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Roman Polanski Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (3) | Trivia (26) | Personal Quotes (42)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 18 August 1933Paris, France
Birth NameRajmund Roman Liebling
Nickname Romek
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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 family of mostly Jewish heritage, 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, 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. For 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 Somers.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Yuri German (blsidt1 AT imf.org)

Spouse (3)

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)

Trade Mark (3)

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.

Trivia (26)

Has not been back to the United States since 1978.
Convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl after plea bargaining, Polanski then served time in prison in California. But prison officials released him sooner than the judge's original sentence had intended. The judge then sought to have Polanski brought to court again for further sentencing. Rather than do so, Polanski fled to Europe to avoid and escape a second arrest and incarceration. In 2013, his former victim, Samantha Geimer-who was now 50 years old and had long before forgiven him for the crime--detailed her story in a book called "The Girl".
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.
Two children with Emmanuelle Seigner: Morgane Polanski (born January 20, 1993) and Elvis Polanski (born April 12, 1998).
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
Is portrayed by Marek Probosz in Helter Skelter (2004).
Born in Paris, France, he was the son of Bula (née Katz-Przedborska) and Ryszard Liebling (aka Ryszard Polanski), a painter and plastics manufacturer. His father was a Polish Jew and his mother, a native of Russia, had a Jewish father and a Roman Catholic mother, and was raised as a Catholic.
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 June 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 Polanski to direct Sliver (1993). But since he could not return to the U.S., Evans planned on having a second unit director shoot some footage in 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.
Directed four actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Ruth Gordon, Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, and Adrien Brody. Gordon and Brody did win Oscars for their performances in two of his films.
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.
In 1969, he was writing a script for a film about the Donner Party, as well as a biography of Italian violinist and composer Niccolò Paganini, but both projects were abandoned.
Close friend of Gilbert Taylor.
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. [September 2011]
His favourite films include: Odd Man Out (1947), Hamlet (1948), Citizen Kane (1941) and (1963).

Personal Quotes (42)

