Roman Polanski

Filmmaker / Actor / Fugitive

Born: 18 August 1933
Birthplace: Paris, France
Best known as: Director of Chinatown and The Pianist
Roman Polanski directed the critical and commercial hits Rosemary's Baby (1968, starring Mia Farrow) and Chinatown (1974, starring Jack Nicholson). A childhood survivor of the Krakow ghetto in Nazi-occupied Poland, he began acting as a teen, then went to film school and in the late 1950s began winning international awards for his short films. His first feature film, the tense drama Knife in the Water (1962), received an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film, and within a few years Polanski made his way to Hollywood. The success of the devilish Rosemary's Baby was soon overshadowed by the 1969 murder of Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, by members of a cult led by Charles Manson. Polanski returned to Europe, settling in France, and continued to make movies in Europe and the U.S. In 1977 he was charged in Los Angeles with drugging and raping a 13 year-old girl during a purported photo session. After a few months in jail for psychiatric review, Polanski was released on bail and allowed to leave the country to work on a film. He never returned. He continued making movies in Europe and in the 1980s and '90s appeared many times on stage. His filmography includes some great films, some stinkers and a few that can be taken either way, but he is considered by many to be a great director -- an opinion reinforced by his 2003 Academy Award as best director for The Pianist (starring Adrien Brody). His other feature films include Tess (1980), Frantic (1988, starring Harrison Ford) , The Ninth Gate (2000, starring Johnny Depp), the 2005 version of Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist and the 2010 political thriller Ghost Writer (starring Ewan McGregor).
Extra credit: The Pianist is an account of the German extermination of the Warsaw ghetto, echoing Polanski's own past... Polanski was still a fugitive when he won the 2003 Oscar, so he did not attend the ceremonies in Los Angeles... The incident with the 13 year-old girl took place at the home of Jack Nicholson (who was out of town)... The girl's name remained hidden for years, but as a married adult she identified herself publicly as Samantha Geimer; her name at the time of the incident was Samantha Jane Gailey... In 1989 Polanski married actress Emmanuelle Seigner, who appears in his films Frantic and The Ninth Gate... Polanski published his autobiography, Roman, in 1984.

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