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Roman Polanski’s Defamation Trial Kicks Off in Paris

A defamation trial against controversial director Roman Polanski is underway in Paris.

The 90-year-old Franco-Polish filmmaker is being sued by British actor Charlotte Lewis, who is claiming he defamed her by calling her sexual assault allegations against him a “heinous lie” in a 2019 interview with Paris Match magazine.

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Lewis first came forward with her allegations against Polanski in 2010, alleging that the director had sexually assaulted her in Paris in 1983, when she was 16 years old. Lewis said she had traveled to Paris for a casting call, and she later appeared in Polanski’s 1986 movie “Pirates.”

Polanski has been accused of sexual assault by several women, beginning in 1977 when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. He entered a plea bargain and plead guilty to one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, later fleeing the U.S. and continuing his career in Europe. He remains a fugitive from the U.S. legal system. In 2018, Polanski was removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. However, in March 2023, Gailey stated in an interview with Polanski and his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, that she has forgiven him and “anyone who thinks that he deserves to be in prison is wrong.” In 2019, Polanski was also accused of rape by former actress Valentine Monnier. The alleged rape occured in 1975 when she was 18. Polanski has denied all accusations against him, including those of Monnier and Lewis.

Though Polanski has a residence in Paris, he will not be present at the trial and will instead be represented by his legal team. Lewis is expected to attend.

Despite the controversy, Polanski has continued to win awards and make films, with his most recent outing, “The Palace,” premiering at Venice Film Festival in 2023. However, Polanski continued to keep a low profile and was not present at the film’s debut. Polanski’s previous film, “An Officer and a Spy” also premiered at Venice, where it won the Grand Jury prize in 2019. A year later, he won best director at the Cesar Awards, prompting uproar within the French industry and leading to the first wave of #MeToo in the country.

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