Roman Polanski—the Academy Award-winning director of Chinatown, The Pianist, and Rosemary's Baby—was arrested during a raid on his hotel in Switzerland last night. He was running from American authorities for a 1978 warrant issued after a statutory-rape conviction.
The Telegraph put together a great item report on the arrest. The 76 year-old Polanski, who's been living as a French citizen, was on his way to the Zurich Film Festival, where he was supposed to receive an honorary award and be the recipient of a tribute. The charges and arrest warrant—submitted in 2005 as an international alert by request of American authorities, meaning someone, somewhere still really wanted to bust him—stem from his 1978 guilty plea to supposedly drugging and definitely having sex with a then 13 year-old Samantha Geimer, an aspiring model, during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson's place. Of course: it's always at Jack Nicholson's place.
Polanski plead guilty, but realized the judge might not honor the plea bargain in Polanski's sentencing, and left the country. The judge in the original case—the late Laurence Rittenband—has been accused of tampering with the verdict for political reasons. Polanski's tried to appeal the decision unsuccessfully. Just two months ago, he unsuccessfully tried to get an appeals court in California to overturn a refusal to even consider throwing out his 1977 case.
He's still been making films, and won an Oscar for The Pianist in 2003 (which Frantic star Harrison Ford accepted on his behalf), but hasn't returned to the US since. He had the quite the life pre-exile: his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson family. He was a refugee of the Holocaust; his mother told him to run before Nazis could get to him, and she was killed in Auschwitz.
And now, Polanski's situation and life is only going to get worse for all parties involved, again. Even the adult Samantha Geimer has forgiven him, and wants the case overturned:
The victim at the centre of the case, Samantha Geimer, has previously asked for the charges to be dropped, saying the continued publication of details "causes harm to me, my husband and children.
Oh, and thanks Switzerland, for pissing off the French:
France's culture minister says he is "dumbfounded" by the arrest. of the director, who is a french citizen. Frederic Mitterrand said he "strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them".
Silly Swiss; with your sketchy, Nazi-assisting banks and "army" knives that could maybe fight a way on the canned soup aisle, you fucked up someone's weekend. And a nice film festival! His extradition and arrest are being processed there now (both of which he can fight in Swiss courts), but at this point, he looks to be headed home.
Roman Polanski's been a cause celebre of the film community since it happened. A documentary about the issue (Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired) ran on HBO last year. The trailer's below. Polanski's very much one of the most respected, working filmmakers alive. Expect there to be a huge outpouring of support for him in Hollywood. This is far from over.