Roman Polanski, accused child rapist, steps down from hosting ‘French Oscars’ after backlash

The Oscar-winning director fled juvenile rape charges in the U.S. almost 40 years ago

On the same day the Oscar nominations were announced in the U.S., controversial director Roman Polanski has stepped down as host of the upcoming César awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, after strong backlash from those who objected to the director in such a prestigious role. Polanski is wanted in the United States for the 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl, and fled the country in 1978, never to return.

Polanski’s lawyer Hervé Temime told Agence France-Presse that Polanski was “profoundly saddened” about having to step down due to what Temime said was “unjustified” controversy.

“However, in order not to disturb the César ceremony,” Temime said, “which should focus on the cinema and not on the appointment of the president, Roman Polanski has decided not to accept the invitation.”

Though his victim testified that Polanski drugged her, gave her Champagne and orally, vaginally and anally penetrated her over her repeated verbal objections, Polanski pled to only one count of statutory rape and served 42 days in prison. But just ahead of a subsequent sentencing hearing, Polanski learned that a judge was prepared to cancel his plea deal, and he fled to France.

In 2009, on his way to the Zurich Film Festival in Switzerland, Polanski was arrested on the decades-old warrant. But Polanski once again escaped extradition to the United States and was released. In December 2016, the United States Justice Department requested that Polanski be extradited from Poland, where he shares dual citizenship with France. The Polish Supreme Court of Warsaw rejected the request.

Polanski’s rape victim, Samantha Geimer, is now in her 50s, and in 2013 she published a book about the incident and the impact it had on her life. While never denying that she was in fact raped and that she was heavily traumatized by the crime, Geimer has said in interviews that she feels the media may have over-inflated the story to cast her as a helpless, hopelessly damaged victim when in fact she has moved on with her life —  and wishes that everyone involved could do the same.

 

Photo: Associated Press