Roman Polanski: fugitive director admits rape woman 'double victim'
Roman Polanski has admitted a woman he raped when she was 13 was a "double victim", in his first public signs of contrition made during a documentary that premiered at the Zurich Film Festival this week.
The 78 year-old the Oscar-winning director conceded Samantha Geimer had been left scarred by his abusive actions almost 35 years ago.
But the Polish-French film maker stopped short of making a full public apology, in the documentary Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, that premiered at the festival on Tuesday.
"She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press," he said near the end of Laurent Bouzereau's film that claimed to offer his “version of the story of his life”.
In 1977, Polanski plied the teenager with champagne and drugs during a photo shoot in Los Angeles before raping her at the Hollywood home of his friend, Jack Nicholson.
He was initially charged with six felony counts, including rape and sodomy but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor after a plea deal agreed, in part, to spare his victim the ordeal of a trial.
But the director of films including Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist fled from US justice on the eve of his sentencing the following year after serving 42 days in prison. He won an Oscar for The Pianist in 2002 but did not collect his best director prize.
The year after he fled he gave an interview to the novelist Martin Amis in which he said: “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? “But… f***ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f*** young girls. Juries want to f*** young girls. Everyone wants to f*** young girls!"
The film maker, married to French actress and singer Emmanuelle Seigner, remains a fugitive and lives in France, avoiding travel to countries that might extradite him.
He was re–arrested in Switzerland in 2009, on his way to the festival, but attempts to extradite him failed and he was freed on a legal technicality.
He still faces an Interpol warrant in effect for 188 countries for extradition to the United States. He moves freely between Switzerland and France, which has a blanket policy of not extraditing its citizens.
Geimer, now 47, has sued the film director and won an undisclosed settlement. The married mother-of-three has moved to Hawaii to escape press attention. She accepted a private apology from him in 2009, claiming that she was more traumatised by the ensuing legal battles than the assault itself.
Critics have described the new documentary, shot while Polanski was under house arrest in Switzerland while awaiting extradition, as “one long, wide-ranging conversation” between himself and old friend, producer Andrew Braunsberg.
But the majority of the film looks at his childhood in German-occupied Poland, including his escape from the Warsaw ghetto, his career, the murder of his wife Sharon Tate and only briefly looks at the rape scandal.
On Tuesday, he received a lifetime achievement award at the festival, which he was unable to receive two years ago due to his dramatic arrest over the child sex case.
"Friends, what can I say?" the visibly emotional director told the crowd. "Better late than never. It's a strange anniversary for me, two years, day for day.
"Certain parts of it I'd rather forget, but I'm happy to be here. It is a very moving moment for me so do not expect any speeches."
The director behind acclaimed movies including "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" thanked those who had supported him during "these difficult months".
"I would in particular like to thank the prison staff who tried to make my stay as bearable as possible, including the head of the prison of Zurich." There was loud laughter in the audience, but Polanski interjected: "This is not a joke."
He continued: "I love coming to Switzerland, I have been coming for years, and I'm happy to be here."
He failed to show up at the Venice film festival earlier this month to present his new film "Carnage", partly written during his house arrest last year.
Kate Winslet praised the "great" director as she promoted the first film he has made since being released from house arrest.
Winslet had no qualms about the director's history and jumped at the chance to appear in Carnage with co–stars Jodie Foster, John C Reilly and Christoph Waltz.
She admitted to feeling nervous about meeting Polanski on set, but only because she was overawed by his film–making. The seventh Zurich festival features a line-up of 96 films, including ten world premieres.
Zurich Festival organisers had kept the film's screening under wraps, saying only that a "secret" documentary would be shown after the awards ceremony. Polanski did not address the media on his arrival.