Roman Polanski Prepping Next Feature in Poland, Wants Assurance He Won't Be Extradited to U.S.

34 REP Roman Polanski H
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Roman Polanski attends the Ceremonies des Lumieres in Paris in January.

UPDATED: The octogenarian director, still wanted in America on 40-year-old statutory rape charges, plans to film a biopic about a 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage.

MOSCOW — Roman Polanski is hoping to shoot his next feature — a biopic about Alfred Dreyfus, the 19th-century French military officer falsely accused of espionage — in Poland.

The 80-year-old director, who is still wanted in America on charges of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl dating back to 1977, wants the Polish government to guarantee his security from any U.S. extradition request for the duration of shooting An Officer and a Spy.

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Polanski has been scouting locations in Krakow and Warsaw with executives from the Polish Film Institute and top studios, including Alvernia, ATM Film Studio and Warsaw's WFDiF. If he does film in Poland, it will be his first feature entirely shot there since his 1962 film, Knife in the Water.

He was last in Poland in September, when he caused a sensation after giving a master class to students at the Gdynia film festival, as he risked possible extradition to the U.S. by participating.  
There were no moves to arrest Polanski, who holds dual French-Polish citizenship, and no extradition request. Under Polish law, the statute of limitations on his 1977 charges has long since expired.

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But Polanski, who has rented an apartment in Krakow and opened a Polish bank account in preparation for shooting the Dreyfus film, wants official guarantees on his legal security before committing to do the project in Poland.

"Both the artistic and technical conditions proposed by Polish studios fulfill expectations," Robert Benmussa, his producer, told the Polish Film Institute. "But the final decision ultimately depends on the legal security of Roman Polanski in Poland."

Polanski, who is understood to have remained in Krakow for a vacation after location scouting, has, according to the Polish Film Institute, instructed his lawyers to make it clear that if Poland wants to attract the $40 million project and its cast of top British and Hollywood actors, his security, particularly as it relates to any possible U.S. extradition request, must be guaranteed.

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The Polish Film Institute, Polish Film Commission and city authorities in Krakow have all confirmed their interest in co-financing the film, and Polanski met them and Poland's minister of culture, Malgorzata Omilanowska during his scouting trip.

Polanski has been Paris-based since 1978, as France is one of the few European countries that forbids extradition of its citizens to the U.S.

In 2010, he escaped a forced return to America after U.S. authorities lost an extradition battle in Switzerland, where Polanski had been invited to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival.

Agnieszka Odorowicz, head of the Polish Film Institute, said: "I understand the arguments of the producer that if he he risks a lot of money to locate the production in Poland he must have the guarantee that the director is safe and able to finish his work at the movie."