Director claims rivalry over 2003 Oscars race reignited rape backlash, now further fuelled by fresh accusations and protests against new Dreyfus film
Latest allegations ‘absurd’ … Roman Polanski in Paris last month. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP via Getty Images
Film director Roman Polanski has spoken out for the first time since fresh accusations of rape were made against him, declaring that the media were “trying to make me into a monster”.
And in an extraordinary twist he blamed Harvey Weinstein for his woes, in an interview with Paris Match magazine published on Wednesday.
He claimed that the disgraced Hollywood mogul tried to brand him a “child rapist” to stop him (unsuccessfully, it turned out) winning an Oscar in 2003 for The Pianist. Polanski – a fugitive from US justice since 1978 when he absconded after he admitting the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl, Samantha Geimer – also dismissed the latest rape allegations against him as “absurd”.
He said he “absolutely denied” beating and raping French photographer Valentine Monnier at his Swiss chalet in 1975.
“Obviously I have no memory of it because it is false,” he told Paris Match magazine, before pouring scorn on her story. “Clearly accusing me of rape isn’t sensational enough any more, you have to add another layer.
“I do not hit women,” he added.
Monnier, who was an 18-year-old model and actress at the time, went public in Le Parisien as Polanski’s new film, An Officer and a Spy, was released in France last month. She alleged that Polanski also tried to give her a pill as he beat her “into submission”.
But the director repeatedly ridiculed her claims as “aberrant” in the interview, before turning on Weinstein. He blamed the producer for starting a whispering campaign against him to sabotage his chances of an Oscar after The Pianist won best film and best director at the 2003 Bafta film awards.
Weinstein was pushing his own film, Chicago, which won six Oscars including best picture.
“It was him who dug up my case with Samantha Geimer from 26 years before which no one was interested in any more,” Polanski told Paris Match.
The Pianist – which drew on some of Polanski’s own experiences as a Jewish child in Poland during the Holocaust – went on to win three Oscars, including best director.
Polanski admitted the statutory rape of Geimer in a plea bargain in 1977 to avoid a trial on more serious charges. But he fled to France after serving 42 days in jail when it appeared a judge was reconsidering his release.
Asked if he felt a victim of the saga, Polanski said that “for years they have been trying to make me into a monster”.
The veteran film-maker caused outrage at the Venice film festival last August by comparing himself to the hero of his new film, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer wrongly punished by the French army at the turn of the 20th century.
Polanski insisted that he was only speaking out now for the sake of his wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, and his children.
“I am used to the lies, my skin has thickened. But for my children and for Emmanuelle it’s appalling. They are suffering enormously. They are insulted and threatened on social media.
“Of course I am responsible,” the 86-year-old told the magazine. “In 1977 I made a mistake and it is my family who are paying the price half a century later.”
Polanski accused the media of treating him with “incredible violence”.
“They seize on every new false accusation, no matter how absurd, because it lets them bring up this story. It is like a curse which keeps coming back and I can do nothing about.”
Polanski also claimed that Geimer, who he was accused of drugging and raping at Jack Nicholson’s Los Angeles home, had suffered more from the press than anything he had done to her. “She and her family have suffered because of what I did, and despite me it continues,” he told Paris Match.
Polanski is persona non grata in Hollywood, and cannot return to the US for fear of arrest. Despite being expelled from the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he has been defended by many in the French film industry.
Protesters in France forced several screenings of An Officer and a Spy to be abandoned. But the movie has become one of the most successful French films of the year, with more than 1.1 million flocking to see it in its first three weeks.