Roman Polanski is returning to the international film circuit this week with the world premiere of his Dreyfus Affair drama “An Officer and a Spy” in competition at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Polanski’s inclusion at the prestigious festival has been met with backlash given he was charged with the rape of 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. Geimer has publicly forgiven Polanski, but that hasn’t stopped the incident from resurfacing in the #MeToo era. Deadline obtained a copy of the “Officer and a Spy” press notes, which features an interview with Polanski in which he says his “persecution” in the media started nearly a decade before the rape trial with the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate.
“The way people see me, my ‘image’, did indeed start to form with Sharon Tate’s death,” Polanski says. “When it happened, even though I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure of how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism.”
Polanski continued, “For [the press], my film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ proved that I was in league with the devil! It lasted several months, until the police finally found the real killers, Charles Manson and his ‘family.’ All this still haunts me today. Anything and everything. It is like a snowball, each season adds another layer. Absurd stories by women I have never seen before in my life who accuse me of things which supposedly happened more than half a century ago.”
Speaking about the rape trial and the repercussions that continue to be felt today, Polanski bluntly states,”Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case.”
Polanski’s comments about Tate’s murder come at a time when interest in Tate has been reignited thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” The movie is set in 1969 and features both Tate and Polanski as characters (played by Margot Robbie and Rafal Zawierucha), plus various members of the Manson family.
Venice Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera has defended selecting Polanski for this year’s competition, citing the importance of separating the artist from the art. Venice competition jury president Lucrecia Martel has also said “it’s correct” for Polanski to be in competition. The 2019 Venice Film Festival runs through September 7. Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy” debuts August 30.