French actress Emmanuelle Seigner will not join the Academy’s 2018 class, instead choosing to show solidarity with her husband, Roman Polanski. As a repercussion of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted to expel the director on May 1. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977, and has not set foot in the United States since.
Through his lawyer, Polanski threatened the Academy with a lawsuit while announcing his intention to appeal the ruling. Seigner — twice-nominated for France’s highest film honor, the César Award — co-starred in her husband’s most recent film, “D’après une histoire vraie” (“Based on a True Story”), with Eva Green. The couple has been married for 29 years and shares two children. Polanski’s previous wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by members of Charles Manson’s cult in 1969, a tragedy that will be revisited in Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Sony film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
In an open letter published by French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Seigner wrote that the Academy was suffering from “a curious case of amnesia!” considering Polanski’s Best Director Oscar win in 2002 for “The Pianist.” She suggests she would have to be “spineless, [and] social climbing” to accept their invitation, offered to a record 928 individuals last month.
During its first 89 years, the Academy only expelled one member, actor Carmine Caridi, who shared screeners that were later pirated. Harvey Weinstein, currently facing six sexual offense charges in New York, met the same fate in October. Polanski’s planned expulsion was announced the same day as Bill Cosby’s; in April, he was found guilty of rape and two more sexual offenses by a Pennsylvania judge.
IndieWire has reached out to the Academy for comment. Read Seigner’s full letter below.
I have been asked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to join it, together with other actresses, in the cause of much-needed feminism. How could anyone doubt my concern for equality between men and women? I have always been a feminist. But how can I ignore the fact that a few weeks ago the Academy expelled my husband, Roman Polanski, in an attempt to appease the zeitgeist – the very same Academy which in 2002 awarded him an Oscar for The Pianist! A curious case of amnesia!
The Academy probably thinks I am enough of a spineless, social climbing actress that I would forget that I have been married for the past 29 years to one of the world’s greatest directors. I love him, he is my husband and the father of my children. He has been cast out like a pariah. Yet these same nameless academicians think that I should ‘mount the steps of glory’ behind his back? The insufferable hypocrisy! This proposal is one insult too many. I cannot remain silent any longer. You offend me whilst claiming to want to protect women!
I can no longer keep quiet about this affair which has transformed the life of my entire family since his arrest in Switzerland on 26 September 2009. We have two children, a son and a daughter. Roman has always been a loving father and a devoted husband. Ever since he was arrested he has been falsely slandered as a pervert. I am the only one who is able to testify just how much he regrets what happened 40 years ago.
And yet, I am powerless when the press publishes scandals he was supposedly involved in – false testimonies, tales of women who claim to have been raped and yet never pressed charges. Barely two weeks ago a website announced my husband’s imminent death!
Samantha Geimer, his one and only victim, has been asking for years for this case to be closed, yet the courts and the media still stubbornly refuse to listen to her. She was indignant when she heard that Roman had been thrown out of the Academy. But when you become a symbol, forgiveness is impossible.
I feel that all his life, from the Nazis of his childhood to the present day, Roman has been condemned to perpetual flight, without the slightest effort by any part of the media to look at his case with an open mind. On the contrary, they only seek to make it worse.
Roman Polanski is the creator of unforgettable female characters, portrayed by Sharon Tate, Catherine Deneuve, Mia Farrow, Faye Dunaway, Nastassja Kinski and Sigourney Weaver. He bears no resemblance to this caricature of maleness, this symptom of the evil that ravages cinema. And yet the Academy expects me not support this man?
Of course, artists are not exempt from justice. But it should be the same justice that exists for all, not a justice that goes back on its word and violates its own principles. That was the case in Los Angeles in 1977, when his first confinement in prison was supposed to be his punishment. Today, Roman has served more than the maximum sentence for the offence committed.
I can understand his distrust of the justice of men. It is not by chance that his favourite film is Odd Man Out, by Carol Reed.
Sometimes, I see the hurt in his eyes. Sometimes, he astounds me by his zest to live. Only the truth and these words that I have just written can ease my pain.
As for the members of the Academy, I have only one thing to say to them : this is one woman you won’t have.”