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Roman Polanski Defamation Trial Begins In Paris

Roman Polanski will be tried in Paris today over allegations that he defamed British actor Charlotte Lewis.

Lewis brought the claim against the 90-year-old filmmaker, claiming he defamed her by calling her sexual assault allegations against him a “heinous lie” in a 2019 interview with Paris Match magazine. Polanski is not due to appear in court.

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In 2010, Lewis accused Polanski of sexually assaulting her “in the worst possible way” in 1983 when she was in Paris for a casting appointment, aged 16. She later appeared in Polanski’s 1986 film Pirates. Polanski denied the allegations in the 2019 Paris Match interview and is said to have referenced a quote attributed to Lewis from a 1999 interview with the now-defunct outlet 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 and subsequently filed the suit. Polanski’s legal team has denied allegations of defamation: “Roman Polanski has the right to defend himself publicly, on the same basis as the person accusing him,” said lawyer Delphine Meillet.

Polanski, director of films including The Pianist, Chinatown, and Rosemary’s Baby, remains a lightning rod for controversy in the industry and beyond. In 1977, the filmmaker was arrested and charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty at the time to the lesser charge of unlawful sex with a minor. Upon learning that the judge planned to reject his plea deal and impose a prison term instead of probation, he fled to Paris. As a result, Polanski is a fugitive from the U.S.

Polanski’s last film, The Palace, debuted at the 2023 Venice Film Festival.

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