Roman Polanski: French courtroom acquits director in libel trial

A Paris court on Tuesday acquitted filmmaker Roman Polanski in a defamation case brought by British actress Charlotte Lewis.

Lewis had claimed that Polanski raped her in the 1980s, when she was a teen. Polanski refuted the accusation in a 2019 interview, telling the French magazine Paris Match, “The basic quality of a good liar is an excellent memory.” 

The court said that it was not ruling on the veracity of Lewis’s claims but whether Polanski had exceeded the limits of his right to free speech.

Polanski, who lives in Switzerland, did not attend the trial.

What Charlotte Lewis said about the Polanski verdict

Lewis had a minor role in the Oscar-winning director’s 1986 release “Pirates,” In 2010, she said Polanski had raped her in his apartment in 1983 when she was 16. She did not report the alleged crime at the time it occurred.

She did so, however, after Polanski called the accusations a “heinous lie.” Polanski also quoted a statement attributed to Lewis in which she told a tabloid newspaper that she had “wanted to be his mistress.”

Lewis disputed the accuracy of the quote. 

Speaking outside the courtroom, the actress said: “I feel sad and let down. It’s a sad day for women and men. But it’s not over. We are going to appeal.”

Polanski: No convictions but decades of sexual abuse allegations

The now 90-year-old Polanski, famed for films like “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Pianist,” fled Hollywood in 1978 after pleading guilty to having had unlawful sex with a 13-year-old. He was never formally sentenced.

In 2005, the US issued an international arrest warrant for Polanski, who was detained twice — once in Switzerland and once in his native Poland. Neither country, however, assented to US calls for his extradition.  

Polanski has faced similar accusations of sexual abuse from a number of women in the wake of the #MeToo movement. None of these have gone to trial and Polanski has vehemently denied the accusations.

Nevertheless, despite his acknowledged mastery as a filmmaker and long lines of actors wanting to work with him, Polanski has had difficulty securing global distribution deals.

Tuesday’s court decision comes as France’s famous Cannes Film Festival is about to kick off. Set to honor women in film, there has been much speculation about the planned publication of an “explosive” list of 10 leading film industry men accused of being #MeToo abusers. 

js/rt (dpa, Reuters)