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Roman Polanski will not serve as president of this year’s Cesar Awards ceremony, a lawyer for the director said Tuesday.
Polanski, who has been wanted in the U.S. since he fled the country following a conviction for statutory rape in 1978, lives in France, as it has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Poland joined the list of countries he can freely travel to in December 2016, after the supreme court there ruled it would not extradite the director from the country of his birth, where he keeps an apartment. He pled guilty but fled the U.S. before he could be sentenced. He holds dual citizenship in both countries.
The AFP reported that a lawyer for Polanski said he will turn down the invitation, adding that the planned protests “deeply saddened” the director.
French feminist organization d’Osez le Feminisme said it would protest the upcoming Cesar Awards. “We are nauseated,” the group wrote in a press release calling for the protest in front of the red carpet, a boycott of viewing the awards and of CanalPlus, which broadcasts the ceremony.
Polanski is beloved by the French Academy. He won the best director Cesar for Tess in 1980, The Pianist in 2002, The Ghost Writer in 2011 and Venus in Fur in 2014, and he has collected a handful of best writing wins and other nominations through the years. As president of the ceremony, Polanski would have opened the awards with a speech before handing over the reins to an as-yet-unnamed host for skits and prizes.
Academy president Alain Terzian had announced him as president last week, calling the director “an insatiable aesthetic,” citing his works Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown as “masterpieces.”
“The appointment of Roman Polanski is an outrageous act to the many victims of rape and sexual assault,” said the feminist organization, noting that many people still support him as a filmmaker. “We reply that the quality of his filmography has little do with the crime he committed, his flight, and his refusal to assume his responsibilities.”
Polanski is currently at work on Based on a True Story, co-written by Olivier Assayas and starring Eva Green, Emmanuelle Seigner and Vincent Perez.
The group also launched a Change.org petition that has gathered over 54,000 signatures so far.
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