2008 Documentary Films Series

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired



On March 11, 1977, Roman Polanski was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with the following counts: furnishing a controlled substance to a minor, committing a lewd or lascivious act on a child, unlawful sexual intercourse, rape by use of drugs, perversion and sodomy. Less than a year later, on February 1, 1978, Polanski drove to LAX, bought a one-way ticket to Europe, and never came back. Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired explores the implausible events that took place between these dates, along with details, before and after, that forever altered the life and career of Polanski, one of the world's most acclaimed directors.

The film re-examines the notorious California case involving Polanski, the world's most celebrated director at the time, whose life already read like the script of one of his most tragic, brutal films. Polanski lost both his Polish parents during WWII, but rose to become a star filmmaker in Poland, England and, later, the U.S. His storybook love affair with Sharon Tate ended with her 1969 murder at the hands of followers of Charles Manson; she was eight months pregnant. Surviving the tragedy and press firestorm accompanying it, Polanski rebuilt his career in the 1970s - until he made a fateful mistake during a 1977 photo shoot with a 13-year-old girl.

Revisiting many of the key players in the case, and without apologizing for its title character, the film explores the tragedies that might have influenced Polanski's behavior, as well as the little-known specifics of the case. In particular, it explores the dubious actions of Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, whose zeal for celebrity cases was coupled with a vindictive streak against Polanski, who was vilified by much of the American press. Convinced he could not trust Rittenband after a series of rulings against him - including a 42-day stay at a California prison for observation - Polanski finally left the country for good just before his sentencing. He has lived (and been highly honored) in France the last 30 years; his 2003 Best Director Oscar® for The Pianist was awarded to him in absentia. Ironically, shortly after his victim publicly forgave him in 1997, an LA judge decided that if Polanski returned to the U.S., he would serve no more time in custody, on one condition: the proceedings would be televised. Polanski, now 74, has declined to return, and his case remains unresolved.

Over a dozen friends, actors and law-enforcement officials are interviewed in the film, including: Fmr. Defense Attorney Douglas Dalton, speaking about the case for the first time in 30 years; Fmr. Assistant DA Roger Gunson, who prosecuted it but ended up being sympathetic to Polanski; Samantha (Gailey) Geimer, the victim; Lawrence Silver, Samantha's attorney; producer Andrew Braunsberg, a close Polanski friend; Philip Vannater of the LAPD (Ret.); Dave Wells and Jim Grodin, Assistant DAs (both Ret.); Richard Brenneman, reporter for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook; Marilyn Beck, Hollywood Gossip Columnist; actress Mia Farrow; Hawk Koch, producer; Dr. Ronald Markman, psychiatrist; Lorenzo Semple, Jr., screenwriter; and others.

Credits: Directed by: Marina Zenovich; Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Lila Yacoub and Marina Zenovich; Executive Producers: Steven Soderbergh and Randy Wooten; Written by Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan and Marina Zenovich; Director of Photography: Tanja Koop; Edited by Joseph Bini; Music Composed & Arranged by Mark Degli Antoni; Co-Producer: P.G. Morgan; Associate Producer: Michelle Sullivan.

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Times Collection, UCLA Library Department of Special Collections)

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