French director may sue over new rape claim

Roman Polanski may sue the French newspaper that published accusations he raped a former actress in the 1970s, his lawyer said on Sunday.

French director may sue over new rape claim
Roman Polanksi has come under renewed fire following a string of new allegations. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP
The director has come 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 told AFP 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 “pummelled 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.
'Criminal past'
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 instrumentalise 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.

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Césars: The ‘French Oscars’ to go ahead with no Polanski and no Academy board

France's biggest film event, the Césars, will kick off on Friday without award nominee (and convicted child rapist) Roman Polanski and without its board - who resigned en masse two weeks ago.

Césars: The 'French Oscars' to go ahead with no Polanski and no Academy board
Filmmaker Roman Polanski will not be attending Friday's César awards. Photo: AFP

The awards known as the 'French Oscars' will take place on Friday night, but the ceremony has already been overshadowed by a huge row that erupted over the multiple nominations for Roman Polanski's film J'Accuse (released in the Anglophone world as An Officer and A Spy).

Polanski, who has lived in France since fleeing US justice in 1978, has already said he will not attend the ceremony in Paris.

“Activists are already threatening me with a public lynching, with some saying they are going to protest outside,” he said.

The Césars organisers have been under fire since they revealed that Polanski  topped the list of nominations for this year's awards.

French feminist groups had picketed the premiers of the film and were furious when it topped the Césars nominations.

France's equalities minister Marlène Schiappa earlier said that, although she did “not call for a boycott” of the ceremony, said that she thought it “impossible” that a room full of people “stand up and applaud the film of a man that has been accused multiple times of rape.”

'Violanski (Rape-lanski, viol is 'rape' in French). The Césars of shame'. Messages like these have been glued several places in France in he latest weeks. Photo: AFP

What does the cinema world say?

Prominent voices in the French film world have also condemned the decision to honour Polanski.

Among the French stars who have lashed out against the Academy was actress Adele Haenel who last year accused a different film director of her first film of sexually harassing her as a child.

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” she told The New York Times earlier this week.

“It means raping women isn't that bad.”


What does the Césars organisers say?

The Academy said that it could not be expected to take “moral positions” when evaluating films.

Faced with the mounting level of criticism after revealing its decision to include Polanski in its award nominations the Academy released a statement two weeks before the ceremony announcing that the board had resigned en masse.

“To honour those men and women who made cinema happen in 2019, to find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival, the board… has unanimously decided to resign,” the statement said.

“This collective decision will allow complete renewal of the board,” it added.

READ ALSO The French films with English subtitles you can watch in Paris in February

The Césars are the biggest night of the year for French filmmakers. Photo: AFP

So it's just about Polanski?

Not entirely, the Polanski controversy has brought into focus long-standing criticism of the Academy and the way it operates.

The day before the mass resignation more than 200 actors, producers, directors and movie personalities denounced the “dysfunction” at the academy and “opaqueness” in its accounts, in an open letter.

They also complained that the founding statutes of the Césars had not changed in a long time and that the academy's nearly 5,000 members do not get a vote or a say in its decisions.

So will the awards go ahead?

Yes, it will be held on Friday, February 28th at the Salle Pleyel auditorium in Paris – probably with some protests outside the venue.

“When we mobilise, things happen!”, feminist collective Nous Toutes (All Of Us) wrote on Twitter.

Another group, Osez Le Feminisme (Dare Feminism), said: “Imagine what's next. A new voting panel without male self-confidence, opacity and sexism. Will we finally stop applauding rapists and paedophiles on the run?”


Then what?

Once the ceremony is over and we've all enjoyed the sight of the great and the good of France pretending that they are delighted for the colleague who has just beaten them to the award, then the real work starts.

The Academy has asked the National Centre for Cinema, a culture ministry agency, to appoint a mediator to oversee “deep reform” of its statutes and governance.

Then the new board needs to be selected. The academy had previously announced measures to boost female representation in its membership and representation s the composition of the new board will be watched carefully.