So, here’s what happened.
In 1977, revered film director Roman Polanski was arrested for plying the then-13-year-old Samantha Gailey with champagne and quaaludes under the auspices of modeling for him in order to rape her, in his Chinatown star Jack Nicholson’s home, no less. He struck a plea bargain with prosecutors to dismiss the most severe charges and pled guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but when the judge indicated that he would reject the agreement and punish him more severely, Polanski fled to France, a country that does not extradite its citizens, in 1978 and he’s stayed in similar nations ever since, citing judicial bias and misconduct in his trial. Then, two days ago, the 76-year-old director was arrested in Switzerland on his way to receive a Lifetime Achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival and may finally be sent back to Los Angeles to bring his case to an end.
Gailey is now 45-year-old Samantha Geimer, and she’s gone on record as saying she just wants the whole thing behind her. “Straight up, what he did to me was wrong. But I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us,” she said back when Polanski’s The Pianist was up for its Academy Awards, also stressing that his film work should not be tainted by his crime against her. She further said “I think he’s sorry, I think he knows it was wrong. I don’t think he’s a danger to society. I don’t think he needs to be locked up forever and no one has ever come out ever – besides me – and accused him of anything. It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory … (but) I can live with it.”
These statements from Geimer, combined with the Polanski’s undeniable talent and his truly unique life story as a Holocaust survivor whose wife would later be murdered by the followers of Charles Manson, are likely why the Hollywood community is trying to rally to Polanski’s defense right now. Harvey Weinstein has said that he plans to call on every filmmaker he can to try and help Polanski fight his extradition back to America, which is by no means definite. Polanski has refused the extradition and his lawyers are demanding his immediate release. Earlier this year, Polanski tried to get his case dismissed with findings that the original judge was in the pocket of the prosecutor in the Sundance documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, but while Judge Peter Espinoza agreed that there was “substantial misconduct” involved in the original case, he refused to throw it out unless Polanski showed up in person to make his argument. No big surprise that the man who’d been running for 30 years wouldn’t take that risk of being thrown in jail by a system he didn’t trust, but at the same time, it’s been said before that “fugitives don’t get to dictate the terms of their case.”
There’s also the fact that Polanski has often traveled to Switzerland and even owns a home there, so there’s no reason he should have expected to be detained and arrested this time. There are rumors that the arrest might be political in nature, to try and get on the good side of the U.S., since there’s an ongoing investigation into the Swiss banking giant UBS and their infamous accounts that rich Americans use to dodge taxes. That doesn’t seem particularly likely, but that’s just another element involved in the current legal mess.
Many filmmakers are currently petitioning for Polanski’s release, the French foreign minister is appealing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the jury at the Zurich Film Festival are currently sporting red “Free Polanski” buttons and accused Switzerland of “philistine collusion” with the arrest. “We hope today this latest order will be dropped. It is based on a three-decade-old case that is all but dead but for minor technicalities,” said jury president Debra Winger. “We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork.”
Watch Polanski’s 1966 film Cul-de-Sac, starring Donald Pleasance, right here on Fancast.