Roman Polanski is a Polish film director, producer, writer and actor. Having made films in Poland, Britain, France and the USA, he is considered one of the few truly international filmmakers. Roman Polanski was born in Paris in 1933. His parents returned to Poland from France in 1936, three years before World War II began. On Germany's invasion in 1939, as a Jewish family they were all sent to the Krakow ghetto. His parents were then captured and sent to two different concentration camps: his father to Mauthausen-Gusen in Austria, where he survived the war, and his mother to Auschwitz where she was murdered. Roman witnessed his father's capture and then, at only 7, managed to escape the ghetto and survive the war, at first wandering through the Polish countryside and pretending to be a Roman-Catholic kid visiting his relatives. Although this saved his life, he was severely mistreated suffering nearly fatal beating which left him with a fractured skull. Local people usually ignored the cinemas where German films were shown, but Polanski seemed little concerned by the propaganda and often went to the movies. As the war progressed, Poland became increasingly war-torn and he lived his life as a tramp, hiding in barns and forests, eating whatever he could steal or find. Still under 12 years old, he encountered some Nazi soldiers who forced him to hold targets while they shot at them. At the war's end in 1945, he reunited with his father who sent him to a technical school, but young Polanski seemed to have already chosen another career. In the 1950s, he took up acting, appearing in Andrzej Wajda's A Generation (1955) before studying at the Lodz Film School. His early shorts such as Two Men and a Wardrobe (1958), The Fat and the Lean (1961) and Mammals (1962), showed his taste for black humor and interest in bizarre human relationships. His feature debut, Knife in the Water (1962), was one of the first Polish post-war films not associated with the war theme. It was also the first movie from Poland to get an Oscar nomination for best foreign film. Though already a major Polish filmmaker, Polanski chose to leave the country and headed to France. While down-and-out in Paris, he befriended young scriptwriter, Gérard Brach, who eventually became his long-time collaborator. The next two films, Repulsion (1965) and Cul-de-sac (1966), made in England and co-written by Brach, won respectively Silver and then Golden Bear awards at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1968, Polanski went to Hollywood, where he made the psychological thriller Rosemary's Baby (1968). However, after the brutal murder of his wife'Sharon Tate (I)' by the infamous Manson gang in 1969, the director decided to return to Europe. In 1974, he again made a US release - it was Chinatown (1974). It seemed the beginning of a promising Hollywood career, but after his conviction for the statutory rape of a 13-year old girl, Polanski fled from the USA to avoid prison. After Tess (1979), which was awarded several Oscars and Cesars, his works in 1980s and 1990s became intermittent and rarely approached the caliber of his earlier films. It wasn't until The Pianist (2002) that Polanski came back to full form. Fot that movie he won nearly all the most important film awards, including the Oscar for best directing, Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or, the BAFTA and Cesar Award. He still likes to act in the films of other directors, sometimes with interesting results as in A Pure Formality (1994). By: Yuri German (blsidt1 AT imf.org) and edited by Steve SomersIMDb Mini Biography By: Yuri German (blsidt1 AT imf.org)
|Emmanuelle Seigner||(30 August 1989 - present) 2 children|
|Sharon Tate||(20 January 1968 - 9 August 1969) (her death)|
|Barbara Lass||(19 September 1959 - 1962) (divorced)|
Likes to arrange shots from the protagonist's perspective and slowly pan around the room to points of interest as the character notices them.
By the end of his films, the protagonist often meets an uncertain, melancholic future ("The Ninth Gate", "The Ghostwriter", "Rosemary's Baby", "Chinatown", "Macbeth")
Often key scenes or plot are featured near or associated with water.
Has not been back to the United States since 1978.
He was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl after plea bargaining, and then served time in prison. The prison officials let Polanski go sooner than the judge's original sentence. The judge then wanted to bring Polanski into court again for further sentencing. Rather than return to court, Polanski fled to Europe to avoid and escape another arrest and incarceration in the United States of America.
After Polanski fled from the American justice, the judge on his case swore to have him behind the bars. Though the judge died in 1989, the director still can't enter the US, otherwise he would be arrested.
In 1969, while he was on out-of-town business, his wife, actress Sharon Tate was brutally murdered by members of Charles Manson's cult family; though Manson only ordered the killing and was not present during the murders. She was eight-months pregnant with their first child at the time. He has said that his life's biggest regret was not being present at the house on Cielo Drive, Beverly Hills the night his wife Sharon Tate and four others were brutally murdered.
Shortly before her murder, wife Sharon Tate gave Polanski a copy of Thomas Hardy's 1891 novel "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", and he planned to film it with her. When he finally made the movie Tess (1979), he dedicated it to her.
Roman and his father are Holocaust survivors. His father was Jewish, and his half-Jewish mother (who was murdered in Auschwitz) had been raised as a Roman Catholic.
