Born: August 18, 1933
Birthplace: Paris, France
Rajmund Roman Thierry Polański (born 18 August 1933) is a French-Polish film director, producer, writer, and actor. Since 1978, he has been a fugitive from the U.S. criminal justice system, having fled the country while awaiting sentencing for statutory rape.
Polanski was born in Paris, and his Polish-Jewish parents moved the family back to Poland in 1937, when he was four. Two years later Poland was invaded by Nazi Germany and the USSR starting World War II during which Polanski spent the next six years of his childhood mostly on his own, trying to survive the ongoing Holocaust.
Polanski's first feature-length film, Knife in the Water (1962), was made in Poland and was nominated for a United States Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. He has since received five more Oscar nominations, along with two BAFTAs, four Césars, a Golden Globe Award and the Palme d'Or of the Cannes Film Festival in France. In the United Kingdom he directed three films, beginning with Repulsion (1965). In 1968 he moved to the United States and cemented his status by directing the horror film Rosemary's Baby (1968).
A turning point in his life took place in 1969, when his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and four friends were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family. Following her death, Polanski returned to Europe and eventually continued directing. He made Macbeth (1971) in England and back in Hollywood, Chinatown (1974), which was nominated for eleven Academy Awards.
In 1977, Polanski was arrested and charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He subsequently pled guilty to the lesser offence of unlawful sex with a minor. After spending 42 days undergoing psychiatric evaluation in prison in preparation for sentencing, Polanski, who had expected to be put on probation, learned that the judge planned to imprison him, so he fled to Paris.
In Europe, Polanski continued to make films, including Tess (1979), starring aspiring actress Nastassja Kinski. It won France's César Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and received three Oscars. He later produced and directed The Pianist (2002), a World War II true story drama about a Jewish-Polish musician, starring Adrien Brody. The film won three Academy Awards including Best Director, along with numerous international awards. He also directed Oliver Twist (2005), a story which parallels his own life as a "young boy attempting to triumph over adversity". He was awarded Best Director for The Ghost Writer (2010) at the 23rd European Film Awards.Polanski was born in Paris; he was the son of Bula (née Katz-Przedborska) and Ryszard Polański, a painter and manufacturer of sculptures, who had changed his family name from Liebling. His mother had a daughter, Annette, by her previous husband. Annette managed to survive Auschwitz, where her mother died, and left Poland forever for France. Polański's father was Jewish and originally from Poland; Polański's mother, born in Russia, had been raised Roman Catholic and was of half Jewish ancestry. Polański's parents were both agnostics. Polański, influenced by his education in the People's Republic of Poland, said "I'm an atheist" in an interview about his film, Rosemary's Baby.
The Polański family moved back to the Polish city of Kraków in 1936, and were living there when World War II began with the invasion of Poland. Kraków was soon occupied by the German forces, and Nazi racial purity laws made the Polańskis targets of persecution, forcing them into the Kraków Ghetto, along with thousands of the city's Jews. Around the age of six, he attended primary school for only a few weeks, until "all the Jewish children were abruptly expelled," writes biographer Christopher Sandford. That initiative was soon followed by the requirement that all Jewish children over the age of twelve wear white armbands with a blue Star of David imprinted for visual identification. After he was expelled, he would not be allowed to enter another classroom for the next six years. Polanski then witnessed both the ghettoization of Kraków's Jews into a compact area of the city, and the subsequent deportation of all the ghetto's Jews to concentration camps, including watching as his father was taken away. He remembers from age six, one of his first experiences of the terrors to follow:
I had just been visiting my grandmother ... when I received a foretaste of things to come. At first I didn't know what was happening. I simply saw people scattering in all directions. Then I realized why the street had emptied so quickly. Some women were being herded along it by German soldiers. Instead of running away like the rest, I felt compelled to watch.
One older woman at the rear of the column couldn't keep up. A German officer kept prodding her back into line, but she fell down on all fours, ... Suddenly a pistol appeared in the officer's hand. There was a loud bang, and blood came welling out of her back. I ran straight into the nearest building, squeezed into a smelly recess beneath some wooden stairs, and didn't come out for hours. I developed a strange habit: clenching my fists so hard that my palms became permanently calloused. I also woke up one morning to find that I had wet my bed.
