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Watch: 2 Interviews with Director Roman Polanski Discussing His Illustrious Career

Roman PolanskiYesterday, Polish-French director Roman Polanski celebrated his 80th birthday, and while his past is fraught with tragedy and controversy, it also brims with cinematic excellence from his 58-year directing career, only 10 of which he spent making American films. Recognizing his great contribution to the world of cinema, The Playlist has shared two in-depth interviews with the at times fated filmmaker, a 1984 TV interview with Clive James and an episode of Scene By Scene with Mark Cousins which aired in 2000. Polanski shares his experience escaping from the Kraków Ghetto, his approach to filmmaking, and how he pulled off cutting Jack Nicholson’s nose in Chinatown.


In this first interview, Clive James and Polanski chat rather casually about life in the ghetto and the murder of his wife Sharon Tate over escargot and wine. He shares that his interest in movies started when he lived in the Kraków Ghetto, when he was able to look through the barbed wire and see projections of newsreels in the square.

After his escape, he would frequent the cinema — ironically to watch German films, which he described as “lousy.” He goes on to say that one of the first films that “struck” him was Robin Hood, an American film. Once he got a taste, he began to read book after book on filmmaking.

He went on to attend the National Film School in Łódź, where he was given the opportunity to work as an assistant director on a major film. Making a bold move, Polanski asked the director of the production company if he could “make his debut,” to which the director said, “Yes.”

Polanski went on to make some of the most influential pieces of cinema in history. One article from The Guardian describes his work as divided into 3 different types of narratives that he rarely deviates from, “The testing of an unequal marriage, the humbling of a complacent professional, and the crumbling of a lonely mind.” When asked in this interview with Mark Cousins what he thought the best of his films was, Polanski replied:

Roman Polanski Mia Farrow

Well, I can tell you the first time that I felt that I really had got it technically smooth was Rosemary’s BabyI can tell you that the first time I made a film that would make me happy because I felt the humor and the tone the way I like it was in the Vampire Killers. Chinatown was the first film that I had no struggle throughout production, because I was totally supported by the producer and that everything at my disposal was really, you know, like a racing driver with a bunch of people standing around you, and just ready to respond to every gesture.

What do you think about Roman Polanski’s work? What are your favorite films of his? Let us know in the comments.

[via The Playlist]

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  • Anthony Marino on 08.19.13 @ 3:53PM

    “Illustrious career?” laughable

  • Geoff Murrin on 08.19.13 @ 3:55PM

    Im so done with this peadophile. I know he has made some amazing films, but his rape and exploitation of a child makes me sick. I know the victim herself wants to move on, and good for her. But to give this guy anymore air time or lionization is not needed. We are human beings 1st, before we are artists, and he failed miserably as a human. And got away with it. If he’d done what he did to my daughters, I’d light him on fire, and put him out with an axe.

  • Convicted of statutory rape and fled the country. Very “illustrious”.

  • Wow the girl was 13 years old…he admits it after 43:00 in the interview with Clive James. He also tries to justify his actions by saying that the girl had sexual encounters before…Screw his work. He’s an 80 year old monster probably molesting young girls in his current “safe house” country since he fled.

  • Pedo. Not interested in anything he has to say. Period.

  • Polanski barely survived WWII , had had family members murdered by everyone from Adolph Hitler to Charles Manson and was able to escape from the Soviet Union to become a successful Hollywood filmmaker. I’m not saying he right for doing what he did and shouldn’t do jail time, but he’s made some excellent films and has influenced generations of filmmakers. Honestly, from some fo the rumors I’ve head about other well known people in Hollywood he’s not much different then any of them, except they’ve been able to hide their dirty laundry better then he had.

    • Hardship is a part of human life. Everyone deals with loss. The scum try to use their hardship as an excuse for their behavior. We probably all know people who have had a lot harder lives than him, and they aren’t like him. They fight people like him.

      People are responsible for their choices. He chooses to drug and fuck little kids. The case for which he was convicted is t the only time he did it. It’s the only time he got caught. Paedophiles don’t just do it once. They do it continually, and they don’t change.

      The story of Polanski isn’t “had a hard life, made genius movies, made a mistake”.

      The story of Polanski is “paedophile. Hurts little kids. Convinces some people to feel sorry for him. But still a paedophile.”

  • Absolutely. You try to exist as a normal person after your pregnant wife is murdered by hippie cultists.

  • I like his films and admire the range of genres and moods he has mastered. Among the more recent stuff the Pianist was great and The Ghostwriter, though not a genre I usual get into, more than held my interest. I look forward to watching this conversation when I have a chance.

  • Geoff Murrin on 08.20.13 @ 1:08PM

    Not only am I sick about hearing about this cretin, I’m sick of the apologists who come out of the wood work whenever his crimes are brought up. Its like excusing Hitler because he had grear design sense. Read the court transcripts from the child who was raped. It’s sickening.