Received his first best director Oscar for the movie The Pianist (2002) five months after the awards ceremony. His friend, Harrison Ford, flew to France to present Polanski the award, since the director would be immediately arrested and incarcerated due to outstanding warrants stemming from his fleeing the US to avoid further imprisonment after his 1978 statutory rape conviction. [8 September 2003].
Won the Best Director Oscar in 2003 for The Pianist (2002) at the age of 69 years and 7 months, making him the oldest person ever, as of now, to win that award to that point in time. Polanski eclipsed the record previously held by George Cukor, who was 65 when he won for directing My Fair Lady (1964). This record was beaten in 2005 when Clint Eastwood won at the age of 74 for Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Within the Hollywood industry in the late 60s and early 70s he was often mocked as the stereotypical short, tyrannical European director.
Was voted the 26th Greatest Director of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Was one of the judges in the Miss Universe pageant in 1976.
When he fled from the U.S. in the late 70s, much was made about the director's inability to ever make films in the States again. However, Polanski only shot 2 films in the States prior to his arrest: Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974) were shot in North America. All other English-language films before the arrest were shot in the UK, and all the ones since have been shot in Central Europe.
President of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991
Polanski was born Rajmund Roman Liebling in Paris, France, the son of Bula (née Katz-Przedborska) and Ryszard Liebling (aka Ryszard Polanski), who was a painter and plastics manufacturer. His father was a Polish Jew and his mother, a native of Russia, was brought up as a Catholic as she had a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother.
He was due to have directed "The Double," a modern-day, comedic adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel about a man whose life is taken over by his doppelganger. John Travolta, who was being paid $17m, was to have played the lead, alongside Isabelle Adjani, John Goodman, and Jean Reno. Shooting was to have begun in May 1996 in Paris. Lili Fini Zanuck and Todd Black were producing, Jeremy Leven had written the screenplay and other personnel such as director of photography Robert Richardson and production designer Pierre Guffroy were in place. Just nine days before principal photography was scheduled to start, and with around $15m already spent, Travolta flew back to US following an argument with Polanski. Travolta claimed that the screenplay had been significantly altered compared with the one he had signed up for. Following Travolta's departure, Steve Martin was quickly hired to replace him, but Isabelle Adjani said she was only prepared to work with Travolta, and she, too, left the film. The project collapsed shortly afterwards.
According to his autobiography, producer Robert Evans initially wanted Roman Polanski to direct Sliver (1993). Since Polanski will not return to the United States, Evans planned on having a second unit director shoot some footage of New York, whilst Polanski would direct the film in Paris.
Was offered the chance to direct King Kong (1976) but turned it down.
In November 1989 he was approached by Warner Bros to adapt and direct Mikhail A. Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita. The project was subsequently dropped by Warners due to budgetary concerns and the studio's belief that the subject matter was no longer relevant due to the fall of the Berlin wall. Polanski has described his script as the best he has ever adapted.
In February 2007 it was announced that Polanski would direct a $130m adaptation of Robert Harris' novel Pompeii. Orlando Bloom and Scarlett Johansson were rumoured to be starring, but in September 2007 he left the project due to concerns over the threatened Screen Actors Guild strike.
Normal love isn't interesting. I assure you that it's incredibly boring.
My films are the expression of momentary desires. I follow my instincts, but in a disciplined way.
[on filmmaking] "You have to show violence the way it is. If you don't show it realistically, then that's immoral and harmful. If you don't upset people, then that's obscenity."
[on his style of filmmaking] "I don't really know what is shocking. When you tell the story of a man who is beheaded, you have to show how they cut off his head. If you don't, it's like telling a dirty joke and leaving out the punch line."
The best films are because of nobody but the director.
I can only say that whatever my life and work have been, I'm not envious of anyone, and this is my biggest satisfaction.
Whenever I get happy, I always have a terrible feeling.
Cinema should make you forget you are sitting in a theater.
If ever I see one of my films on television, I have a hard time sitting through it, because it seems like all the sins of youth. Truly, I don't think I did my picture yet. I don't feel like I did anything that was totally satisfying to me.
In Paris, one is always reminded of being a foreigner. If you park your car wrong, it is not the fact that it's on the sidewalk that matters, but the fact that you speak with an accent.
[on François Truffaut, Claude Lelouch, and Jean-Luc Godard] People like Truffaut, Lelouch and Godard are like little kids playing at being revolutionaries. I've passed through this stage. I lived in a country where these things happened seriously.
Every failure made me more confident. Because I wanted even more to achieve as revenge. To show that I could.
Every film I make represents a departure for me. You see, it takes so long to make a film. By the time you get to the next one you're already a different man. You've grown up by one or two years.
[To the press after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate in 1969] ...All of you know how beautiful she was, but few of you know how good she was.
Hollywood is like that: a spoiled brat that screams for possession of a toy and then tosses it out of the baby buggy.
