ROMAN POLANSKI – Bio
Born in Paris in 1933 to Polish parents, he grew up in Poland. During the war, he was separated from his parents (his mother would die in Auschwitz), but managed to escape from the ghetto. After the war he was reunited with his father and began working as an actor at age 14, first in radio and then in film, where he participated in several films including Andrzej Wajda’s Pokolenie (A Generation). After graduating from the Lycée des Beaux-Arts in Kraków, he entered the National Film School in ?ód?, where he made his first short films. His first feature, Nóz w wodzie (Knife in the Water 1962), presented at the Venice Film Festival, earned him the Fipresci Prize and an Oscar nomination. In 1965-66 he was at the Berlinale with Repulsion and Cul-de-Sac, winning a Silver Bear and Golden Bear, respectively. On the set of The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), which he directed and starred in, he met Sharon Tate, whom he married in 1968. Rosemary’s Baby (1968), his first American film, brought him wider notoriety and won, among others, an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and David di Donatello awards for him and Farrow. After a tragic murder in which he lost his expectant wife, he returned to England where he directed Macbeth (1972), which was followed by the comedy Che? (What?). In Hollywood he made Chinatown (1974), which won an Oscar for Best Screenplay and four Golden Globes, including Best Picture and Best Director. In France he filmed and starred in Le locataire (The Tenant, 1976), in competition at Cannes. Following a legal case in which he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, given the numerous procedural and due process violations by the judge, he left the United States. Tess (1979), shot in France with Nastassja Kinski, won three Oscars (Best Cinematography, Set Design and Costumes), as well as two Césars for Best Director and Best Picture. In 1986 he directed Pirates, an adventurous comedy starring Walter Matthau. Frantic (1988), a thriller starring Harrison Ford, was the first starring role for Emmanuelle Seigner, his bride since 1989. The actress then starred in Bitter Moon (1992) with Hugh Grant and Peter Coyote, and in The Ninth Gate (1999), with Johnny Depp and Lena Olin. In 1994 he co-starred with Gérard Depardieu in Giuseppe Tornatore’s A Pure Formality. From Ariel Dorfman’s play, he directed in 1994 Death and the Maiden, starring Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. From the memoirs of composer and pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman, Polanski made The Pianist (2002), which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, Oscars for Best Director and Screenplay, two Baftas (Best Picture, Best Director), seven Césars and eight Polish Eagles (including Best Picture and Best Director). The following year he made Oliver Twist, based on the Charles Dickens’ novel, with Ben Kingsley as Fagin.
After participating in the collective film Chacun son cinéma to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Cannes, he directed The Ghost Writer (2010), based on the novel by Robert Harris, receiving a Silver Bear at the Berlinale. Carnage, adapted from Yasmina Reza’s play, starring Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, earned him another César for Best Adapted Screenplay and received a Golden Lion in Venice.
In addition, he received a César for Best Director for his adaptation of David Ives’ play La Vénus à la fourrure (Venus in Fur, 2014). In 2017 he adapted Delphine de Vigan’s novel D’après une histoire vraie (Based on a True Story), starring Seigner and Eva Green. J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy, 2019), was his take on the Dreyfus Affair with Jean Dujardin. The film won the Silver Lion at Venice and the César Award for Best Director. His latest work, The Palace, was presented out of competition in Venice this year.
A member of the French Academy of Fine Arts since 1998, Roman Polanski directed Alban Berg’s opera Lulu at the Spoleto Festival in 1974, Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Munich Opera, and Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hofmann at the Opéra Bastille in Paris. He also portrayed Mozart in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus, first in Warsaw (1981) and then in Paris (1982).