His father was transferred, along with thousands of other Jews, to Mauthausen, a group of 49 German concentration camps in Austria. His mother was taken to Auschwitz and was killed soon after arriving. The forced exodus took place immediately after the German liquidation of the Kraków ghetto, a true-life backdrop to Polanski's film, The Pianist (2002). Polanski, who was then hiding from the Germans, remembered seeing his father being marched off with a long line of people. Polanski tried getting closer to his father to ask him what was happening, and managed to get within a few yards. His father saw him, but afraid his son might be spotted by the German soldiers, whispered (in Polish), "Get lost!"
Polański escaped the Kraków Ghetto in 1943 and survived by assuming the name Romek Wilk, with the help of some Polish Roman Catholic families including Mrs Sermak who promised his father to shelter him. He attended church, learned to recite Catholic prayers by heart, and behaved outwardly as a Roman Catholic, although he was never baptized. His efforts to blend into a Catholic household failed miserably at least once, when the parish priest visiting the family posed questions to him one-on-one about the catechism: "You aren't one of us", he said. The punishment for helping a Jew in Poland was death.
As he roamed the countryside trying to survive in a Poland now occupied by German troops, he witnessed many horrors, such as being "forced to take part in a cruel and sadistic game in which German soldiers took shots at him for target practice." Author Ian Freer concludes that his constant childhood fears and dread of violence have contributed to the "tangible atmospheres he conjures up on film."
By the time the war ended in 1945, a fifth of the Polish population had been killed, with the vast majority of the victims being civilians. Of those deaths, 3 million were Polish Jews, which accounted for 90% of the country's Jewish population. According to Sandford, Polanski would use the memory of his mother, her dress and makeup style, as a physical model for Faye Dunaway's character in his film Chinatown (1974).
After the war, he was reunited with his father and moved back to Kraków. His father remarried 21 December 1946 to Wanda Zajączkowska (a woman Polanski had never liked) and died of cancer in 1984. Time repaired the family contacts; Polanski visited them in Kraków, and relatives visited him in Hollywood and Paris. Polanski recalls the villages and families he lived with as relatively primitive by European standards:
They were really simple Catholic peasants. This Polish village was like the English village in Tess. Very primitive. No electricity. The kids with whom I lived didn't know about electricity ... they wouldn't believe me when I told them it was enough to turn on a switch!
He stated that "you must live in a Communist country to really understand how bad it can be. Then you will appreciate capitalism." He also remembered events at the war's end and his reintroduction to mainstream society when he was 12, forming friendships with other children, such as Roma Ligocka, Ryszard Horowitz and his family.
Polanski's fascination with cinema began very early, when he was around age four or five. He recalls this period in an interview:
Even as a child, I always loved cinema and was thrilled when my parents would take me before the war. Then we were put into the ghetto in Krakòw and there was no cinema, but the Germans often showed newsreels to the people outside the ghetto, on a screen in the market place. And there was one particular corner where you could see the screen through the barbed wire. I remember watching with fascination, although all they were showing was the German army and German tanks, with occasional anti-Jewish slogans inserted on cards.
After the war, he watched films, either at school or at a local cinema, using whatever pocket money he had. Polanski writes, "Most of this went on the movies, but movie seats were dirt cheap, so a little went a long way. I lapped up every kind of film." As time went on, movies became more than an escape into entertainment, as he explains:
Movies were becoming an absolute obsession with me. I was enthralled by everything connected with the cinema—not just the movies themselves but the aura that surrounded them. I loved the luminous rectangle of the screen, the sight of the beam slicing through the darkness from the projection booth, the miraculous synchronization of sound and vision, even the dusty smell of the tip-up seats. More than anything else though, I was fascinated by the actual mechanics of the process.
He was above all influenced by Sir Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947) - "I still consider it as one of the best movies I've ever seen and a film which made me want to pursue this career more than anything else... I always dreamt of doing things of this sort or that style. To a certain extent I must say that I somehow perpetuate the ideas of that movie in what I do."