I would never think of doing a movie for children if I did not have any. A lot of things in the film I know about. I relate to all the sufferings much more now that I have kids. I see it from the outside now. And before, I didn't. Children have this capacity for resistance, and they accept things as they are, maybe because they have no other reference. They are somehow more flexible; they adapt much faster than adults.
I am not a fortune teller. I would like to be judged for my work, and not for my life. If there is any possibility of changing your destiny, it may be only in your creative life, certainly not in your life, period.
A lot has changed for me. My life has improved. It's not only children, but the relationship with my wife is the best thing that ever happened to me.
First comes my love of my work [in movies], but secondary to the creation itself is the need to get laid.
[on Jack Nicholson] Jack! You see how angry he gets in a scene? Unbelievably scary! He can not stop, he goes into a kind of it, you dunno whether he is acting any more!
[on Harrison Ford] Often when Harrison read a line, it was a different reading than I anticipated, but it worked. Somehow, it was more inspiring or original than what I had in mind.
[on Faye Dunaway] She was a gigantic pain in the ass. She demonstrated certifiable proof of insanity.
You make films for people, so you enjoy it when it's a success. Who wants an empty theatre? But you can't think of that when you're doing it because you have to satisfy your own artistic taste, and not trying to extrapolate it, asking whether they're going to like it or not, because it doesn't work this way, unfortunately.
It's getting more and more difficult to make an ambitious and original film. There are less and less independent producers or independent companies and an increasing number of corporations who are more interested in balance sheets than in artistic achievement. They want to make a killing each time they produce a film. They're only interested in the lowest common denominator because they're trying to reach the widest audience. And you get some kind of entropy. That's the danger; they look more alike, those films. The style is all melting and it all looks the same. Even young directors - for most of them their only standard of achievement is how well their films do on the first weekend or whatever. It worries me. But then, from time to time, you have a film like The Usual Suspects (1995) or Pulp Fiction (1994), which I enjoyed very much. Whenever you do something new or original, people run to see it because it's different. Then, if it happens to be successful, the studios rush to imitate it. It becomes commonplace right away. But it's been like that before, I think. Now, the stakes are so gigantic that they cut each other's throats. So if most of the films are failures, then those that succeed so spectacularly, so commercially, become the norm. It's like a roulette for the studios. The problem with it is that it becomes more and more of a committee. Before, you dealt with the studio. It had one or two persons and now you have masses of executives who have to justify their existence and write so-called "creative notes" and have creative meetings. They obsess about the word creative probably because they aren't.
[on aborted film The Double with John Travolta] So many people had put so much effort into that project when all of a sudden everything fell apart. Pierre Guffroy, my longtime production designer, cried when we tore down the set. Travolta claimed I'd changed the script without him agreeing. Besides the fact that it was within my rights to do so, the whole thing was a joke. On the other hand, looking back, it was probably a good thing in the end because of all the special effects needed. It required a lot of patience and I don't think Travolta would have been up to it. Stars are an audience attraction, though that doesn't make their wages any less obscene. How can Travolta - who gets $20 million - risk such silly behaviour? But there are plenty of counterexamples, like Sigourney Weaver who asked for a third of her usual fee for Death and the Maiden (1994) and Johnny Depp who was very disciplined when we made The Ninth Gate (1999).
The older I get, the harder I find it to decide what I should do next. As a young man I was much more innocent. Life seemed endless and I simply said, "Okay: I'm doing this film. Period." Time has taught me that I have to assume all the responsibilities when I embark on one of these adventures, and today I ask myself, "Do I really have the perseverance? Can I handle everything getting on my nerves?" Making films is a battle and sometimes you get tired of fighting. I simply want to produce good work, and that's why I have to think I'm the best. Of course this isn't easy because it's not necessarily true. But you won't win if you think you're a loser.
The Ninth Gate (1999) is fun, it's nice, I think it's a good movie, but after all, what is it about? It's like every other movie that is made nowadays. It may be different in style, but it doesn't make any important statement. It was something that could be done quickly, I needed work, I had to do something. It was too long a time since my last film and a lot of projects were canceled.
Evil and the Devil are two different things. The Devil is how humans like to imagine evil, with horns and a tail. Evil is part of our personality. I've never believed in occultism or the Devil, and I'm not at all religious. I'd rather read science books than something about occultism. When it comes to cinema, evil is simply a form of entertainment to me.
The world isn't getting any better, which is quite alienating. Scientific progress seems to amplify rather than lessen our problems. Inventions proliferate, the economy booms, but people suffer ever more. I think there are simply too many people. Progress can't keep up with the growing population, although we like to believe otherwise. 
There are differences between making films in the US and Europe; in America the opportunities are grander but the films are more formulaic and less artistic.
(September 2011) Zurich, Switzerland: Set to return this month to the city where he was arrested in 2009, to finally accept the Zurich Film Festival award for life achievement.
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