Friday, January 15, 2010

Will Polanski's Recent Publicity Overshadow his New Movie?

Found this on the web today:

Roman Polanski's detention shadows 'Ghost Writer'

By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY

Roman Polanski's new film, The Ghost Writer, is a murder mystery set amid the clash of international politics and espionage, reminiscent of the best paranoid thrillers from 1970s Hollywood.

But it's a real incident from that era that casts a less flattering shadow on the film.

The Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby filmmaker was arrested in Switzerland in September for possible extradition to the United States, which he fled in 1978 after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski is now under house arrest and fighting extradition. The Ghost Writer, however, will be released in the USA on Feb. 19.

It remains to be seen whether the scandal surrounding him will influence how his new work is received.

Rob Friedman, co-chairman and chief executive of Summit Entertainment, which is distributing the movie, says it won't.

"People have an infinite capacity to separate art from people's lives," Friedman says. "Moviegoers are going to the movies. They're not making a statement about whether a trial judge in Los Angeles acted properly or whether (Polanski) paid his price to society."

The movie stars Ewan McGregor as a writer assigned to polish the autobiography of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan). McGregor is replacing a previous writer who drowned mysteriously, and when Brosnan comes under investigation as a war criminal, it becomes clear there is something in this politician's story that someone is willing to kill over.

"It's very Hitchcockian," says Alex Billington of, who was at a showing of the film Wednesday night in Los Angeles. "Polanski hasn't been making films for a few years, and I hadn't known what to expect. Going in, I was looking for a good drama, but it delivered something different from what I was expecting. It's a good thriller."

Billington notes, however, that the comments section on his website fills with vitriol when he writes about The Ghost Writer.

"I think it's going to hurt attendance," Billington says. "Some people look at it and say, 'I have a viewpoint against Roman Polanski, and no matter how good it looks, no matter who's in it, I can't support his film.' "

Polanski's life has been marked by tragedy. A childhood survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of Hollywood's most prominent directors but also lost his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, in the notorious 1969 Manson family slayings.

The September arrest provoked emotions over his actions that had been simmering for more than three decades.

Polanski, who won an Oscar for 2002's The Pianist, has long been damaged by his arrest and flight because it limited his access to bigger Hollywood budgets and restricted his ability to work in the USA, says Gregory Ellwood, editor in chief of, who also saw the film Wednesday.

"In an alternate universe where this hadn't happened, Roman Polanski would be like Martin Scorsese," he said.

Ellwood also noted that Polanski still managed to continue to make films during this period, and has always found top actors willing to work with him (among them Harrison Ford in his 1988 thriller Frantic, and Johnny Depp in 1999's The Ninth Gate.)

For many years, the 1977 rape case faded to the background and was not a major issue when one of his films would come out.

"There was some scuttlebutt when he was nominated for The Pianist, but it was not dominating that discussion," Ellwood says.

The arrest has reignited the controversy, stirring furious feelings on both sides. It might be less of an issue for The Ghost Writer if it were an art-house film with limited commercial appeal, but as an exciting and accessible thriller, it has mainstream potential.

"This was more than a pleasant surprise," he says. "I think it's one of his more entertaining films, if not one of his best films."

Sounds like this is going to be one of his best films.  I hope it does better than expected.

1 comment:

  1. I hope it does well, too. He is an excellent director.