Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski Image Credit: AP

Veteran Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski goes on trial in France over allegations he defamed a British actress who accused him of sexual abuse in the 1980s.

The 90-year-old is wanted in the United States over the rape of a 13-year-old in 1977 and faces several other accusations of alleged sexual assault dating back decades and past the statute of limitations — all claims he has rejected.

The director — whose lengthy career includes his Oscar-winning films “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown” and “The Pianist” — fled to Europe in 1978.

Polanski is not due to appear in court, his lawyers have said.

His accuser, Charlotte Lewis, 56, is expected to be present.

Lewis in 2010 accused Polanski of sexually assaulting her “in the worst possible way” as a 16-year-old in 1983 in Paris after she travelled there for a casting. She appeared in his 1986 film “Pirates”.

The France-born filmmaker retorted that it was a “heinous lie” in a 2019 conversation with the Paris Match magazine.

According to Paris Match, he pulled out a copy of a 1999 article in British tabloid newspaper News of the World, and quoted Lewis as saying in it: “I was fascinated by him, and I wanted to be his lover.”

Lewis has said the quotes attributed to her in that interview were not accurate.

Lewis filed a complaint for defamation, and the film director was automatically charged under French law.

‘Right to defend himself’

"Discrediting and defaming (people) is an integral part of the Polanski system, and this is what Charlotte Lewis is very bravely calling out,” her lawyer Benjamin Chouai told AFP.

Polanski’s lawyer Delphine Meillet said there had been no defamation in the Paris Match article.

“Polanski has the right to defend himself publicly, as does the woman who accuses him,” she said.

His defence lawyers have called on Stuart White, who wrote the 1999 News of the World article, to appear as a witness during the trial.

White is a Los Angeles-based reporter for the now-defunct News of the World who quit to become a scriptwriter.

The tabloid, which has repeatedly been accused of libel and fabricating quotes, was forced to close in 2011 after its employees were accused of phone hacking in pursuit of stories.

In 2010, Lewis said she decided to speak out to counter suggestions from Polanski’s legal team that the 1977 rape case was an isolated incident.

She spoke in the Los Angeles offices of Gloria Allred, a high-profile attorney who has also represented women accusing US producer Harvey Weinstein, sit-com star Bill Cosby and former US president Donald Trump.


France, Switzerland and Poland have refused to extradite Polanski to the United States.

But plans for Polanski to preside over the Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars, were dropped in early 2017 under pressure from feminists.

Between 2017 and 2019, four other women came forward with claims that Polanski also abused them in the 1970s, three of them as minors. He has denied all allegations.