While jail is no fun for anyone, it's least fun for movie directors, accustomed to playing dictator over a set of hundreds. But in the 1970s in California, incarcerated directors don't have to just spend their days dreaming.
While locked away for the first time on the still pending child rape charge, the state Corrections department, we've learned today, gave the celebrated auteur a chance to play God in the manner to which he had grown accustomed, giving him the reins to direct a training film for prison guards.
In recent days, the world has been stunned and mildly amused to learn that celebrated autuer/accused child rapist Roman Polanski has been spending his time in jail while awaiting extradition hearings finishing his film.
When arrested in Zurich a few weeks back, Polanski was nearly done with production on The Ghost, a political thriller starring Pierce Brosnan, based on a novel by Robert Harris. Observers had speculated about the fate of the unfinished film until Harris revealed in an interview with The Guardian yesterday that the director has been hard at work on the film from behind bars (or behind chalet as the case may be.)
But we have learned that this is not the first time Polanski has put his hard time to good use for the cinema, according to the Daily Bulletin of California's Inland Empire — home of the Chino State Correctional Facility where Polanski was first incarcerated for the rape charges from December 1977 - January 1978.
The article discloses that while Polanski was serving his time he directed a training film about prison gangs for the Corrections Department. The Bulletin's writer describes the circumstances of the shoot:
Cameras rolled in the prison's East facility, the same one trashed in the recent riot. It was a lockup for high-security and protective-custody inmates. "Roman was a very diminutive and overwhelmed-by-prison inmate, but over in the East Facility cellblocks, with camera and lights rolling, he would `forget himself' and DIRECT, BABY, DIRECT!" cracks my source.
"He would shout out orders to some really heavy-duty gang characters - allowed out of cells only one at a time - to `stand this way' or `suck in that gut,' and all sorts of personal comments and commands. And the gang members, clearly starstruck by being on camera, meekly complied!
After spending a few hours a day working on the shoot, the Bulletin says "the film was suppressed and never used for departmental training."
It's good to know that even incarcerated for terrible crimes, auteurs never have to stop playing God. And exciting to imagine that somewhere out there, in a dark government archive, the Rosemary's Baby of prison guard training films sits waiting for its day in the sun.