Roman Polanski at Berlin film fest in spirit

McGregor, Brosnan discuss working with the director

BERLIN -- Roman Polanski was the ghost at the Berlin news conference Friday after the world premiere of his new film.

Under house arrest at his chalet in Switzerland and facing possible extradition to the U.S. on a decades-old charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year-old, Polanski couldn't make it to the Berlin competition premiere of "The Ghost Writer." But his presence in the room was almost palpable.

"That Roman Polanksi is not at the center of this podium, is something that is very strange for all of us," said the film's producer, Robert Benmussa.

Rumors that Polanski would send a video message to the festival proved unfounded. Instead, the cast of the film and Robert Harris, who wrote both the novel and screenplay to "The Ghost Writer," took turns praising the director's intensity and professionalism.

"He is an intense director who has lived a very intense life," said Pierce Brosnan, who plays a former British prime minister, clearly modeled on Tony Blair, who is accused of war crimes. "The red light was on every day on the set. We all knew we had to be on the top of our game for this great man."

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Ewan McGregor, who in the film plays a man hired to ghostwrite the prime minister's memoirs, even went so far as to say his performance in the film was "50% Polanski and 50% me."

Despite the controversy surrounding the Polanski case, there was no replay in Berlin of the media circus seen after his arrest. At the news conference, most were happy to talk about the film, a tight political thriller that was strongly applauded after its press screening.

Harris commented on the almost serendipitous release of "The Ghost Writer" just as pressure is growing to put the real Tony Blair on trial for war crimes.

"I wrote the book two years, ago and it seems as if history is now playing out just as I had imagined it," Harris said.

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