Roman Polanski Will Not Attend Cesar Awards

Roman Polanski - Getty - H 2019
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The controversial director said he would face a 'public lynching' by feminist activists if he attended the awards ceremony, where his film 'An Officer and a Spy' leads the nominations.

Roman Polanski has pulled out of attending this Friday's Cesar Awards, saying if he went, he would face a "public lynching" by feminist activists.

Polanski on Thursday announced, via French news service AFP, that he will not be attending the French equivalent of the Oscars this year.

“We know how this evening will unfold already," Polanski's statement read. "Activists are already threatening me with a public lynching, with some saying they are going to protest outside."

Polanski's new film, An Officer and a Spy, leads the nominations this year with 12, including for best director and best film. But Polanski has also been the target of a storm of criticism and controversy due to past allegations of sexual assault. The 86-year-old director and Oscar winner has been a fugitive from U.S. justice since 1978 for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. In recent years a number of other women have come forward accusing Polanski of sexual assault, most involving alleged incidents dating back decades. Polanski has denied all the new allegations against him.

The decision to give An Officer and a Spy 12 Cesar nominations sparked outrage among women's rights groups, who accused organizers, the French Film Academy, of rewarding a man they see as a criminal. Several have announced plans to stage protests on Friday to disrupt the ceremony.

Earlier this month, the academy's board of directors abruptly announced their collective resignation, complaining about the lack of diversity among this year's nominees and a general lack of transparency, particularly fiscal transparency, within the organization.

The board's resignation was triggered by an open letter to French newspaper Le Monde, signed by some 400 of the country's leading filmmakers, which called the Academy's leadership dysfunctional and "a vestige of an era that we would like to be over, that of an elitist and closed system."

The Academy said it would hold a general assembly of its members after this year's Cesars, which will be held Feb. 28 in Paris, to elect a new board.