Italy’s Rai Cinema is backing a drama by the director wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl
‘Carries some controversy’ … Roman Polanski. Photograph: AP
The Guardian-Andrew Pulver
Roman Polanski has announced his first film to be put into production since the director was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas) in 2018.
According to Variety, Polanski has secured backing from Italian media giant Rai Cinema for The Palace, a drama Polanski has co-written with fellow Polish film-maker Jerzy Skolimowski. Rai Cinema’s CEO Paolo Del Brocco said that The Palace is set on New Year’s Eve in 1999, and is about “a big hotel immersed in the Swiss Alps where the lives of the guests and those who work for them intersect”.
Del Brocco added: “I know that Polanski carries some controversy, but we are interested in the artistic side. The quality of the stories, not the personal story.”
Polanski, who is still wanted in the United States after he admitted the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, has become a major target for #MeToo campaigners in France. In 2020 he won a César, France’s equivalent to the Oscars, for best director for his previous film An Officer and a Spy, about the Dreyfus affair, sparking protests and walkouts, including by Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Adèle Haenel. At the time, Ursula Le Menn, an activist with campaign group Osez le Féminisme, said: “For women who have had the courage to speak out about the abuse they suffered, there is an enormous pain seeing this man distinguished.”
Polanski was expelled from Ampas in 2018 “in accordance with the organisation’s standards of conduct”. He subsequently lost a court case that would have forced his reinstatement. Polanski had been arrested in Switzerland in 2009 in relation to the outstanding US warrant against him, but was freed from house arrest 10 months later by the Swiss authorities.
Rai Cinema was involved in An Officer and a Spy, which was first announced in 2012, before finally going before cameras in November 2018.
Skolimowski was a contemporary of Polanski’s during the Polish “new wave” of the 1960s, co-writing Polanski’s debut feature Knife in the Water. In the 1970s and 80s he made a much-admired trilogy of films in the UK, Deep End, The Shout and Moonlighting. He returned to film-making in Poland with 2008’s Four Nights with Anna.