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.
[on Oliver Twist (2005)] 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. My children like coming to the set of my movies, they know what I am doing, they live around all that, but the result of all this work is something so remote from their world they can't identify with it. I wanted something they could, so I started looking for subjects that would be suitable. It's for them, so they will be able to remember the movie years from now when I won't be around.
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 casting Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968)] She has a neurotic quality, good for Rosemary. Only nuts are interesting people.
[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. [1999]
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.
[on Frantic (1988)] The idea was to make a film about the things I know - to show my Paris. I wanted to get rid of everything that was too obviously quaintly Parisian and tried to show the town of today. It was the way I see it and not as Americans might imagine it to be.
[advice to aspiring filmmakers] It's a question of patience and perseverance. You can't teach talent, but you can tell someone how to sustain the adversity which is an enemy constantly on set. Whatever type of film you make, it requires a crew, it requires financing, it requires a lot of people around you. And those people - even if they are all with you, even if they are all friendly, and even if they agree with the final result - they still have their personal agendas. They see things differently than you do.. They have families and children and girlfriends and they're horny. So what you really need is to be patient and to be able to stand all those problems.
[on Weekend of a Champion (1972)] The reason I made the film was first because I wanted to make a film about a friend, about Jackie Stewart specifically, and two because I like Formula 1 very much and I thought it was a very cinematic, very visual kind of sport. And it was not really being filmed that much because there was no television every week where you could watch the Formula 1 races. I never considered myself talented in this direction. I didn't consider myself a director of documentaries particularly in that period. Documentaries were not as frequently successful as they are now - there are many more of them now because of the television. You see many more documentaries in theaters. In those times it was very, very seldom that you could hope to have any kind of success with a documentary in a general theatrical release.
[on Bitter Moon (1992)] The fact that sexual attraction wanes, that's what fascinated me. That has nothing to do with love, which can actually deepen as sex declines. The premise of the film is that love cannot last forever in its true intensity. It must bleed or end tragically. If it has peaks, it must have lows. I hadn't done a movie like this for a long time, and I felt strongly not only that I'd like to do it, but that people who know my work were somehow expecting me to return to this kind of material. I wasn't making it to shock. Maybe I had a little bit of this desire when I was young. I don't have any of those needs now, and even when I was beginning, the main thing for me was to tell the story and if the story required violent images or nudity, I would use them for telling it. I didn't have much money, so we worked hard and were under tremendous pressure, but I did what I wanted and nobody interfered with the result.
Films are films, life is life.
Never pull a hair from Faye Dunaway's head. Pull it from somebody else's head.
The first time that I felt that I really had got it technically smooth was Rosemary's Baby (1968). The first time I made a film that would make me happy because I felt the humour and the tone the way I like it was The Fearless Vampire Killers: Vampires 101 (1967). Chinatown (1974) was the first film where I had no struggle throughout the production because I was totally supported by the producer and had everything at my disposal; I was like a racing driver with a bunch of people standing around you and just ready to respond to every gesture.
I'm happy when I find a subject that excites me, that gives me a reason to make a film; and I'm still happy when I'm making it because this is my real and true profession.
[on Pirates (1986)] To make a costume picture on a sound stage is bad enough. To do it on the deck of a galleon is terrible. I thought of building part of a boat, and also using models and interior sets. Then we decided it was easier to just build the whole boat. The boat is the set. Fine, except that it must also float, and the sails had to be unfurled, and taken up and down, and behind us was the canopy of sky, which would be blue in one shot and cloudy in the next. The wind comes from nowhere and first you see the town in the background, then the sand, then the sea. Nothing matches between one shot and the next. And then you have to think about the beards, and the swords, and the wigs! The wigs and the wigs, and Walter Matthau's wooden leg. And if there was to be an explosion, then you think about the beards and the wigs and the leg and the explosion and the wind and the sky, and it drives you crazy. Each shot was like tearing a fish out of a shark's mouth. It is easy to be perfect when no one disturbs you. On the sound stage, you control everything. So you can be patient. On a boat, however, providence may have other plans for you. It was a nightmare from beginning to end. Every day something new would go wrong. I should have got a special award just for finishing it.
[interview from 1976] Attention to detail is something that I have been always very fond of, even when I was doing my first little films at the film school, and even before then when I used to go the cinema, the films that really interested me as the viewer were the ones which had tremendous attention to detail. I think that detail creates atmosphere; and now when I go the cinema sometimes a little detail which is wrong can throw me completely off. When I see a film, let's say, which happens in the 30s and suddenly I see men with long hair - that spoils the film for me completely because I know that people didn't wear this type of hairdo until only 10 or 15 years ago. It's a question of honesty, of not only the film director but any other artist or writer, this attention to detail. In literature, when the writer knows the subject he is writing about, it becomes twice as interesting.
[on working with John Travolta on aborted film The Double] There were changes in the script, but they were not that dramatic. The problem was that Travolta resented any kind of comment. He seemed to have some kind of inferiority complex, perhaps from some period of his life when he was not justly dealt with. During the third read-through, about a week before we were supposed to start shooting, there was a heated conversation between us. I made some comment about his line-readings in a scene - I said something like, "That's not how I heard it in my mind" - and he said, "Well, that's how I heard it." I said, "Well, there may be as many ideas of how this scene should be dealt with as there are people in the world. Who takes the final decision? I'm here to direct." And we started arguing. It was not a fight but it was quite uneasy, as when people don't say exactly what's on their mind. He is more a passive-aggressive person, he does not come right out and say, "You asshole!" Maybe in the readings I should have just sat there and listened without reacting, just to get him acclimatised. But from what I had seen of him, I thought he was a real pro, and with pros, you know, you work without thinking of all this sensitivity. You just give direction and sometimes you show what you want that's different. I've never known any instance of an actor walking out like this so close to filming. The fact is, if you are an actor and people depend on you, you cannot just bolt like that.

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