    • Geoff, I did not know there was a transcript for public view. That most certainly clears any misinformation on the issue, because what I have read is that the mother’ wanted her daughter into the scene at any cost. What mother drops a young girl in skimpy attire at a playboy’s swimming pool? perhaps she was accountable somehow, as both did not want to press charges later on, but it was already not up to them with that type of situation. Since a good number of Europeans are still defending Polanski, it seems appropriate to share the information you got.

      • Geoff Murrin on 08.21.13 @ 11:12AM

        I read that and I hear a scared, confused child. “Cuddliness”? that breaks my heart. I don’t know how complicit the Mother is in all this. But Polanski is a monster. Some monsters present themselves quite well in regular life. He needs to be punished as the law sees fit. He’s a f*cking coward to boot. Rape of a child? How can anyone excuse, apologize, condone, or forgive him of that? Look into your soul. If he hurt some child you might know and love, would you think: it’s okay, he’s a nice guy to me, and an artist. I think you would change your tune pretty quick. Show me the button, ill push it.

        • Exactly. People are so quick to compartmentalise when they have made an emotional connection to someone they admire. Those defending him should put themselves in the shoes of the child who was raped. Imagine if that was you, or your mother, sister, daughter or wife that he raped. It doesn’t matter how good a director he is. No one would be defending a janitor who was good at cleaning floors if he took a child in a school away to a secluded place and raped her multiple times. Nothing excuses what he did. Not the conduct of the girls mother. Not the tragic murder of his pregnant wife at the hands of the Manson Family, and not his nightmarish childhood in Nazi occupied Europe. Nothing excuses it!

      • Geoff Murrin on 08.21.13 @ 12:01PM

        The above reply was supposed to be attached to the link to the ABC news story below. I don’t know how it ended up as a direct reply.

  • I did not have a speaking part in ‘Frantic’ but, I was directed, personally, by Polanski for my appearance in that movie. On one of the many takes, I tripped over my own feet and, due to the use of wide angle lenses and his close proximity to the camera, I stumbled into him and almost knocked him down. I thought sure I would be ejected from the set but, as I regained my footing, I turned and looked at him. He laughed and said, “let’s try it again”. I saw him again the next day, after he had been looking at the rushes. He came over and shook my hand.

    I don’t condone what he did and I’m not sure everyone speaking here has all the facts surrounding the incident, either but, he is not an animal.

    • CopperheadLXXIX on 08.21.13 @ 8:19AM

      So because he was nice to you on set, that makes him “not an animal”? I suppose if Jeffrey Dahmer had ever cooked you a wonderful meal, he would be a swell and misunderstand person as well no doubt.
      I try and divorce myself as much as possible from artists’ personal beliefs and actions, so that way I can enjoy just the art for its own sake, but when said artist does something as unforgivable as what Polanski did, it becomes a difficult pill to swallow. And there is no question that he drugged and raped a little girl. Those are facts.

  • Not sure why one of the replies I made was taken down. If the language I used was harsh it’s only because it reflects the harsh nature of the crime Polanski committed. The court transcripts are available for everyone to read. He gave a minor alcohol, drugged her and performed at least 3 different types of sex act on her against her will.
    I’ve been very impressed by V Renee’s articles on this website. They have been insightful, humorous and have offered a refreshing angle on bigotry and sexism in the film industry. However, I found her failure to directly address the rape issue disappointing and the censoring of comments (whomever that was done by) even more so.
    This isn’t a knock on nofilmschool… I love what you do and understand that you have sponsors and readers that might not want to read graphic descriptions of sex crimes in the comments section. But, in this case I think it is necessary to spell out exactly what Polanski is accused of and ran away from.

  • Gregory Hooker on 08.23.13 @ 1:05PM

    I am so thankful for all of the harsh comments about this post. Any person that has done what he has to a child should not be celebrated in any fashion. I don’t care if Hollywood has forgiven and forgotten, the young girl he raped hasn’t I am sure.

  • I dunno, folks, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around why anyone (including the surely fictitious “dixter”) would want to work with a pedophile – or, moreover, write an article about an unrepentant (yet illustrious!) child rapist.

    Seems to me there are other directors to work with and/or write about.

    Would another apologist care to step forward and spout some more nonsense, please?

  • No Film School is my favourite film-making site, very disappointed to see adulation of this disgusting individual here. Am also glad to see the majority of people commenting here feel the same. He’s a child rapist and a hugely overrated film-maker who shouldn’t be featured on this or any other film-making site.

  • Dan Wright on 09.2.13 @ 1:20AM

    I am amazed at the cultivated, thoughtful, even brilliant comment here. I assume most commenters defenestrating Polanski were posted by Americans? The level of deep experience and understanding exhibited here makes me think that most commenters are truly devoted to exercising doubt, open-mindedness and even compassion… Truly, the cream of the crop. Great readers.

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