Roman Polanski, 76, will not be extradited to the United States following a decision by the Swiss Justice Ministry.
In September 2009, Polanski – among whose efforts are Knife in the Water, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Tess, and The Pianist – was arrested upon arrival in Zurich, where he was to receive a career honor at the Zurich Film Festival. He was wanted in the US on a 1977 charge of statutory rape (or unlawful sex with a minor, though initial charges included rape and child molestation).
The Swiss government stated that by rejecting to send a key confidential transcript of the prosecutor involved in the case, American authorities had failed to show that Polanski had not fully served his sentence before fleeing the country.
“Mr. Polanski can now move freely,” Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf declared. “He’s a free man.” She added that the issue was “not about deciding whether he is guilty or not guilty,” but whether or not he had already served his sentence as Polanski’s attorneys had claimed.
US authorities can’t appeal the decision. Whether they will drop the extradition request – in case Polanski visits other countries – remains unclear. Either way, the Swiss court’s decision is a major blow to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Justice Department.
Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, had her own attorneys attempt to dismiss the case. She blamed the judge for the way the Polanski case was handled back in the late ’70s, and has accused the Los Angeles district attorney’s office of unearthing “lurid details” of the case in order to take attention away from their own wrongdoing in the matter.
Polanski, for his part, accused LA district attorney Steve Cooley, who’s “campaigning for election,” of seeking publicity at his expense.
A French-Polish national, Roman Polanski has been living in France – which doesn’t extradite its citizens – since the late ’70s. He has also visited Switzerland numerous times in the last three decades, unmolested by either Swiss or American authorities, and even bought a house there several years ago.
Some have asserted that Marina Zenovich’s 2009 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which called into question the ethics and efficacy of the Los Angeles judicial system, triggered the LA district attorney’s office’s decision to demand Polanski’s arrest and extradition.
As reported in The Washington Post, French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand “issued a statement expressing satisfaction with the Swiss decision,” while writer Bernard-Henri Levy, a Polanski friend who helped organize a petition drive to free the director, “told reporters in Paris that he was ‘crazy with joy.'”
Among the personalities of the world of film, literature, and the arts that signed various petitions demanding Polanski’s release were Jeanne Moreau, Adrien Brody, Penélope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar, Isabelle Huppert, Victoria Abril, Woody Allen, Fanny Ardant, Martin Scorsese, Fatih Akin, Jacques Perrin, Bernardo Bertolucci, Sylvia Kristel, Tilda Swinton, Ariel Dorfman, Stephen Frears, Xavier Dolan, Wong Kar-Wai, Joel Coen, Monica Bellucci, Mike Nichols, and hundreds of others.
He had been under house arrest at his Swiss chalet in Gstaad since December. Earlier this year, he won the Best Director prize at the Berlin Film Festival for the thriller The Ghost Writer, which Summit Entertainment released in the United States to widespread critical acclaim and middling business.
Worldwide, The Ghost Writer has collected $52 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It did solid business in France, Spain, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
Photo: The Ghost Writer (Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment)
July 13 update: Roman Polanski is free to go where he wishes in Switzerland (and in France, Poland and several other countries). Samantha Geimer wishes him to be free to go where he pleases.
As Samantha Gailey, Geimer testified in a Grand Jury hearing in the late ’70s that Polanski drugged and raped her at Jack Nicholson’s Hollywood Hills house in 1977. But now she has called on prosecutors to drop the case against the Oscar-winning director of The Pianist, whose credits also include Repulsion, The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Tess, Frantic, and The Ghost Writer.
“Enough is enough,” Geimer told the Los Angeles Times on Monday. “This matter should have been resolved 33 years ago.”
As per the Times report, Geimer was forbidden from talking about the civil-suit settlement she and Polanski reached several years ago, but claimed that it didn’t influence her opinion on the Polanski issue.
“People say I have ulterior motives,” she is quoted as saying. “That doesn’t make it true. I’ve felt this way from the beginning.”
Geimer has previously had harsh words for the judge in the 1970s Polanski case and for the current Los Angeles D.A.’s office.
Regarding the Swiss decision not to extradite Polanski, the Zurich-based newspaper Tages-Anzeiger remarked that “it breaks with the tradition of only examining the formal correctness of extradition requests. Perhaps the new practice will in the future also benefit detainees who have less of a lobby than the world-famous director.”
Roman Polanski to Adapt Yasmina Reza Play
Roman Polanski’s next film project will be a film adaptation of Yasmina Reza’s 2006 play God of Carnage, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for best play.
Reza, whose brilliant play Art was a hit both on Broadway and on London’s West End, had been working with Polanski on the God of Carnage screenplay – with the action transferred to Brooklyn – while the recently freed filmmaker was under house arrest in his Gstaad chalet.
“The shoot is planned in early 2011,” Reza told Agence France-Presse. “The location has not yet been chosen, but since Roman only has the right to go to Poland, Switzerland and France, there is a good chance the shoot will be close-by.” (That isn’t actually true. Germany has already said it won’t extradite Polanski unless it gets a formal request from the US State Department; other countries may not have all-encompassing extradition treaties with the United States.)
On Broadway, God of Carnage starred Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Tony winner Marcia Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini. Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig, Janet McTeer, and Ken Stott starred on the West End production.
In the play, two adult couples degenerate into children while discussing a playground fight involving their kids.
Polanski’s most recent cinematic effort was the well-received thriller The Ghost Writer, which earned him the Best Director Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.