Thanks Andrea! Great photo!
Roman Polanski News:
Polanski film debuts, Swiss vow no extradition yet
GENEVA (AP) -- Friday was a banner day for director Roman Polanski: His new film premiered in Berlin and Swiss authorities pledged not to extradite him to the U.S. as long as his appeal on a sex case was still being considered in Los Angeles.
Compared to the last four months being under arrest in Switzerland, it was a win-win.
Polanski could not walk the red carpet at the Berlin film festival Friday night for the debut of his movie "The Ghost Writer," starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan, because he is under house arrest. But he was still the star of the party, feted by the movie's actors, producer and screenplay writer.
And in a new twist to his long legal saga, the Swiss Justice Ministry declared it would make "no sense" to shift Polanski from house arrest at his Alpine chalet until U.S. courts ruled definitively that he must be sentenced in person to further jail time for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl.
"When the question is still open, why should he be extradited?" Rudolf Wyss, the ministry's deputy director, told The Associated Press. "As long as the question is still open, our decision depends on that."
"Even if we decide on extradition, he can still appeal. This would take many months," Wyss added.
Polanski's extradition is a complicated and diplomatically sensitive decision, as it deals with a three-decade-old case full of alleged wrongdoing by a Los Angeles judge, a confused sentencing procedure and the director's own flight from justice.
The official movie poster for the film.
There is also Polanski's status as a cultural icon in France and Poland, where he holds dual citizenship, and his history as a Holocaust survivor whose first wife was brutally murdered by crazed followers of cult leader Charles Manson in California.
Loyola University law Professor Laurie Levenson, who has followed the case closely, said the next move appears to be up to Polanski, who has the option to waive extradition.
"The Swiss authorities want to know what Polanski's sentence will be and the Los Angeles courts won't tell them until he comes back. It's a bit of a standoff."
She said that Polanski can keep fighting extradition, but will remain under house arrest indefinitely.
"Mr. Polanski may be able to sit in his Swiss chalet forever," she said. "But if he wants to get out he may have to come back and be sentenced by the California court even though he might get a sentence that would not have required him to come back in the first place. This is a chicken and egg problem."
Polanski's lawyers say the 76-year-old filmmaker served his full sentence in 1978 when he underwent a court-ordered diagnostic study at a California prison for 42 days. Los Angeles courts have disagreed and Polanski's lawyers have promised to appeal in their hopes to have him sentenced in absentia or have the case dropped.
Swiss legal experts said it looked increasingly possible that the Oscar-winning director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist" could beat extradition.
"The chance has increased, especially as he's been here for such a long time," said Dieter Jann, a former Zurich prosecutor. "It's not even clear if the Americans want him anymore."
Wyss spoke to The AP hours before a press conference in Berlin to unveil Polanski's newest film based on a novel by Robert Harris, in which Brosnan stars as former British Prime Minister Adam Lang, a character likened to Tony Blair, and McGregor plays a reporter hired to help write his memoirs.
The movie, Polanski's first since "Oliver Twist" in 2005, was nearly finished when he was arrested Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award from a film festival. The director kept working on the film during his two months in a Swiss jail and later under house arrest in his chalet in the luxury Swiss resort of Gstaad, after he posted $4.5 million bail in December and agreed to wear an electronic ankle monitor.
"It's a great pity he's not here to launch the film with us, because I feel like he's as responsible for my performance in this film as I am," McGregor said at the press conference in Berlin, where the cast largely steered clear of the director's legal issues.
"Roman continued to work on the film through courier packages that we sent to him in prison," producer Robert Benmussa said in Berlin. "Then, when he was in his chalet, he continued to work on the movie, putting the last touches."
"The Ghost Writer," based on the novel by Robert Harris, is one of 20 films competing for the Berlin festival's top Golden Bear honor, being awarded Feb. 20.
Harris, who wrote the screenplay along with Polanski, said director had been keen to shift gears and make a thriller. "The Ghost Writer" is the story of a former leader dogged by allegations that he allowed the illegal seizure of suspected terrorists.
"(Polanski wanted) to do another 'Chinatown'-like movie where the plot gradually unfolds, and I think that that above all was what drew him to it," Harris said. "He wanted to tell a story, and his greatest insult, I discovered, was 'an arthouse movie.'"
Polanski lost a bid last month to be sentenced in Los Angeles without returning when a judge ruled that he must be present in court if he wanted to resolve the case. Referring to Polanski as a fugitive from justice, Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza said he was acting to protect "the dignity of the court."
Polanski's attorneys have until late March to file an appeal. His lawyer in California, Chad Hummel, would not comment on the Swiss justice ministry's statement Friday.
Polanski can also avoid being returned to Los Angeles if a court there rules that he doesn't have to face further punishment, or if the amount of additional time he is sentenced to is less than six months.
Los Angeles prosecutors say Polanski is subject to a sentence of two years. His defense counters that the director has already served a sentence handed down by the original Los Angeles judge and spent over four months under arrest in Switzerland.
While the legal wrangling has been difficult to follow, the facts of the case are less contested.
Polanski was initially accused of raping the girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a 1977 modeling shoot. He was indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molestation and sodomy, but he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse.
In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sent him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator released Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the remaining time.
Polanski then fled the U.S. on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be formally sentenced. He has lived since in France, which does not extradite its citizens.