Polanski attended the National Film School in Łódź, the third-largest city in Poland. In the 1950s, Polanski took up acting, appearing in Andrzej Wajda's Pokolenie (A Generation, 1954) and in the same year in Silik Sternfeld's Zaczarowany rower (Enchanted Bicycle or Magical Bicycle). Polanski's directorial debut was also in 1955 with a short film Rower (Bicycle). Rower is a semi-autobiographical feature film, believed to be lost, which also starred Polanski. It refers to his real-life violent altercation with a notorious Kraków felon, Janusz Dziuba, who arranged to sell Polanski a bicycle, but instead beat him badly and stole his money. In real life, the offender was arrested while fleeing after fracturing Polanski's skull, and executed for three murders, out of eight prior such assaults which he had committed. Several other short films made during his study at Łódź gained him considerable recognition, particularly Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958) and When Angels Fall (1959). He graduated in 1959.
Polanski's first feature-length film, Knife in the Water, was also one of the first significant Polish films after the Second World War that did not have a war theme. Scripted by Jerzy Skolimowski, Jakub Goldberg, and Polanski, Knife in the Water is 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. Knife in the Water was 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) in 1963. Leon Niemczyk, who played Andrzej, was the only professional actor in the film. Jolanta Umecka, who played Krystyna, was discovered by Polanski at a swimming pool.
Polanski left then-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. (He has since had the segment removed from all releases of the film.) However, Polanski found that in the early 1960s, the French film industry was xenophobic and generally unwilling to support a rising filmmaker of foreign origin.
Polanski made three feature films in England, based on original scripts written by himself and Gérard Brach, a frequent collaborator. Repulsion (1965) 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). 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 tone and premise of the film owe a great deal to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, along with aspects of Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party.
The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) (known by its original title, "Dance of the Vampires" in most countries outside the United States) is a parody of vampire films. The plot concerns a buffoonish professor and his clumsy assistant, Alfred (played by Polanski), who are traveling through Transylvania in search of vampires. The ironic and macabre ending is considered classic Polanski. The Fearless Vampire Killers was Polanski's first feature to be photographed in color with the use of Panavision lenses, and included a striking visual style with snow-covered, fairy-tale landscapes, similar to the work of Soviet fantasy filmmakers. In addition, the richly textured color schemes of the settings evoke the magical, kaleidoscopic paintings of the great Belarusian-Jewish artist Marc Chagall, who provides the namesake for the innkeeper in the film. The film was written for Jack MacGowran, who played the lead role of Professor Abronsius.
Polanski met Sharon Tate while the film was being made, where she played the role of the local innkeeper's daughter. They were married in London on 20 January 1968. Shortly after they married, Polanski, with Tate at his side during a documentary film, described the demands of young movie viewers who he said always wanted to see something "new" and "different".
Paramount studio head Robert Evans brought Polanski to America ostensibly to direct the film Downhill Racer, but told Polanski that he really wanted to him to read the horror novel Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin to see if a film could be made out of it. Polanski read it non-stop through the night and the following morning decided he wanted to write as well as direct it. He wrote the 272-page screenplay for the film in slightly longer than three weeks. The film, Rosemary's Baby (1968), was a box-office success and became his first Hollywood production, thereby establishing his reputation as a major commercial filmmaker. The film, a horror-thriller set in trendy Manhattan, is about Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a young housewife who is impregnated by the devil. Polanski's screenplay adaptation earned him a second Academy Award nomination.
On 9 August 1969, while Polanski was working in London, his wife, Sharon Tate, and four other people were murdered at the Polanskis' residence in Los Angeles.
Polanski adapted Macbeth into a screenplay with the Shakespeare expert Kenneth Tynan. Jon Finch and Francesca Annis played the main characters. Hugh Hefner and Playboy Productions funded the 1971 film, which opened in New York and was screened in Playboy Theater. Hefner was credited as executive producer, and the film was listed as a "Playboy Production". It was controversial because of Lady Macbeth's being nude in a scene, and received an X rating because of its graphic violence and nudity. In his autobiography, Polanski wrote that he wanted to be true to the violent nature of the work, and that he had been aware that his first project following Tate's murder would be subject to scrutiny and probable criticism regardless of the subject matter; if he had made a comedy he would have been perceived as callous.
