'The Ghost Writer' Sweeps European Film Awards: Roman Polanski Political Thriller Win a Political Message?

The Ghost Writer Roman Polanski: Best Director European Film Award sends messageThe Ghost Writer, with Roman Polanski on the set. Winner of the Best Director Academy Award for the World War II drama The Pianist (2002), the 77-year-old Polanski now also has a Best Director European Film Award for the political thriller The Ghost Writer, based on Robert Harris' novel, itself inspired by reviled former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and Olivia Williams star.

Roman Polanski mystery thriller 'The Ghost Writer' tops European Film Awards

Roman Polanski may be a wanted man in the United States, but as far as the European Film Academy is concerned Polanski is the acclaimed man behind the Best European Film of 2010: the mystery/political thriller The Ghost Writer.

As announced at a ceremony held this evening, Dec. 4, in Tallinn, Estonia, The Ghost Writer also earned European Film Awards for director Polanski (reprising his 2010 Berlin Film Festival win), actor Ewan McGregor, composer Alexandre Desplat, production designer Albrecht Konrad, in addition to Polanski and Robert Harris for the film's screenplay, itself based on Harris' novel The Ghost.

In fact, The Ghost Writer ended up being an also-ran in only one category: Film editor Hervé de Luze lost to Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier for their work on Olivier Assayas' Carlos, about the life and times of assassin/terrorist Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramírez). (Scroll down to check out the full list of the 2010 European Film Awards' winners and nominees.)

The Tony Blair Story

Starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, the Franco-German The Ghost Writer tells the story of a British ghostwriter (McGregor) whose life becomes endangered after he's hired to pen the memoirs of a former British prime minister accused of war crimes (Brosnan, as a thinly veiled version of Iraq War hawk Tony Blair).

Budgeted at a reported $40 million, The Ghost Writer has taken in nearly $60 million worldwide.

Message re: Roman Polanski's 'wanted man' status?

Now, could the European Film Academy be sending the world a political message, or did they select The Ghost Writer because they truly found it the top pick among the six Best European Film nominees?

Also in the running were:

Although it's impossible to know with absolute certainty whether or not The Ghost Writer and Roman Polanski's wins amounted to a sociopolitical message, that possibility does make sense. After all, numerous European artists signed the celebrity-filled list to free the filmmaker following his arrest, at the behest of the U.S. government, in Switzerland in September 2009.

Many of those artists saw the Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown director as the victim of a warped U.S. justice system. Some of them went as far as petitioning the European Film Academy – which had handed Polanski a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 – to take a stand in the filmmaker's favor.

Roman Polanski European Film Awards: Best Director unwilling to attend Estonia ceremonyRoman Polanski at the 2010 European Film Awards: Brief acceptance speech via live Internet feed as the veteran director (Knife in the Water, Chinatown, Tess) was unwilling to travel to Estonia for the ceremony that earned his political thriller six trophies, including Best European Film and Best European Director. Polanski had previously won two awards from the European Film Academy: the Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema for The Ninth Gate in 1999 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

Political message x2

Additionally, European Film Academy members who chose to send out a message may have voted for The Ghost Writer not (only?) because of the Roman Polanski affaire but (also?) because of the film's indictment of “Peace Envoy” Tony Blair – who just happens to be, in the eyes of many, a war criminal for his role in helping to engender the catastrophic Iraq War.

Polanski was not present at the Tallinn ceremony even though he was assured by Estonian authorities that he could come into the country without fear of harassment. Instead, he sent in a thank-you message via a live Internet connection from his home in Switzerland: “This is great. I profoundly thank one more time all my colleagues.”

'The Ghost Writer' cast

Besides Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, The Ghost Writer features the following:

Kim Cattrall. Olivia Williams. Jim Belushi. Jon Bernthal. Robert Pugh.

Two-time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (Best Actor for In the Bedroom, 2001; Best Supporting Actor for Michael Clayton, 2007).

Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980).

Veteran Eli Wallach (The Misfits, The Good the Bad and the Ugly).

Lourdes Sylvie Testud: Woman suffering from multiple sclerosis travels to miracle townLourdes with Sylvie Testud. The Best Actress European Film Award winner is a likely Prix César 2011 contender for her performance as a multiple-sclerosis sufferer who travels to the French town of Lourdes where, according to Catholic legend, miraculous cures are supposed to take place.

