Roman Polanski is opening up about the murder of his wife Sharon Tate in 1969 — and the backlash he felt since then.
In press notes for his latest film J’Accuse at the Venice Film Festival, Polanski, 86, said he felt his “image” was affected negatively after the murder of his then-wife Tate, according to The Wrap. The director will not be attending the festival, according to Deadline.
Polanski remains controversial due to a later crime: In 1977, he was arrested for drugging and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. He pleaded guilty to statutory rape but fled to Europe before completing his sentence. His film’s appearance at the Venice Film Festival has drawn considerable criticism.
“The way people see me, my ‘image,’ did indeed start to form with Sharon Tate’s death,” Polanski said. “When it happened, even though I was already going through a terrible time, the press got hold of the tragedy and, unsure how to deal with it, covered it in the most despicable way, implying, among other things, that I was one of the people responsible for her murder, against a background of satanism.”
The Rosemary’s Baby director said he was accused of being “in league with the devil” after the release of his iconic 1968 film until members of the Manson Family were linked to the murder of the pregnant Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger, Voytek Frykowski and Steve Parent.
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The director said he was under scrutiny for “several months until the police finally found the real killers, Charles Manson and his ‘family.'”
The murders were the subject of Quentin Tarantino’s film Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, with Margot Robbie playing Tate and Rafal Zawierucha playing Polanski.
“All this still haunts me today. Anything and everything,” Polanski continued. “It is like a snowball, each season adds another layer. Absurd stories by women I have never seen before in my life who accuse me of things which supposedly happened more than half a century ago.”
Polanski’s film premiere marks his first public appearance at a major film festival since losing his membership to the Academy in May 2018, despite his win for Best Director in 2003 for The Pianist.
The disgraced film director was ousted by the AMPAS Board of Governors after fleeing the United States following his guilty plea to a charge of statutory rape in 1977.
He pled guilty to engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse after 13-year-old Samantha Geimer accused him of getting her drunk and giving her part of a Quaalude at a California hotel.
Polanski went on to serve 42 days in jail due to a plea bargain, however, he fled to France when ordered to serve the remainder of his 90-day sentence.
Attempts by the U.S. to extradite him from Europe have been unsuccessful.
His new film is a dramatization of the Alfred Dreyfus scandal in 19th century France. Dreyfus was a French Jewish army captain who was falsely accused of spying for the Germans in 1894. He was convicted and imprisoned and later exonerated in 1906.