Written by Polanski and previous collaborator Gérard Brach, What? (1973) is a mordant absurdist comedy 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 a winsome young American hippie woman hitchhiking through Europe.
co-star John Huston
Polanski returned to Hollywood in 1973 to direct Chinatown (1974) for Paramount Pictures. The film is widely considered to be one of the finest American mystery crime movies, inspired by the real-life California Water Wars, a series of disputes over southern California water at the beginning of the 20th century.
It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including those for actors Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. Robert Towne won for Best Original Screenplay. It also had actor-director John Huston in a supporting role, and was the last film Polanski directed in the United States. In 1991, the film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" and it is frequently listed as among the best in world cinema.
Polanski returned to Paris 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 a leading role of a timid Polish immigrant living in Paris. Together with Repulsion and Rosemary's Baby, The Tenant can be seen as the third installment in a loose trilogy of films called the "Apartment Trilogy" that explore the themes of social alienation and psychic and emotional breakdown.
In 1978, Polanski became a fugitive from American justice and could no longer work in countries where he might face arrest or extradition.
He dedicated his next film, Tess (1979), to the memory of his late wife, Sharon Tate. It was Tate who first suggested he read Tess of the d'Urbervilles, which she thought would make a good film; he subsequently expected her to star in it. Nearly a decade after Tate's death, he met Nastassja Kinski, a model and aspiring young actress who had already been in a number of European films. He offered her the starring role, which she accepted. Her father was Klaus Kinski, a leading German actor, who had introduced her to films.
Because the role required having a local dialect, Polanski sent her to London for five months of study and to spend time in the Dorset countryside to get a flavor of the region. In the film, Kinski starred opposite Peter Firth and Leigh Lawson.took a lot of time, two years, preparing me for that film.... He was strict with me, but in a good way. He made me feel smart, that I could do things.
Tess was shot in the north of France instead of Hardy's England and became the most expensive film made in France up to that time. Ultimately, it proved a financial success and was well received by both critics and the public. Polanski won France's 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, best costume design, and was nominated for best picture.
At the time, there were rumors that Polanski and Kinski became romantically involved, but she says the rumors are untrue; they were never lovers or had an affair. She admits that "there was a flirtation. There could have been a seduction, but there was not. He had respect for me." She also recalls his influence on her while filming: "He was really a gentleman, not at all like the things I had heard. He introduced me to beautiful books, plays, movies. He educated me." On an emotional level, she said years later that "he was one of the people in my life who cared, ... who took me seriously and gave me a lot of strength." She told David Letterman more about her experience working with Polanski during an interview.
In 1981, Polanski directed and co-starred (as Mozart) in a stage production of Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, first in Warsaw, then in Paris. The play was again directed by Polanski, in Milan, in 1999.
Nearly seven years passed before Polanski's next film, Pirates, a lavish period piece starring Walter Matthau as Captain Red, which the director intended as an homage to the beloved Errol Flynn swashbucklers of his childhood. Captain Red's henchman, Jean Baptiste, was played by Cris Campion. The film is about a rebellion the two led on a ship called the Neptune, in the seventeenth century. The screenplay was written by Polanski, Gérard Brach, and John Brownjohn. The film was shot on location in Tunisia, using a full-sized pirate vessel constructed for the production. It was a financial and critical failure, recovering a small fraction of its production budget and garnering a single Academy Award nomination.
Frantic (1988) was a Hitchcockian suspense-thriller starring Harrison Ford and the actress/model Emmanuelle Seigner, who later became Polanski's wife. The film follows an ordinary tourist in Paris whose wife is kidnapped. He attempts, hopelessly, to go through the Byzantine bureaucratic channels to deal with her disappearance, but finally takes matters into his own hands.
Polanski followed this with the dark psycho-sexual film Bitter Moon (1992), followed by a film of the acclaimed play Death and the Maiden (1994) starring Sigourney Weaver.
