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|Also Known As:||Romek Polanski,Raimund Polanski,Rajmund Roman Liebling||Died:|
|Born:||August 18, 1933||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Paris, FR||Profession:||Director ... director screenwriter producer actor editor author|
n one of the director's childhood friends.
Steering clear of directing a film on the Holocaust - for the time being at least - Polanski stepped up to helm "Death and the Maiden" (1994), a widely acclaimed adaptation of Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman's three-character political allegory about justice, revenge and the uncertainty of truth in the midst of powerful events. Set in an unidentified South American country, the story followed a human-rights attorney (Stuart Wilson) who becomes stranded on a highway when his car breaks down. A kind doctor (Ben Kingsley) gives him a ride home where his wife (Sigourney Weaver) awaits. The wife immediately recognizes the doctor's voice as belonging to the man who supervised her torture under the previous regime. She takes him hostage, confronts him with her charges and puts him on trial before her lawyer husband. Even more claustrophobic than the play, "Death and the Maiden" powerfully considered issues of guilt and innocence and boasted powerhouse performances from the film's three leads. After a four-year hiatus, Polanski returned with the thriller "The Ninth Gate" (2000), an adaptation of a French horror novel about a rare book collector (Johnny Depp) seeking a manuscript featuring artwork by Satan himself. "The Ninth Gate" ranked near the bottom of Polanski's canon, second only to "Pirates."
Putting "The Ninth Gate" behind him, Polanski directed perhaps his most emotionally moving film to date, "The Pianist" (2002), a somber, but ultimately redeeming true-to-life look at the life of famed Polish pianist and composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody). A survivor of the Krakow ghetto who narrowly escaped being sent to Auschwitz with his family, Szpilman spent the remainder of World War II hiding from the Nazis in a one-room apartment. Finally able to confront his own experiences, Polanski also drew on his own vivid recollections of surviving the very same ghetto and escaping the Holocaust; a fate his mother unfortunately failed to share. The result was a triumphant, complex masterwork that moved both audiences and critics, resulting in a new appreciation of Polanski's forgotten gifts. But as with all his films, Polanski was confined to working exclusively in Europe; in this case Germany and Poland. Even after "The Pianist" received a wealth of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Director for Polanski, the director - who had previously had a deal to dismiss the charges denied by the Los Angeles district attorney - announced that he had no plans to return to America to collect his accolades. Despite the genius of his film, his very nomination caused many people both in the media and the business itself to question whether a man accused of statutory rape who had fled the country should have been nominated in the first place.
On yet another legal front, after filing in 2004, Polanski eventually won a six-figure libel suit against Vanity Fair after the magazine alleged he attempted to seduce a woman at a New York eatery just days following Tate's murder. Later that year, the director realized a long-held ambition when he helmed a film adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic novel "Oliver Twist" (2005). Like both Dickens and the titular character, Polanski himself was a hardscrabble youth, allowing him a very personal take on the material. His unique vision was perhaps best distinguished by its sympathetic take on Fagin (Ben Kingsley) as someone who exploits his young pickpockets, but also provides a better life than they might have known. A few years later, Polanski's legal troubles were the subject of a documentary, "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" (2008). Director Marina Zenovich re-examined the circumstances surrounding Polanski's conviction in 1977 for statutory rape, including interviews with Geimer, defense attorney Douglas Dalton and Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney Roger Dunson. The film also raised the issue of possible bias with Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, now dead, who was alleged to have been out to get Polanski. The director would make headlines again, when in September 2009, he was arrested in Switzerland while on his way to pick up a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival. He was now facing the possibility of being extradited to the United States after more than 30 years.was arrested by police at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and was later indicted on six charges: furnishing a controlled substance to minor, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under 14 years of age, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion, and sodomy. Polanski claimed that the sex was consensual and years later suggested he was the victim of a blackmail scheme hatched by Gailey's mother. Meanwhile, following a plea bargain, Polanski was allowed to plead guilty to the sole charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, also known as statutory rape. In September 1977, he was ordered to be imprisoned for 90 days to undergo psychiatric evaluation at the California Institute for Men at Chino, of which he served 42 days of exhaustive study. But in February 1978, Polanski fled the United States, fearing being sent to prison, and took up residence in Paris, France, where he was a citizen. The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office initially sought to have Polanski extradited, but French officials adamantly reaffirmed the country's long-standing posture of not allowing their citizens to be extradited under any circumstance, though they reserved the right to try the case themselves.
Because of his fugitive status, Polanski directed his next film, "Tess" (1979), in France. This acclaimed version of the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles told the story of a beautiful country girl (Nastassja Kinski) who is systematically seduced by her wealthy cousin (Leigh Lawson). Polanski dedicated the film simply "to Sharon," who had given him a copy of Hardy's novel and said it would make a great film the last time he saw her alive. Meanwhile, "Tess" went on to earn six Academy Award nominations and won three. In 1981, Polanski returned to Poland to direct and star in a stage production of "Amadeus," and then for the next several years, disappeared from the spotlight. He re-emerged to direct "Pirates" (1986), a rather light swashbuckling tale that turned out to be the nadir of his professional career. Polanski achieved a small degree of critical and commercial success with the suspenseful, yet dreamy "Frantic" (1988), starring Harrison Ford as an American in Paris searching for his missing wife (Betty Buckley). Though suspenseful and finely acted, "Frantic" failed to reach previous artistic highs achieved with "Repulsion" and "Rosemary's Baby."
Operating mainly from Paris - traveling elsewhere risked extradition still looming over his head - Polanski continued to direct quality films, though he had difficulty achieving the kind of box office success he had enjoyed previous to fleeing the United States. His next film, "Bitter Moon" - released abroad in 1992, but not in the U.S. until 1994 - a twisted dark comedy about an Englishman (Hugh Grant) who becomes ensnared in a tortuous voyage by a wheelchair-bound would-be Henry Miller (Peter Coyote) who brings him into the kinky relationship with his beautiful young wife (played by Polanski's second wife, Emmanuelle Seigner). Meanwhile, Polanski was approached by Steven Spielberg during the long genesis of the screenplay for "Schindler's List" (1993), even reportedly offering him the opportunity to direct. Polanski declined the directing offer, citing the memories of his experiences inside the Krakow ghetto as being too personal and painful. Several references to Polanski's experience and family were made throughout the film, particularly the famed Girl in the Red Coat, who was based on Roma Ligocka, one of Polanski's cousins, and one of the little boys hiding in the muck beneath a latrine, who was based o
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