Best Actress Sylvie Testud

Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer took home the bulk of the 2010 European Film Award statuettes – and occupied just about all of the English-language media's attention to the awards ceremony. But incredible as it may sound, there were other winners as well.

Somewhat surprisingly, in the Best Actress race Lourdes star Sylvie Testud beat National Board of Review winner and potential Oscar contender Lesley Manville for her work in Mike Leigh's Another Year.

Directed by Jessica Hausner, Lourdes stars Testud as a multiple-sclerosis sufferer who makes a pilgrimage to the titular French town where some Catholics believe miraculous cures take place. That's because miller's daughter Bernadette Soubirous, later canonized as St. Bernadette, claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary in the area.

A veteran of nearly 60 motion pictures – including a supporting role in Olivier Dahan's international hit La Vie en Rose – Testud has previously won two of the French Academy's Prix César: Best Actress for Fear and Trembling (2003) and Most Promising Actress for Murderous Maids (2000). Her third César may be on the way next year.

As an aside, Jennifer Jones won the 1943 Best Actress Academy Award for her portrayal of the young Bernadette, while a pregnant Linda Darnell was cast as the Virgin Mary in Henry King's blockbuster The Song of Bernadette.

More European Film Award winners

Other 2010 European Film Award winners include:

  • Cinematographer Giora Bejach for Lebanon.
  • The Illusionist / L'illusionniste as Best European Animated Feature. Sylvain Chomet's lyrically downbeat homage to long-deceased filmmaker Jacques Tati is based on an – until this year – unproduced screenplay by the comedy genius responsible for Jour de fête, Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, and Mon Oncle.
  • Best European Short Film Hanoi - Warsaw, about the harrowing journey of a would-be Vietnamese immigrant in Poland. Katarzyna Klimkiewicz directed.
  • Nostalgia for the Light / Nostalgia de la luz as Best European Documentary. Set in Chile's Atacama desert, Patricio Guzmán's political meditation follows astronomers trying to uncover the origins of the universe, geologists digging for prehistoric remains, and women searching for the remains of relatives and loved ones murdered by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's right-wing military regime and later buried in the area.

Special honorees Bruno Ganz & Gabriel Yared

The 2010 European Film Awards' special honorees were:

  • Veteran Swiss actor Bruno Ganz (Children of Nature, Downfall), recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. European Film Academy President Wim Wenders – Ganz' The American Friend and Wings of Desire director – presented the trophy.
  • Composer Gabriel Yared (The English Patient, The Lives of Others), recipient of the European Achievement in World Cinema Award.

(An unknown percentage of the) more than 2,300 European Film Academy members voted for the winners.

Additionally, Jaco Van Dormael's Mr. Nobody, toplining Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley, and Linh Dan Pham, was the People's Choice Award.

The Illusionist Sylvain Chomet: Lyrical + depressing Jacques Tati homage from unproduced screenplayThe Illusionist: Sylvain Chomet pays tribute to filmmaker Jacques Tati (Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, Mon Oncle) through this filmization of a Tati screenplay written decades ago. The lyrical – and more than a tad depressing – The Illusionist was the European Film Awards' Best Animated Feature winner.

European Film Awards: Winners & nominations

BEST EUROPEAN FILM
BAL (Honey), Turkey/Germany
directed by Semih Kaplanoglu
written by Semih Kaplanoglu & Orçun Köksal
produced by Semih Kaplanoglu & Johannes Rexin.

DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX (Of Gods and Men), France
directed by Xavier Beauvois
written by Etienne Comar & Xavier Beauvois.

* THE GHOST WRITER, France/Germany/UK
directed by Roman Polanski
written by Robert Harris & Roman Polanski
produced by Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde & Roman Polanski.

LEBANON, Israel/Germany/France
written and directed by Samuel Maoz
produced by Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, David Silber, Uri Sabag, Einat Bickel, Benjamina Mirnik & Illan Girard.

EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS (The Secret, their Eyes), Spain/Argentina
directed by Juan José Campanella
written by Eduardo Sacheri & Juan José Campanella
produced by Gerardo Herrero, Mariela Besuievsky & Juan José Campanella.

SOUL KITCHEN, Germany
directed by Fatih Akin
written by Fatih Akin & Adam Bousdoukos
produced by Fatih Akin & Klaus Maeck.