In 1997, Polanski directed a stage version of his 1967 film The Fearless Vampire Killers, which debuted in Vienna followed by successful runs in Stuttgart, Hamburg, Berlin, and Budapest. On 11 March 1998, Polanski was elected a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
The Ninth Gate is a thriller based on the novel El Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte and starring Johnny Depp. The movie's plot is based on the idea that an ancient text called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows", authored by Aristide Torchia along with Lucifer, is the key to raising Satan.
In 2001, Polanski filmed The Pianist, an adaptation of the World War II autobiography of the same name by Polish-Jewish musician Władysław Szpilman. Szpilman's experiences as a persecuted Jew in Poland during World War II were reminiscent of those of Polanski and his family. While Szpilman and Polanski escaped the concentration camps, their families did not, eventually perishing.
When Warsaw, Poland, was chosen for the 2002 premiere of The Pianist, "the country exploded with pride." According to reports, numerous former communists came to the screening and "agreed that it was a fantastic film."
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. Because Polanski would have been arrested in the United States, he did not attend the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood. After the announcement of the Best Director Award, Polanski received a standing ovation from most of those present in the theater. Actor Harrison Ford accepted the award for Polanski, and then presented the Oscar to him at the Deauville Film Festival five months later in a public ceremony. Polanski later received the Crystal Globe award for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 2004.
Oliver Twist is an adaptation of Dickens's classic, written by The Pianist's Ronald Harwood and shot in Prague. Polanski said in interviews that he made the film as something he could show his children, and that the life of the young scavenger mirrored his own life, fending for himself in World War II Poland.
The Ghost Writer, a thriller focusing on a ghostwriter working on the memoirs of a character based loosely on former British prime minister Tony Blair, swept the European Film Awards in 2010, winning six awards, including best movie, director, actor and screenplay. When it premiered at the 60th Berlinale in February 2010, Polanski won a Silver Bear for Best Director, and in February 2011, it won four César Awards, France's version of the Academy Awards.
The film is based on a novel by British writer Robert Harris. Harris and Polanski had previously worked for many months on a film of Harris's earlier novel Pompeii, a novel that was actually inspired by Polanski's Chinatown. They had completed a script for Pompeii and were nearing production when the film was cancelled due to a looming actors' strike in September 2007. After that film fell apart, they moved on to Harris's novel, The Ghost, and adapted it for the screen together.
In the United States, film critic Roger Ebert included it in his top 10 pick for 2010, and states that "this movie is the work of a man who knows how to direct a thriller. Smooth, calm, confident, it builds suspense instead of depending on shock and action." Co-star Ewan McGregor agrees, saying about Polanski that "he's a legend... I've never examined a director and the way that they work, so much before. He's brilliant, just brilliant, and absolutely warrants his reputation as a great director."
Polanski shot Carnage in February/March 2011. The film is a screen version of Yasmina Reza's play God of Carnage, a comedy about the relationship between two couples after their children get in a fight at school and the selfishness of everyone, which eventually leads to chaos. It stars Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly. Though set in New York, it was shot in Paris. The film had its world premiere on 9 September 2011 at the Venice Film Festival and was released in the United States by Sony Pictures Classics on 16 December 2011.
Co-stars Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet commented about Polanski's directing style. According to Foster, "He has a very, very definitive style about how he likes it done. He decides everything. He decided every lens. Every prop. Everything. It's all him." Winslet adds that "Roman is one of the most extraordinary men I've ever met. The guy is 77 years old. He has an effervescent quality to him. He's very joyful about his work, which is infectious. He likes to have a small crew, to the point that, when I walked on the set, my thought was, 'My God, this is it?'" Also noting that style of directing, New York Film Festival director Richard Pena, during the American premiere of the film, called Polanski "a poet of small spaces... in just a couple of rooms he can conjure up an entire world, an entire society."
Polanski makes an uncredited cameo appearance as a neighbor.
