Roman Polanski may sue the French newspaper that published accusations he raped a former actress in the 1970s, his lawyer said yesterday, as he comes under renewed fire over the latest claim of sexual assault to emerge against the Oscar-winning director in recent years. France’s author and director guild could meet soon on whether to exclude the French-Polish star, its vice-president told Le Parisien newspaper, which published the allegations Friday.
Valentine Monnier, a photographer and former actress, recounted an “extremely violent” assault and rape by Polanski at his chalet in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad in 1975, when she was 18. Monnier said he tried to make her swallow a pill during the attack, and later made a tearful apology while demanding a promise that she never tell anyone. “I thought I was going to die,” she said in an open letter published by Le Parisien, which also interviewed her and said it had contacted witnesses who confirmed the account.
Monnier is the first Frenchwoman to level charges of sexual assault against Polanski, whose new film, “An Officer and a Spy”, comes out in France under the title “J’accuse” on Wednesday. “Mr Polanski disputes in the strongest terms this rape accusation,” his lawyer Herve Temime said in a statement. “We are working on the legal action to bring against this publication,” he added.
Monnier’s claims have rocked a French film industry already reeling after a top actress last week accused the director of her first film of sexually harassing her when she was just 12. Adele Haenel, whose account has garnered an outpouring of support, on Saturday urged others to speak out in support of Monnier and “take notice of her story”. The allegations may prove a turning point for French cinema, where the MeToo movement against rape and sexual assault that rocked Hollywood has not prompted as deep a reckoning of abuses in the industry.
Broadcaster TF1 confirmed Sunday that the star of Polanski’s new film, Jean Dujardin, had cancelled a prime-time interview set for Sunday night. The Dutch-Belgian actress Sand Van Roy, who has accused French director Luc Besson of rape in a case under investigation, tweeted that she believed Monnier’s graphic account. Monnier wrote that Polanski “pummeled me until I gave in and then raped me, making me do all sorts of things”.
She had previously written to France’s first lady Brigitte Macron, who forwarded them to France’s equality minister Marlene Schiappa, who has pushed for new measures to combat sexual abuse. Schiappa wrote to Monnier in March last year and hailed her courage “in daring to break the silence,” while reiterating that the alleged attack was beyond France’s statutes of limitations for prosecution.
Monnier, who acted in a few films in the 1980s, said the release of Polanski’s film, about one of the most notorious errors of justice in French history, the Dreyfus affair, had prompted her to speak out.”How could he benefit from public funds to instrumentalist history, and in doing so rewrite his own to cover up his criminal past,” she wrote.
Polanski was first accused of rape by the mother of American Samantha Geimer, who was 13 when she was drugged at the home of film star Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles in 1977. In 2010, British actress Charlotte Lewis accused him of “sexually abusing” her in 1983 when she was 16. Another woman, identified only as Robin, accused him in August 2017 of sexual assault when she was 16 in 1973. The next month, former actress Renate Langer filed a new complaint alleging she was raped by Polanski in 1972 when she was 15.
And then in October 2017, California artist Marianne Barnard accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1975 after asking her to pose naked when she was just 10 years old. The claims, all denied by Polanski, nevertheless forced him to abandon the presidency of the 2017 Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars. Although awarded the 2003 Best Director Oscar for “The Pianist”, Polanski was expelled from the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018. – AFP