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Roman Polanski Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (3)  | Trade Mark (4)  | Trivia (41)  | Personal Quotes (57)

Overview (4)

Born in Paris, 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), Le gros et le maigre (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 Manson Family 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 sodomy 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 Director, 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).

- 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 (9 September 1959 - 1962) ( divorced)

Trade Mark (4)

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 (1999), The Ghost Writer (2010), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Chinatown (1974) and Macbeth (1971)).
Often key scenes or plot are featured near or associated with water.
His films are often told in a subjective narrative.

Trivia (41)

Has not returned to the United States since 1978.
Convicted of sodomy and statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl after plea bargaining, Polanski served time in prison in California, but prison officials released him sooner than judge Laurence J. Rittenband'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 50 years old and had long ago forgiven him for the crime - detailed her story in her autobiography "The Girl" (2013).
After Polanski fled American justice, the judge over his case swore to put him behind bars again. Though the judge died in 1989, the director still cannot return to the U.S. as he would be arrested immediately.
In 1969, while Polanski was out of town on 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. Tate was eight months pregnant with Polanski's first child at the time. Polanski has said that his life's biggest regret was not being present at the house the night his wife and four others were murdered.
He has 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' Academy Award for The Pianist (2002) nearly six months after the awards ceremony, since the director would be immediately arrested due to outstanding warrants stemming from fleeing the US to avoid further imprisonment after his 1978 statutory rape conviction. His friend Harrison Ford flew to France to present Polanski the award at the 29th American Film Festival of Deauville on September 11, 2003.
Won the Best Director Oscar in March 2003 for The Pianist (2002) at the age of 69 years and 7 months, making him, at that time, the oldest person to win the award. Polanski eclipsed the record previously held by George Cukor, who was 65 when he won Best Director for My Fair Lady (1964). This record was beaten in February 2005, when Clint Eastwood won Best Director for Million Dollar Baby (2004) at the age of 74 years and 9 months.
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 'Official Competition' jury at the 44th Cannes International 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.
Polanski was set to direct "The Double", a modern-day, comedic adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel about a man whose life is taken over by a doppelganger. Star John Travolta, who was being paid $17 million, was set to play the lead, alongside Isabelle Adjani, John Goodman, and Jean Reno. The film shoot was set to begin in Paris in June 1996. 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 the beginning of principal photography, and with around $15 million already spent on the project, Travolta flew back to the U.S. following an argument with Polanski. Travolta claimed that the shooting screenplay had been significantly altered from the one he had originally read. 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 Polanski could not return to the U.S., Evans planned on having a second unit director shoot some footage in New York, while Polanski would direct the rest of the film in Paris.
Was offered the chance to direct King Kong (1976) but turned it down.
In November 1989, Polanski was approached by Warner Bros. to adapt and direct Mikhail A. Bulgakov's novel "The Master and Margarita". The project was subsequently dropped by Warner Bros. 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 won for their performances.
In February 2007 it was announced that Polanski would direct a $130m adaptation of Robert Harris' novel "Pompeii", first published in 2003. 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.
Sued Vanity Fair over a 2002 article that said he seduced a woman at NYC restaurant Elaine's while on his way to the funeral of Sharon Tate. Mia Farrow defended Polanski in the libel trial, testifying in London's High Court that Polanski was unable to focus on anything other than his wife's murder. A jury ruled in Polanski's favor and the magazine was ordered to pay $87,700 in damages and a substantial portion of Polanski's legal costs.
In September 2011, Polanski returned to Zurich, Switzerland - the city where he was arrested in 2009 - to finally accept the Zurich International Film Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award.
His favourite films include: Odd Man Out (1947), Hamlet (1948), Citizen Kane (1941) and (1963).
Six of Roman Polanski's films are in the Criterion Collection: Knife in the Water (1962), Repulsion (1965), Cul-De-Sac (1966), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Macbeth (1971) and Tess (1979).
