Anyone who thinks celebrities get different treatment from the rest can really make a compelling argument just by using two words: “Roman” and “Polanski.”
In 1977, the acclaimed director of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974) added “accused child rapist” to his credits following a March 10, 1977, photo shoot for French Vogue that he set up with a 13-year-old female model at the home of movie star Jack Nicholson.
Rather than face trial, though, Polanski hightailed it in 1978 to his native Europe, where he has continued a high-profile filmmaking career while living in Paris and, time and again, avoiding extradition.
At last, Polanski, who’s now 83, appears ready to face the music on his 40-year-old charges. Adding to the intrigue of it all is that Polanki’s victim now says he should be forgiven!
Harland Braun, the director’s attorney, is reportedly working to unseal a statement from Judge Laurence Rittenband. Braun says that the transcript will make clear that the court was set to renege on an agreed-upon plea bargain, thus prompting Polanski to flee the country.
Once that file is open, apparently, Polanski will come back to the U.S. to settle the case that has made him an international fugitive with limited travel capabilities — albeit a fugitive who’s also been able to live well and work prolifically as a rich and famous movie director the whole time.
Before any of that goes down, though, let’s look back at what originally happened.
On the date of the photo shoot, model Samantha Gailey, who’s now 52, said that Polanski got her wasted on champagne and Quaaludes, and then forced her to commit numerous sex acts, including anal intercourse.
Polanksi admits to having sex with Gailey, but he claims she wasn’t intoxicated and that their relations were “consensual.”
Okay — yes, it was the ’70s, and yes, it was Hollywood, but, still … 13 is 13. Which is wrong. And gross.
The next day, LAPD officers arrested Polanski for rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, furnishing controlled substances to a minor, and committing a lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14.
The director initially worked with authorities and underwent 42 days of court-ordered 90-day psychiatric evaluation at California’s Chino State Prison.
Polanski was released to finish a work project and instructed to come back. He just never came back.
Attorneys reportedly negotiated a plea bargain in which Polanksi would finish his 90 days at Chino and then get probation. Word came down, though, that Judge Rittenband planned to independently toss the agreement out and, acting on his own, would sentence Polanski to serve up to 50 years in prison, followed by the filmmaker being deported.
Therefore, Roman — not unreasonably, according to his attorneys and acolytes — took to roaming.
Since his exile, Polanski has directed 11 major films, including Tess (1979) and The Pianist (2002), both of which earned him Best Director Academy Award nominations. Polanski actually won for The Pianist and, even though he didn’t attend the ceremony, the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
Really, the only serious hiccup in Polanski’s France-based run occurred in 2009, when Swiss authorities held him for 30 days while the U.S. tried to force an extradition. It didn’t happen.
Multiple celebrities and other filmmakers have outspokenly supported Polanksi through the years. Some have even cited as a potential mitigating factor that the Manson Family slaughtered Polanski’s pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, in the course of their 1969 “Helter Skelter” rampage.
During the director’s 2009 incarceration, for example, more than 100 high-profile figures in the movie world signed a petition demanding his release.
Among the campaigners were Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, Michael Mann, and, in a perhaps ill-advised inclusion, accused (but never charged) daughter-molester Woody Allen.
Samantha Gailey, the victim at the center of it all, maintains that Polanski drugged her and forced her into sex, but she makes it clear she has forgiven Polanski and wants him to be free.
Gailey told Radar Online:
“He wrecked my life. [But] I’ve forgiven him and it’s over. I can’t go back and change things. I can’t dwell. Now I want America to forgive him… I hope Roman Polanski will be allowed to return to America, and that the rest of his life will be happy.”
As public opinion, particularly on social media, has become increasingly intolerant of those accused of sex crimes — especially the ones who admit they did something — Polanksi’s loud-and-proud Hollywood cheering section has piped down quite a bit.
Let’s see who does what — and who says what — as the case now rolls forward.