Roman Polanski acquitted in defamation trial against actress Charlotte Lewis

Roman Polanski acquitted in defamation trial against actress Charlotte Lewis
Roman Polanski acquitted in defamation trial against actress Charlotte Lewis

The Franco-Polish filmmaker, whom the actress sued for defamation for having called her a liar when she accused him of rape, was acquitted.

Roman Polanski has been acquitted in the lawsuit brought by Charlotte Lewis. The British actress sued the director for defamation for calling her a liar in an interview with Paris Match in 2019, when she accused him of rape.

The judges did not have to rule on whether Roman Polanski, 90, raped Charlotte Lewis or not. They only had to decide whether or not the Franco-Polish filmmaker made abusive use of his freedom of expression in this interview published by the weekly almost five years ago.

“The first quality of a good liar…”

Asked about accusations of sexual assault and rape made against him by several women, including Charlotte Lewis, the director of Rosemary’s Baby had replied: “you see, the first quality of a good liar is an excellent memory. Charlotte Lewis is always mentioned in the list of my accusers without ever pointing out her contradictions”.

The director described the actress’s accusations as “odious lies”. In 2010, during a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival, Charlotte Lewis recounted having been attacked during a casting organized at Roman Polanski’s house in Paris in 1983, when she was 16 years old.

“Contradictions” called into question

During the trial in March, the 56-year-old actress denounced “a smear campaign” which “almost destroyed (her) life” after her revelations: “I would have preferred to say nothing. Today, if a woman comes to tell me that she was raped and asks me if she should reveal it, I will tell her: no, draw a line under all that, go on with your life,” the actress said on the stand, via an interpreter. Roman Polanski was not present at the hearing.

To illustrate the complainant’s “contradictions”, her lawyers cited an interview given in 1999 to News of the World where she expressed her admiration for the director, who in 1986 gave her a role in his film Pirates.

“He fascinated me and I wanted to be his mistress. I probably wanted him more than he wanted me,” she reportedly confided to the British tabloid. The actress partly contests the words attributed to her by the newspaper.

“Thrown out to pasture” by #MeToo

For Roman Polanski’s lawyers, their client was “thrown out to pasture in the public square” in “the stifling context of #MeToo”, the movement for the liberation of women’s speech. He has “the right to defend himself”, his counsel insisted, denouncing “an absurd trial”. The prosecutor did not request a conviction following her submissions.

Roman Polanski, who notably won an Oscar and a Palme d’Or at Cannes for “The Pianist”, has been accused of sexual assault and rape by around ten women over the course of his career, assertions that he has always contested and which did not prevent him from working.

Rape trial in California next year

He has been considered a fugitive in the United States for more than forty years, after a conviction for “illegal sexual relations” with a 13-year-old minor, Samantha Gailey (now Geimer).

In 1977, arrested, accused of having drugged and raped this teenager, he spent 42 days in prison before being released and fleeing to Paris. He has since been the subject of an international arrest warrant from the American justice system.

The filmmaker is called to appear in 2025 in California, during a civil trial for raping a teenage girl in 1973, accusations that he contests “with the greatest firmness” according to his Parisian lawyer.

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