A lawyer representing Roman Polanski has called an explanation by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas) of its move to expel the director last year “totally absurd and a total sham”. Speaking to Deadline, Harland Braun called both the response and the original decision “a stupid PR stunt by them to look politically correct”.
On 3 May 2018, Ampas stripped both Polanski and Bill Cosby of their memberships, following what the organisation earlier this week called a “fair and reasonable process”. In papers submitted to the Los Angeles Superior Court in response to a motion made by Polanski against them this April, Ampas said:
The Academy’s own bylaws make clear that the board enjoys broad discretion to expel members for cause and do all other acts necessary or expedient for the administration of the affairs and attainment of the Academy’s mission and purposes. Moreover, the board has discretion to determine the procedure for a hearing or investigation.
The Academy added that it had reviewed a number of materials late last year, including “a 10-page letter from his lawyer advocating his position, over 400 pages of supporting documents, a copy of a documentary titled Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, an email from his counsel, and a recorded video statement by Petitioner addressing the Board.
“All of these materials were presented to the board of governors, who voted on January 26, 2019, to uphold Petitioner’s expulsion by a more than two-thirds supermajority.”
Braun says that this second hearing was flawed because it is impossible to verify whether the submitted material was fully examined. “We’ll be taking depositions against members of the board to see if they read the material we submitted.”
Adds Braun: “Basically the answer is a fraud, because before they took the original vote they never gave Roman any notice of what the charges where, when the hearing was or when he could present his side.”
In April, Polanski petitioned the LA Superior Court against the decision, saying that “the Academy failed to comply with its own rules, policies, and regulations in expelling Petitioner without notice, without an opportunity to be heard and deliberately violated California Corporations Code”.
Polanski, now 85, was charged with rape and child sex abuse in 1977, but pleaded guilty to statutory rape (unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor) as part of a plea bargaining deal. However, he left the US for France in 1978, shortly before a sentencing hearing; the original charges remain pending and a US arrest warrant is still open. He has not been extradited – he is a French citizen and attempts by US authorities, such as an arrest in Switzerland in 2009, have been unsuccessful.
As a result, Polanski has become one of the higher profile film-makers whose status has been adversely affected by the #MeToo movement – something he called “mass hysteria” in an interview conducted before his expulsion from the Academy.
A new film by the director, J’Accuse, based on Robert Harris’s book about the Dreyfus affair, is due to premiere later this year. Polanski features as a character in Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, which premiered in Cannes in May. He is played by Polish actor Rafał Zawierucha, with Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, the director’s second wife, who was eight months pregnant with their child when she was murdered in August 1969 by members of the Manson Family cult.
Following the premiere, Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, criticised Tarantino for not consulting her husband and for using the tragedy for entertainment. She also flagged what she felt was the apparent hypocrisy of Hollywood profiting from her husband while also ostracising him.
“I am just saying that it doesn’t bother them [in Hollywood] to make a film which takes Roman and his tragic story … while at the same time they have made him a pariah,” Seigner wrote on Instagram. “And all without consulting him of course.”
Polanski has been nominated for six Oscars and won one, for 2003’s The Pianist.