Woody Allen, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and Terry Gilliam have added their names to the petition, organized by France’s Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques (SACD), demanding the release of Palme d’Or and Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roman Polanski, currently in the custody of Swiss authorities.
In 1978, Polanski pleaded guilty to a charge of statutory rape (sex with a minor) of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey (now Geimer), whom he allegedly drugged before having sex with her against her will. Polanski, who at the time claimed that the sex was consensual and that he was led to believe that the 13-year-old was 18, reportedly fled the United States upon learning, after spending 42 days in prison, that the judge in the case was going to renege on the plea agreement and give him a lengthy jail sentence so as to placate public opinion.
Since fleeing the US, Polanski, who is a French national of Polish parentage, has been living in Paris. He also has a house in the Swiss resort of Gstaad, where he reportedly spent this past summer without running into any problems with either Swiss or American authorities. He’s been married to Emmanuelle Seigner, the star of his 1988 thriller Frantic, since 1989. The couple have two young children.
“It seems to me very odd that America, which calls itself a Christian country, is so entirely lacking in the ability to forgive,” says screenwriter Ronald Harwood in The [London] Telegraph. Harwood collaborated with Polanski on The Pianist, which won them both Academy Awards (and a Palme d’Or for Polanski), and on Oliver Twist.
“We are talking about something that happened a very long time ago and which the girl concerned does not herself wish to pursue in the courts.”
However, not everyone in the film world agrees that Polanski should be allowed to go.
“I don’t know the trial history,” says filmmaker Luc Besson, “… I have a lot of affection for [Polanski]; he’s a man I like a whole lot, whom I’ve gotten to known a little bit; our daughters are very good friends, but there’s only one justice, and it’s the same for everyone.
“I let justice take its course. I know nothing about this case, but I believe that when you don’t show up at a hearing, you’re at fault and that’s a risk.”
Samantha Geimer, who reached a financial settlement with the filmmaker a while back, has publicly stated that Polanski has already paid his dues and that the case should be dropped. Polanski’s lawyers, for their part, have declared that they’ll fight extradition demands from the United States.
Ironically, Polanski’s latest film, The Ghost, revolves around a man – a former British prime minister inspired by Tony Blair – whose ghosts from the past (war crimes) resurface after he begins working on a book of memoirs with the assistance of a ghostwriter.