Convicted Rapist Polanski Speaks of 'Harassment' in The #metoo Era

Published September 1st, 2019 - 09:51 GMT
Roman Polanski (Twitter)
Roman Polanski (Twitter)
Highlights
The director was expelled of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year, along with convicted sex attacker Bill Crosby.

Convicted rapist Roman Polanski has spoken of feeling 'harassed' by critics in the #metoo era and called past sexual abuse allegations against 'absurd'.

The filmmaker, 86, admitted to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl before fleeing to France in 1978 the night before he was due to be sentenced. 

His new movie 'An Officer and a Spy' premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Friday and while Polanski was not in attendance, the movie received a rapturous applause from those who were present, The Daily Beast reports. 

Polanksi gave just one interview for the film to French writer Pascal Bruckner, the contents of which were published in the press notes distributed at the festival.

The director was expelled of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year, along with convicted sex attacker Bill Crosby.

In the interview, Polanski, who now lives in Paris with his family, was asked about how he handles his critics after his conviction.

The interviewer asked: 'As a Jew who was hunted during the war and a filmmaker persecuted by the Stalinists in Poland, will you survive the present-day neo-feminist McCarthyism which, as well as chasing you all over the world and trying to prevent the screening of your films, among other vexations got you expelled from the Oscars Academy?'

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He was responded: 'Working, making a film like this helps me a lot. In the story, I sometimes find moments I have experienced myself, I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done.

'Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case… I must admit that I am familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film, and that has clearly inspired me.'

'An Officer and a Spy' tells the story of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who in 1894 was convicted of treason and shipped to the Devil's Island penal colony off South America's Atlantic coast.

Dreyfus' conviction was criticized as being motivated by anti-Semitism and the case deeply split France. He was eventually exonerated.

He also claimed that he was blamed over the death of his former wife, actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant when she was murdered by a hippy cult led by Charles Manson at their Hollywood home in 1969.

Polanksi continued: 'The way people see me, my 'image,' did indeed start to form with Sharon Tate's death. 

'When it happened, even though I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure of how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism. 

'For them, my film proved that I was in league with the devil! It lasted several months, until the police finally found the real killers, Charles Manson and his "family."'

Polanski also said that he was haunted by other sexual assault allegations against him. 

'All this still haunts me today. Anything and everything. It is like a snowball, each season adds another layer. 

'Absurd stories by women I have never seen before in my life who accuse me of things which supposedly happened more than half a century ago.

At the start of a news conference on Friday, where Seigner, actors Jean Dujardin and Louis Garrel were applauded on arrival, producer Luca Barbareschi said only questions about the movie would be answered.

'This is not a moral tribunal. The past is in the past, we need to focus on the present. The film must speak for itself, the jury must judge and the public, if they want, can applaud.' 

The French-language film is one of 21 in competition for the Golden Lion prize. It was presented by cast members, including Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner, and producers.

Festival organisers have faced criticism for including it in the programme but have defended the move, saying it is the film and not the man being judged.

Polanski, who is a dual Polish and French citizen, remains wanted in the US for the 1977 rape of 13-year-old Samantha Geimer.

Geimer testified that Polanski performed various sexual acts, including vaginal and anal penetration, after giving her a combination of champagne and quaaludes.

He fled the US the night before he was due to be sentenced for the rape after discovering Laurence J. Rittenbrand, the judge presiding over the case, planned to renege on a deal he'd made with prosecutors that would spare him additional jail time.

He had already served 42 days behind bars but was due to be given a probation sentence. Rittenbrand wanted to send him back to jail and the film director, after learning of his plans, fled.

He now believes he has served the sentence he was promised back in 1978 and should be allowed to return to the US and travel freely.

Judges in Los Angeles are refusing to tell him if he they will send him back to jail if he returns to the country.

An international warrant for his arrest has existed for years and the case has been dragged through courts in California, Poland and Switzerland.

Geimer, who was Samantha Gailey in 1977 when Polanski attacked her, wrote a book about the incident and the media storm which ensued in 2012. 

The attack occurred at Jack Nicholson's Mulholland Drive home. Polanski had picked the schoolgirl up, plied her with champagne and drugs after photographing her and forced himself on her. 

In 1978, he was convicted of unlawful intercourse which at the time carried a maximum sentence of 24 months.

His lawyer Helen Braun, said in 2017 that he makes no denial of it, accepting it was 'morally and legally wrong.'

Geimer recalled in harrowing detail how Polanski forced himself on her in Nicholson's outdoor hot tub after taking her photograph.

He then took her to a bedroom in the home where he raped and sodomized her before driving her home.

Despite the horrifying attack, she forgave him and the pair reached a settlement in 1998. He awarded her $500,000 in damages and gave her the copyright to the photographs he took of her.

She believes, like his lawyer, that he was mistreated by the courts in 1978 and that the matter should be finally put to an end.

Geimer, who has long forgiven Polanski for the 1977 attack, sent a letter to Los Angeles prosecutors in 2017 demanding that they grant his request to unseal vital testimony which could secure his return to the US.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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