certain America that frightens us. It's that America that has just shown its face."
Daniel Cohn-Bendit criticized these statements by Mitterrand, mainly on the grounds that it was a "matter of justice" inasmuch as "a 13-year-old girl was raped", adding "I believe that a minister of Culture, even if his name is Mitterrand, should say: I'll wait and read the files ".
A number of celebrities, most of them French, expressed their support for Polanski by means of a public manifesto, whose concluding statements were "Roman Polanski is a French citizen, an artist of international reputation, now threatened to be extradited. This extradition, if brought into effect, would carry a heavy load of consequences as well as deprive the film-maker of his freedom". The signatories concluded: "we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski" Not all assessments coming from the French film-making mainstream have been openly partisan, however. Luc Besson, for instance, remarked: "I do not know the history of the process. (...) I feel a lot of affection for , he's a man I really like and I know him a bit, our daughters are very good friends but there is a justice, it is the same for everyone".
Vanity Fair libel case
In 2004, Polanski sued Vanity Fair magazine in London for libel. A 2002 article in the magazine written by A. E. Hotchner recounted a claim by Lewis H. Lapham, editor of Harper's, that Polanski had made sexual advances towards a young model as he was traveling to Sharon Tate's funeral, claiming that he could make her "the next Sharon Tate". The court permitted Polanski to testify via a video link, after he expressed fears that he might be extradited were he to enter the United Kingdom.
The trial started on July 18, 2005, and Polanski made English legal history as the first claimant to give evidence by video link. During the trial, which included the testimony of Mia Farrow and others, it was claimed that the alleged scene at the famous New York City restaurant Elaine's could not have taken place on the date given, because Polanski only dined at this restaurant three weeks later. Also, the Norwegian model disputed accounts that he had claimed to be able to make her "the next Sharon Tate." In the course of the trial, Polanski did admit to having been unfaithful to Tate during their marriage.
Polanski was awarded £50,000 damages by the High Court in London. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, responded, "I find it amazing that a man who lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a British courtroom".