Dated Nastassja Kinski publicly after she turned 18 in 1979. The relationship is believed to have started in 1976 when Kinski was 15. They're still friends.
Introduced to his wife Emmanuelle Seigner by casting director Dominique Besnehard in 1985. She was 19 and he was 52.
Brother-in-law of Debra Tate.
Son-in-law of Doris Tate.
President of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 53rd Venice International Film Festival in 1996.
President of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 29th Deauville American Film Festival in 2003.
On 26 September 2009, Polanski was detained by Swiss police at Zurich Airport while trying to enter Switzerland. Since this was only 1 year and 7 months after the release of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) at Sundance (Jan.18, 2008), there is reason to believe, that the documentary was actually what caused the new arrest warrant, because it dared to question the legality of Polanski's L.A. trial in 1977 and 1978 before he fled to France on 1st February 1978. Polanski and his lawyers also tried to use the new evidence from this documentary to attack the L.A. justice system, which must have awakened their new interest in the old case, too.
In 1984, he published his autobiography, "Roman by Polanski". In it, he teasingly referred to girls as being "sexy, pert, and thoroughly human" and to appreciating Gstaad, Switzerland, on the grounds that the city is populated with "hundreds of fresh-faced, nubile young girls of all nationalities".
Polanski was set to pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 67th Locarno Film Festival in 2014, but he withdrew after Swiss politicians and newspapers accused him of being a paedophile. Switzerland's Christian Democratic party released a statement urging its members to avoid participation in the planned awards ceremony, while Ticino politician Fiorenzo Dadò described Polanski on Facebook as a "pedophile who drugged and raped a girl and is now being received with full honours". Locarno organisers labelled the protests "unacceptable interference of some in the artistic liberty of the festival", adding: "We are greatly saddened that the public will thereby be deprived of an important opportunity for cultural enrichment." Festival artistic director Carlo Chatrian told the Hollywood Reporter: "It's sad when an artist cannot express himself. I understand his decision and I respect it. At the same time, I hope that this will be for the festival a chance to renew the fact that festivals are a meeting point and a place of freedom." He added: "Of course, when you use words like pedophile, you cannot say anything against that. But Polanski's not a pedophile.".
Polanski holds the record for most wins as 'Best Director' at the César Awards, the national film award in France, which is decided by the vote of all members of the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma: He was nominated and won each time for Tess (1979), The Pianist (2002), The Ghost Writer (2010) and Venus in Fur (2013).
Polanski was appointed to serve as the president of the César Awards in 2017, but withdrew from this position after public protests in France. The Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma had selected Polanski to serve in this honorary role and announced: "Artist, film-maker, producer, screenwriter, actor, director - there are many words to define Roman Polanski. But there is only one to express our admiration and enchantment: Thank you, Mr President." Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for families, children and women's rights, called the Académie's decision "shocking and surprising," according to the New York Times. The backlash to the decision of the Académie resulted in over 61,000 signatures on a protest petition, because of the rape charges Polanski still faced in the United States, until Polanski finally withdrew. "In order not to disturb the César ceremony, which should be centered on cinema and not on its choice of host, Roman Polanski has decided not to accept the invitation," Hervé Temime said in a statement to the media.
The Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted to expel director Roman Polanski from its membership ranks. The decision to remove Polanski was made at a scheduled board meeting on May 1st 2018.
On October 30, 2017, Polanski appeared as the guest of honor at Paris's prestigious cinema museum, La Cinémathèque Francaise, to kick off a month-long retrospective of his oeuvre. About 40 protestors tried to disrupt the event. Two women, whose upper bodies were daubed with the words "Very Important Pedocriminal" yelled "No honours for rapists" at 84-year-old Polanski, who was presenting his latest film D'après une histoire vraie (2017) to launch the retrospective. The group was behind a petition signed by more than 27,000 people to demand the cancellation of the month-long event. The Cinémathèque, which is partly state-funded, ruled out pulling the event, with its president, director Costa-Gavras, saying it does not intend to "take the place of the justice system".
Polanski's two most expensive features (adjusted to inflation) were Pirates (1986) and Oliver Twist (2005). Ironically, the films were also the biggest commercial flops of his career and received only mixed reviews.

