Filmmaker Roman Polanski on trial in Paris on defamation charges

Europe Filmmaker Roman Polanski on trial in Paris on defamation charges
MAR 5, 2024 LISTEN

Filmmaker Roman Polanski will face a defamation trial on Tuesday in France for questioning the veracity of the sexual assault allegations made by actress Charlotte Lewis.

The 90-year-old Franco-Polish director, currently residing in Paris, is not expected to appear in court; he will instead be represented by his legal team. Charlotte Lewis (56), who resides in the United Kingdom, will be present at the trial.

Three-time Oscar and Palme d'Or winner Polanski has faced a string of sexual assault allegations throughout his career, all of which are now statute-barred, and none of which have prevented him from continuing to work in film despite his denials.

Lewis claimed in May 2010 that Polanski had sexually assaulted her during an audition at his Paris home in 1983, when she was just 16 years old. The actress, who later starred in Polanski's 1986 film Pirates, did not go to the police in the UK, but instead shared her account with the American police.

In December 2019, Polanski refuted these accusations as an "odious lie" in a Paris Match magazine interview, arguing that inconsistencies in Lewis' account were being ignored.

Polanski referenced a quote attributed to Lewis from a 1999 interview with News of the World, in which she allegedly remarked: "I wanted to be his mistress […] I probably desired him more than he did me." Lewis disputed the quote's accuracy in 2010.

'Smearing, discrediting, defaming'

Following Polanski's Paris Match interview, Lewis filed a defamation lawsuit, which led to the subsequent magistrate hearing – a near-automatic procedure in press law where the substance of the accusations are examined during the trial.

Polanski's legal team denied any defamation in their client's comments made to Paris Match: "Roman Polanski has the right to defend himself publicly, on the same basis as the person accusing him," said lawyer Delphine Meillet, who, alongside Alain Jakubowicz, defends Polanski.

In her defence at the trial, she summoned Stuart White, the author of the News of the World article about Lewis.

"Smearing, discrediting, defaming; these are all integral parts of the Polanski system as exposed courageously by Charlotte Lewis," stated her lawyer, Benjamin Chouai.

Polanksi has been accused of other sexual assaults throughout his career, which he denies.

France has refused to extradite him back to the US where he faces charges for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Attempts to get Switzerland and Poland to hand him over also failed.

(With newswires)