Polanski's French-language adaptation of the award-winning play Venus in Fur, stars his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric. Polanski worked with the play's author, David Ives, on the screenplay. The film was shot from December 2012 to February 2013 in French and is Polanski's first non-English language feature film in forty years. The film premiered in competition at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 25 May 2013.
Polanski's Based on a True Story is an adaptation of the French novel by bestselling author Delphine de Vignan. The film follows a writer (Emmanuelle Seigner) struggling to complete a new novel, while followed by an obsessed fan (Eva Green). It started production in November 2016 from a script adapted by Polanski and Olivier Assayas. It premiered out of competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on 27 May 2017 and opened in France on 1 November 2017.
In 2018 Polanski continued preparing to direct D, a film about the notorious Dreyfus affair in the 19th century, in which one of the few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff was wrongly convicted of passing military secrets to the German Empire and sent to Devil's Island, only to be acquitted 12 years later. The film is written by Robert Harris, who is working with Polanski for the third time. Although set in Paris, the film was first scheduled to shoot in Warsaw in 2014, for economic reasons. However, production was postponed after Polanski moved to Poland for filming and the U.S. Government filed extradition papers. The Polish government eventually rejected them, by which time new French film tax credits had been introduced, allowing the film to shoot on location in Paris. It is budgeted at 60 million euros and was set to start production in July 2016, however its production was postponed as Polanski waited on the availability of his star whose name has not yet been announced. In a 2017 interview Polanski discussed the difficulty of the project:
The problem of the film is the combination of casting and financing, it's an expensive film and films of this scale are only made with a bankable star, as they say vulgarly, and the stars capable of satisfying the financial requirement I do not necessarily see in the role of Picquart, who is our main character. Apart from that, there are about fifty important roles. They should all speak with the same accent in English, otherwise it would be appalling. It is necessary so that the film can be sold around the world. To unlock the financial means to produce such a project is impossible if you shoot in French."
Polanski's first wife, Barbara Lass (née Kwiatkowska), was a Polish actress who also starred in Polanski's 1959 When Angels Fall. The couple were married in 1959 and divorced in 1961.
Polanski met rising actress Sharon Tate while filming The Fearless Vampire Killers, and during the production, the two of them began dating. On 20 January 1968, Polanski married Tate in London.
In August 1969, while Polanski was in Europe working on a film, Tate was murdered along with four of their friends at their home in Los Angeles by members of Charles Manson's "family," a group of young, gullible, and mostly female followers. Tate was pregnant at the time of her murder.
Manson, along with members of his "family", was arrested in late 1969, and eventually tried and found guilty in 1971 of 27 counts, including first-degree murder, an event now called the Manson murders. Because at the time it was one of the most "horrific crimes in modern history," the crime and trial of Manson and his followers became a media sensation, leading to movies, documentaries and bestselling books.
Polanski has said that his absence on the night of the murders is the greatest regret of his life. In his autobiography, he wrote, "Sharon's death is the only watershed in my life that really matters", and commented that her murder changed his personality from a "boundless, untroubled sea of expectations and optimism" to one of "ingrained pessimism ... eternal dissatisfaction with life". In his autobiography, Polanski described his brief time with Tate as the best years of his life.
Polanski was also left with a very negative impression of the press, which he felt was interested in sensationalizing the lives of the victims, and indirectly himself, to attract readers. He was shocked by the lack of sympathy expressed in various news stories:
I had long known that it was impossible for a journalist to convey 100 percent of the truth, but I didn't realize to what extent the truth is distorted, both by the intentions of the journalist and by neglect. I don't mean just the interpretations of what happened; I also mean the facts. The reporting about Sharon and the murders was virtually criminal. Reading the papers, I could not believe my eyes. I could not believe my eyes! They blamed the victims for their own murders. I really despise the press. I didn't always. The press made me despise it.
Among the media-generated sensationalism were rumors that claimed Tate and her visitors were taking drugs, despite the coroner's announcing that no traces of drugs or nicotine were found after Tate's autopsy. For years afterward, notes Sandford, "reporters openly speculated about the Polanskis' home life" and their personalities in order to create more media gossip about the private lives of Hollywood celebrities.
