Polanski sues Vanity Fair publisher for libel
LONDON, July 18 (AFP) - Oscar-winning film director Roman Polanski sued for libel in a London court Monday over an allegation in Vanity Fair magazine that he tried to seduce a Swedish woman just after his pregnant wife was murdered 36 years ago.
The 71-year-old is suing Conde Naste, publishers of Vanity Fair, over a July 2002 article which alleged that he made sexual advances to a “Swedish beauty” in Elaine’s restaurant, New York, just after wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child were killed at their California home in August 1969.
Polanski, however, will not appear in court in person but by video-link from Paris — a legal first for a libel case — as he is unable to fly to Britain due to the risk of being extradited to the United States where he is wanted on an outstanding child sex offence.
Adding to the intrigue of the high-profile trial, actress Mia Farrow was due to appear as a witness for Polanski, who won a best director Oscar for ‘The Pianist’ in 2003.
Speaking via the video-link, the Polish-French director told a jury at London’s High Court that the news of the murders were his darkest hours and he fiercely denied all the claims in Vanity Fair.
The article said that on his way to the funeral, he went to Elaine’s and pulled up a chair next to the girl “inundating her with his Polish charm.”
It went on: “Fascinated by his performance, I watched as he slid his hand inside her thigh and began a long honeyed spiel which ended with the promise ‘And I will make another Sharon Tate out of you’.”
Quizzed by his lawyer John Kelsey-Fry about the validity of the allegations, the director said, “It is an abominable lie.”
Kelsey-Fry said the magazine, which denies libel, now accepted that none of this happened on the way to the funeral.
Its case was that it occurred two weeks or so later, towards the end of August, and that the article was substantially true.
But Polanski argues that the incident never happened at all.
Kelsey-Fry told the jury of nine men and three women that they were taking part “in a bit of legal history” as it was the first time that a claimant would be participating in libel proceedings before a jury by videolink from abroad.
He said that, in 1977 in California, Polanski had pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl and had left the United States before he was sentenced — hence the risk of extradition.
Kelsey-Fry said that it was undoubtedly a “most unsightly blot” on his reputation but it was not what the case was about.
Subject: French news