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Samantha Geimer contended with sexual assault in Hollywood long before the truth came out about Harvey Weinstein. In 1977, Geimer was 13 years old when Roman Polanski gave her alcohol and pills, then raped and sodomized her, in Jack Nicholson’s Hollywood home. In the midst of the ensuing media mayhem, he was accused of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor and fled the country, never to return. Geimer reentered public life following the 2008 release of Marina Zenovich’s documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” and has testified that Polanski should be sentenced to time served rather than facing a new trial for the crime. In 2014, she wrote a memoir about her experiences, and has publicly forgiven him.
Most recently, Geimer resurfaced in the media in a roundabout fashion, when 2003 comments made by Quentin Tarantino on Howard Stern’s radio show resurfaced in which the filmmaker claims that Polanski “didn’t rape a 13-year-old. It was statutory rape… he had sex with a minor. That’s not rape.”
Geimer disagreed with the assertion, but took issue with the way her response was characterized online. In the midst of the backlash, Tarantino issued a public apology for the remarks, and also called Geimer at her home in Hawaii. IndieWire reached her there the next day — first by email, then by phone — to discuss the ordeal, as well as her broader thoughts on the conversations taking place about sexual assault in the film industry and beyond today.
On Twitter, you said that your initial remarks about Tarantino were misconstrued. Set the record straight.
I did not call him out or slam him. When asked, I said he was wrong, as in incorrect, about what happened. I thought he knew better now, 15 years later, and did not expect that he would repeat that, because he would only make himself look bad. Okay, I said, “like an ass.” But the sentiment was that he certainly knows better. The wording that he assumed I wanted to be “raped,” I don’t know where that came from, but he never said that. What I was really trying to say to those who called is, I don’t care. I don’t care what anyone says, I’m not upset, this and worse has been happening to me for years. And mostly, I am aware that my rape is being used to attack him and I really don’t like that.
Did you expect him to reach out?
No. I mean, not personally. I thought that was nice. What if I was really mad? He called to face it personally.
What did you discuss and what do you make of his response?
I think he realizes that the things he said to be shocking involve an actual person — me — and he wasn’t thinking about that at the time. He felt bad about it. While I had him on the phone, I made him talk to me about some of his movies. Ha, ha. Didn’t want to waste that opportunity. He is sincere in his apology and I told him I felt my rape was being used to attack him by people who don’t care about what happened to me, and I do take offense to that.
So which movies did you ask about?
I talked to him about “True Romance,” which is my favorite movie. I was just letting him know that it was one of my all-time favorite movies. I just found out my mom had never seen it, because she was like, “Wow, Quentin Tarantino called you!” So now I’m going to watch it with my mom. It was funny. He told me that he liked Roman’s early movie, “The Fearless Vampire Slayers,” that he’d seen it on TV. I was like, “Oh my god, I love that movie.”
Then I asked him about his upcoming movie, because I heard it’s about Sharon Tate’s murder. I was like, “That’s just freaking me out. I don’t know why. It sounds awful.” He said, “No, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about that time period and that year.” Although it certainly has nothing to do with me and I’m not sure quite sure why, but I was thinking, “Don’t make a movie about that!” I was happy that he could put my mind to rest on a completely random thing like that.
Generally speaking, how do you feel about the value of apologizing when people speak out of turn about sexual assault?
I think apologies go a long way to help the person who was wronged and the person that is apologizing. I often say I don’t need them, but in truth, they always have a positive impact. He is under a lot more scrutiny than I am. If not for Roman and Quentin’s fame, nobody would be talking to me about any of this, so their words, actions and even apologies will always be glorified and criticized. Fame magnifies everything.
What was it like to receive an apology from Polanski?
He wrote me a handwritten letter and said, “I’m sorry, it was my fault, not your mom’s fault, and I’m sorry for what you went through.” I was like, “Well, I knew that.” I felt like he was sorry the minute he got arrested. My whole life, I assumed, of course he’s sorry. I didn’t feel like I needed that. But then when he sent that apology, I could tell it made a big difference to my mom, and my husband, some of my friends, and my kids. It gave my mom some kind of relief. It was really meaningful to the other people around me who care about me, which then made it really meaningful to me. Anything that can make my mom feel better is something I’m grateful for.
Like I said about Quentin, I don’t need an apology, because I don’t care about what he said. Why should I, right? I don’t let that stuff bother me. But in actuality, I’m kind of wrong, because it seems that it is nice to have an apology. That one from Roman ended up being super-meaningful. Talking to Quentin, I know he just wasn’t thinking and I didn’t take it personally the way he was talking on Howard Stern. But then once I saw it in writing the next day, I realized, it did make me feel better. So, apologies — I think you should take them, even if you don’t want them.
Read the full interview on IndieWire.com