In 1989, Polanski married French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who is 33 years younger than him. They have two children, daughter Morgane and son Elvis. Polanski and his children speak Polish at home.
On 11 March 1977, three years after making Chinatown, Polanski was arrested at Jack Nicholson's home for the sexual assault of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey, who was modeling for Polanski during a Vogue magazine photo shoot around the pool. Polanski was indicted on six counts of criminal behavior, including rape. At his arraignment, he pleaded not guilty to all charges. Many executives in Hollywood came to his defense. Gailey's attorney next arranged a plea bargain in which five of the six charges would be dismissed, and Polanski accepted.
At the time of the incident, Nicholson was out of town making a film, but his steady girlfriend, actress Anjelica Huston, had dropped by unannounced to pick up some items. She heard Polanski in the other room say "We'll be right out." Polanski then came out with Gailey and he introduced her to Huston, and they chatted about Nicholson's two large dogs which were sitting nearby. Huston recalled Gailey was wearing platform heels and appeared quite tall.
After a brief conversation, Polanski had packed up his camera gear and Huston saw them drive off in his car. Huston told police the next day, after Polanski was arrested, that she "had witnessed nothing untoward" and never saw them together in the other room. Gailey learned afterwards that Huston had recently broken up with Nicholson, but stopped by to pick up some belongings.
As a result of the plea bargain, Polanski pleaded guilty to the charge of "Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor," and was ordered to undergo 90 days of psychiatric evaluation at California Institution for Men at Chino. Upon release from prison after 42 days, Polanski agreed to the plea bargain, his penalty to be time served along with probation. However, he learned afterward that the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, had told some friends that he was going to disregard the plea bargain and sentence Polanski to 50 years in prison: "I'll see this man never gets out of jail," he told Polanski's friend, screenwriter Howard E. Koch. Gailey's attorney confirmed the judge changed his mind after he personally met with the judge in his chambers:
He was going to sentence Polanski, rather than to time served, to fifty years. What the judge did was outrageous. We had agreed to a plea bargain and the judge had approved it.
Polanski's attorney told Polanski that "the judge could no longer be trusted..." that the judge's representations were "worthless". Polanski decided not to appear at his sentencing. He told his friend, director Dino De Laurentis, "I've made up my mind. I'm getting out of here." On the day before sentencing in 1978, Polanski left the country on a flight to London, where he had a home. One day later, he left for France. As a French citizen, he has been protected from extradition and has lived mostly in France since then. However, since he fled the United States before final sentencing, the charges are still pending.
The victim, now married and going by the name Samantha Geimer, stated in an interview with Larry King that the police and media had been slow at the time of the assault to believe her account, which she attributed to the social climate of the era. In 1988 she sued Polanski. Among other things, the suit alleged sexual assault, false imprisonment, seduction of a minor, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In 1993, Polanski agreed to settle with Geimer. In August 1996, Polanski still owed her $604,416; Geimer and her lawyers later confirmed that the settlement was completed.
On 26 September 2009, Polanski was arrested while in Switzerland at the request of United States authorities. The arrest brought renewed attention to the case and stirred controversy, particularly in the United States and Europe. Polanski was defended by many prominent individuals, including Hollywood celebrities and European artists and politicians, who called for his release. American public opinion was reported to run against him, however, and polls in France and Poland showed that strong majorities favored his extradition to the United States.
Polanski was jailed near Zürich for two months, then put under house arrest at his home in Gstaad while awaiting decision of appeals fighting extradition. On 12 July 2010, the Swiss rejected the United States' request, declared Polanski a "free man" and released him from custody. He remains the subject of an Interpol red notice issued in 2005 at the request of the United States.
During a television interview on 10 March 2011, Geimer blamed the media, reporters, the court, and the judge for having caused "way more damage to me and my family than anything Roman Polanski has ever done", and opined that the judge was using her and Polanski for the media exposure.
In January 2014, newly uncovered emails by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge from 2008, indicated that if Polanski returned to the United States for a hearing, the conduct of the judge who had originally presided over the case might require that Polanski be freed. These emails were related to a 2008 documentary film by Marina Zenovich. In late October 2014, Polanski was questioned by prosecutors in Kraków.
