Roman Polanski: Friend or Foe?

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to decide if Roman Polanski is better known for his film directing career or his personal life. Like Woody Allen after him, his sex scandal has tarnished him for life. Nothing he does and no movie he makes can ever seem to fully erase his indiscretion from the public consciousness.

Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate's wedding, 1968
Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate’s wedding, 1968
In case you’re a youthful sort of person and unaware of Polanski’s scandal-laden past, it involves the rape of a 13-year-old girl named Samantha Gailey. The “incident” took place in 1977, under the pretense of photographing Gailey, the daughter of a model/TV actress, for French Vogue. At the first photo shoot, Gailey was asked by Polanski to take her top off for the pictures, which she felt uncomfortable with, and yet, returned for a second series of photos, which, to add to the weirdness, took place at Jack Nicholson’s house while he was on a ski trip in Colorado. Incidentally, Anjelica Huston, Nicholson’s live-in girlfriend at the time, suspected something strange was going on when she returned to the house to find the bedroom door closed. Polanski assured Huston that he was wrapping up the photo shoot, and so she left, after which he furnished Gailey with a quaalude and a steady flow of champagne to loosen her up for his intentions.
The cover of Samantha Gailey's (now Geimer) memoir
The cover of Samantha Gailey’s (now Geimer) memoir
After being found out by L.A. police, the threat of imprisonment loomed large–no matter how good his lawyers were. Polanski’s skittishness over the prospect of serving long-term jail-time prompted him to buy a one-way ticket to London, traveling to France from there, where he already had citizenship. It is in Europe that he has resided since, avoiding going to countries he knows would extradite him to the U.S. Gailey, now known by the last name of Geimer, has often come to Polanski’s defense in recent years, though her protectiveness of him seems unwarranted considering a somewhat repulsive interview he gave for Martin Amis, in which he stated, “If I had killed somebody, it wouldn’t have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… fucking, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to fuck young girls. Juries want to fuck young girls. Everyone wants to fuck young girls!” Sure, this is generally true, but most men know better than to say it aloud.
Perhaps the trauma of losing his wife and unborn child to the strange cause of the Manson family was what drove Polanski to perversion
Perhaps the trauma of losing his wife and unborn child to the strange cause of the Manson family was what drove Polanski to perversion
Regardless of the emotional duress Polanski had undergone in the wake of his wife and unborn child’s murder by members of the Manson family in 1969, there is no legitimate excuse for his unconscionable behavior in 1977. And yes, it has stymied one’s ability to perceive him as a great director. Plus, his action somehow just generally adds to the creep factor of Rosemary’s Baby.