BEST EUROPEAN DIRECTOR
Olivier Assayas, CARLOS.
Semih Kaplanoglu, BAL (Honey).
Samuel Maoz, LEBANON.
* Roman Polanski, THE GHOST WRITER.
Paolo Virzi, LA PRIMA COSA BELLA (The First Beautiful Thing).

BEST EUROPEAN ACTRESS
Zrinka Cvitesic, NA PUTU (On the Path).
Sibel Kekilli, DIE FREMDE (When We Leave).
Lesley Manville, ANOTHER YEAR.
* Sylvie Testud, LOURDES.
Lotte Verbeek, NOTHING PERSONAL.

BEST EUROPEAN ACTOR
Jakob Cedergren, SUBMARINO.
Elio Germano, LA NOSTRA VITA (Our Life).
* Ewan McGregor, THE GHOST WRITER.
George Pistereanu, EU CAND VREAU SA FLUIER, FLUIER (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle).
Luis Tosar, CELDA 211 (Cell 211).

BEST EUROPEAN SCREENWRITER
Jorge Guerricaechevarría & Daniel Monzón, CELDA 211 (Cell 211).
* Robert Harris & Roman Polanski, THE GHOST WRITER.
Samuel Maoz, LEBANON.
Radu Mihaileanu, LE CONCERT (The Concert).

CARLO DI PALMA AWARD, BEST EUROPEAN CINEMATOGRAPHER
* Giora Bejach, LEBANON.
Caroline Champetier, DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX (Of Gods and Men).
Pavel Kostomarov, HOW I ENDED THIS SUMMER.
Baris Özbiçer, BAL (Honey).

BEST EUROPEAN EDITOR
* Luc Barnier & Marion Monnier, CARLOS.
Arik Lahav-Leibovich, LEBANON.
Hervé de Luze, THE GHOST WRITER.

BEST EUROPEAN PRODUCTION DESIGNER
Paola Bizzarri & Luis Ramirez, IO, DON GIOVANNI (I, Don Giovanni).
* Albrecht Konrad, THE GHOST WRITER.
Markku Pätilä & Jaagup Roomet, PÜHA TÕNU KIUSAMINE (The Temptation of St. Tony).

BEST EUROPEAN COMPOSER
Ales Brezina, KAWASAKIHO RUZE (Kawasaki's Rose).
Pasquale Catalano, MINE VAGANTI (Loose Cannons).
* Alexandre Desplat, THE GHOST WRITER.
Gary Yershon, ANOTHER YEAR.

BEST EUROPEAN DOCUMENTARY
NOSTALGIA DE LA LUZ (Nostalgia, the Light)
France/Germany/Chile
Directed by Patricio Guzmán.

BEST EUROPEAN ANIMATED FEATURE
THE ILLUSIONIST by Sylvain Chomet.

BEST EUROPEAN DISCOVERY - Prix FIPRESCI
LEBANON, Israel/Germany/France
written & directed by Samuel Maoz
produced by Moshe Edery, Leon Edery, David Silber, Uri Sabag, Einat Bickel, Benjamina Mirnik & Illan Girard.

BEST EUROPEAN SHORT FILM
HANOI - WARSZAWA (Hanoi - Warsaw), Poland
by Katarzyna Klimkiewicz.

EUROPEAN CO-PRODUCTION AWARD - Prix EURIMAGES
Zeynep Özbatur Atakan, producer.

EUROPEAN FILM ACADEMY LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Bruno Ganz, actor.

EUROPEAN ACHIEVEMENT, WORLD CINEMA
Gabriel Yared, composer.

PEOPLE'S CHOICE AWARD, BEST EUROPEAN FILM
MR. NOBODY
written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael
produced by Philippe Godeau.

 

Roman Polanski quote translated from the French text found at canoe.ca.

Image of Best Director European Film Award winner Roman Polanski on the The Ghost Writer set: Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment.

Image of Roman Polanski on live Internet feed at the 2010 European Film Awards: © European Film Academy.

Image from Best Animated Feature European Film Award winner The Illusionist: Pathé / Django Films.

Image from Best Actress European Film Award winner Sylvia Testud in Lourdes: Sophie Dulac Distribution.

The Ghost Writer Sweeps European Film Awards: Roman Polanski Political Thriller Win a Political Message?” last updated in May 2018.

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