On 30 October 2015, Polish judge Dariusz Mazur denied a request by the United States to extradite Polanski (a dual French-Polish citizen) for a full trial, claiming that it would be "obviously unlawful." The Kraków prosecutor's office declined to challenge the court's ruling, agreeing that Polanski had served his punishment and did not need to face a U.S. court again. However, Poland's national justice ministry took up the appeal, arguing that sexual abuse of minors should be prosecuted regardless of the suspect's accomplishments or the length of time since the suspected crime took place. In a December 2016 decision, the Supreme Court of Poland dismissed the government's appeal, holding that the prosecutor general had failed to prove misconduct or flagrant legal error on the part of the lower court.
Preparations for a movie he was working on about the Dreyfus affair had been stalled by the extradition request.
In 2008, the documentary film by Marina Zenovich, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, was released in Europe and the United States where it won numerous awards. The film focuses on the judge in the case and the possible reasons why he changed his mind. It includes interviews with people involved in the case, including the victim, Geimer, and the prosecutor, Roger Gunson. Geimer said that the judge "didn't care what happened" to her or Polanski, but "was orchestrating some little show," while Gunson added, "I'm not surprised that Polanski left under those circumstances, ... it was going to be a real circus."
Former DA David Wells, whose statements were the most damning against Polanski, and who said he advised the judge to imprison Polanski, admitted that he lied about those statements, and said that to the press to "play up" his own role.
In December 2009, a California appellate court discussed the film's allegations as it denied Polanski's request to have the case dismissed. While saying it was "deeply concerned" by the allegations, and that the allegations were "in many cases supported by considerable evidence," it also found that "(e)ven in light of our fundamental concern about the misconduct ... flight was not Polanski's only option. It was not even his best option." It said dismissal of the case, which would erase Polanski's guilty plea, wouldn't be an "appropriate result," and that he still had other legal options.
In September 2011, the documentary film Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir had its world premiere in Zürich, Switzerland. During an interview in the film, he offers his apology to Geimer: "She is a double victim: My victim, and a victim of the press." On this occasion, he collected the lifetime achievement award he was to have received at the time of his arrest two years earlier.
In 2004, Polanski sued Vanity Fair magazine in London for libel. A 2002 article in the magazine claimed that Polanski promised he would "make another Sharon Tate out of you" in an attempt to seduce a Scandinavian model while he was travelling to Tate's funeral. He received supporting testimony from Mia Farrow, and Vanity Fair "was unable to prove that the incident occurred." Polanski was awarded £50,000 in damages plus some of his legal costs.
In 2010, British actress Charlotte Lewis said that Polanski had "forced himself" on her while she was auditioning for a role in Paris in 1983, when she was 16.
In October 2017, a woman named Renate Langer interviewed by Swiss police said Polanski raped her in the town of Gstaad when she was 15, in 1972. That same month, Marianne Barnard accused Polanski of having assaulted her in 1975, when she was 10-years-old.
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|Year||Film||Also known as||Oscar
|Uśmiech zębiczny||A Toothful Smile|
|Rozbijemy zabawę||Break Up the Dance|
|1958||Dwaj ludzie z szafą||Two Men and a Wardrobe|
|Gdy spadają anioły||When Angels Fall|
|1961||Le Gros et le Maigre||The Fat and the Lean|
|1962||Nóż w wodzie||Knife in the Water||1|
|1964||Les plus belles escroqueries du monde||The World's Most Beautiful Swindlers|
|1967||The Fearless Vampire Killers||Dance of the Vampires|
|1972||Weekend of a Champion|
|1972||What?||Diary of Forbidden Dreams|
|1976||Le Locataire*||The Tenant|
|1994||Death and the Maiden|
|1999||The Ninth Gate|
|2007||To Each His Own Cinema|
|2010||The Ghost Writer|
|2012||A Therapy (Short)|
|2013||La Vénus à la fourrure||Venus in Fur|
|2017||D'après une histoire vraie||Based on a True Story|
*These movies are part of his "Apartment Trilogy".