Director Roman Polanski, whose turbulent life has on occasion come close to resembling the violent, perverse world of his movies, was arrested in Zurich on a 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for sex with a 13-year-old.
Polanski, 76, had been due to receive a prize for his life’s work at the Zurich Film Festival Sunday evening, opening a retrospective of his distinguished film career but was arrested after arriving in Switzerland Saturday night.
Calling Polanski, who won Best Director Oscar for “The Pianist” in 2003, one of the greatest film directors of our time, festival organizers said they had “received this news with great consternation and shock.”
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was “stunned” to hear about Polanski’s arrest, his office said, adding President Nicolas Sarkozy was following the case and hoped the matter could be resolved allowing Polanski to return to his family.
“We are going to try to lift the arrest warrant in Zurich … the (extradition) convention between Switzerland and the United States is not very clear,” Polanski’s lawyer, Georges Kiejman, told France Info radio.
Zurich Cantonal Police spokesman Stefan Oberlin said the arrest of Polanski, who holds French citizenship, was carried out on instruction from the Federal Justice Department in Berne. Polanski was arrested in the United States in the late 1970s and charged with giving drugs and alcohol to a 13-year-old girl and having unlawful sex with her at a photographic shoot at Jack Nicholson’s Hollywood home.
Maintaining the girl was sexually experienced and had consented, Polanski spent 42 days in prison undergoing psychiatric tests but fled the country before being sentenced.
Considered by U.S. authorities as a fugitive from justice, Polanski, whose films include “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown,” has lived in France, avoiding countries that have extradition treaties with the United States.