Personal Quotes (57)

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 the aborted film project "The Double" starring 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. Having as a theme an American in Paris, I wanted to dispel the idea and tradition of Irma la Douce (1963) and Moulin Rouge (1952) which still perseveres, and I wanted to create a new idea of an American here.
[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.
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. [Interview from 1976]
[on working with John Travolta on the aborted film project "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 acclimatized. 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.
To me, Rosemary's Baby (1968) is not an entirely serious movie - it can be interpreted two ways. I shot it in such a way that you could consider her as a person with problems and imagining it all. I made it more ambiguous than the book and that's why I never showed the baby.
[on Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968)] I had only seen her on the cover of Life. To be honest, I was not enthusiastic about her until we started to work. Then I discovered, somewhat to my surprise, that she is a brilliant actress. This is one of the most difficult woman's parts I can imagine.
I never really imagined how one can retire. What do you do? Gardening? No, I feel really happy when I'm working. I think the best moments in my life are when I work. It was my passion when I was a young man, and it remains my passion. I feel probably the way a carpenter feels when he's making a beautiful chair and seeing the result of his work. The work itself is satisfying, the process of getting the result. [2014]
[on attracting an audience] One can create the most marvellous things, but if they are not accepted, it's a tragedy. It's like Van Gogh, who sold only one painting, and in fact to his brother, I believe. This great painter, who is my absolute favourite, lived his life for us, not for himself. I don't have this ambition; I would like to share my view of the world with others.
[on Carnage (2011)] With each film, I need an artistic challenge so I don't get bored! I like to tackle challenges. On this film, it was telling a story that takes place in real time and in a confined space. I've made films before in an enclosed space, but not as rigorously self-contained, so this was a new experience. When I was a teenager, I was really struck by Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (1948), with its strange castle full of stairs, terraces and corridors, and also by Carol Reed's fabulous Odd Man Out (1947) with James Mason. It's a film with such a strong impact that I often tried to imitate it later. In fact, my first film, Knife in the Water (1962) was filmed on a boat with three people. So I wasn't afraid of the constraints of a confined space like an apartment. I find it really exciting, in fact, even if it isn't easy. Because there were no ellipses, you couldn't put something in a different place from one shot to another. If someone put a glass on the table it had to be there throughout the picture unless we see it being moved in the action.
I don't think I made my movie yet. I don't have one that would give me a real satisfaction. I would not put any one of them on my gravestone. [2000]
I think my best work is The Pianist (2002). I think if I were asked what cans of which movies do I want deposited on my tomb, I would say "The Pianist". But next probably is Chinatown (1974). [2007]
[from his first interview after he fled the U.S. in Feb.1978] When I was being driven to the police station from the hotel, the car radio was already talking about it. The newsmen were calling the police before I was arrested to see whether they can break the news. I couldn't believe... I thought, you know, I was going to wake up from it. I realise, if I have 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! [Interview with Martin Amis in Paris, 1979]
[on J'accuse (2019)] I have long wanted to make a film about the Dreyfus Affair, treating it not as a costume drama but as a spy story. In this way one can show its absolute relevance to what is happening in today's world - the age-old spectacle of the witch hunt on a minority group, security paranoia, secret military tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, governmental cover-ups and a rabid press. [2012]
[after winning the Academy Award for The Pianist (2002)] I didn't know I had so many friends. [Variety, 2003]
I always strive to stay faithful to the source material when I am adapting. I believe this stems from my childhood. I was so often disappointed by film adaptations of my favorite stories, films that I was so eager to see - but the characters that I loved disappeared. The stories were never quite the same. I promised myself then that if I ever worked in film and adapted a story, I would remain faithful.
[on Venus in Fur (2013)] This is my greatest satisfaction - to do what I can, what I'm allowed to do. The lower the budget, the more freedom I had. Here I had total and absolute freedom. On every point. If something is screwed up, you can only blame me. I have a sentiment and nostalgia for the theatre. I like the smell of the theatre. I like everything about it... so to film a subject of which the action entirely plays in a run-down theatre to me was a joy.
[on D'après une histoire vraie (2017)] What appealed to me first and foremost were the characters and these peculiar and unsettling situations that they find themselves in. These are indeed themes that I previously explored in Cul-De-Sac (1966), Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary's Baby (1968). This is also a book that tells a story of a book - which I find very interesting. That was also the case with The Ninth Gate (1999) and The Ghost Writer (2010). It's my MacGuffin - this "thing" that triggers intrigue, which happens to be an object. Also - and I probably should have started with this - the book gave me this great opportunity to explore confrontation between two women. I have often showed conflict between two men along with a man and a woman, but never two women.
[2005 interview] I used to talk on the phone to Stanley Kubrick. These were conversations which would last sometimes for a long, long time. I liked him very much. He was brilliant and bright and it was always so exciting to talk to him because he knew so much about everything. And he said, 'Don't you hate that interim period when you don't know what you are going to do next? Why is it from film to film more difficult to decide what you want to do?' And I remember I said 'yes, yes, yes' but I didn't know what he was talking about. Because in those times it was so easy for me to choose my next film. But now I know what he meant. One is much more exigeant - what is this? Demanding? Because you know it takes so much of your time and energy. It's like taking a dive. You hesitate before you jump.
[on working with Olivier Assayas on D'après une histoire vraie (2017)] I needed somebody who can write a film about two women and Olivier just did two films in a row where the main characters were women. And also I knew he's very efficient, very fast, because he used to be a screenwriter before he started directing. And I wanted to do a film quick because my production team and the producer wanted the film to be next year in Cannes and there was only one year to do it and nowadays a year seems not be to enough to make a movie - in my youth it was - I did one film after the other at the beginning, but now you're lucky if you do one film in three or four years.

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