“Portrait of a Lady on Fire” actress Adèle Haenel walked out of the César Film Awards in protest on Friday after Roman Polanski won the best director award for his film “J’accuse,” known outside of France as “An Officer and a Spy.”
“Bravo, pedophilia,” Haenel shouted in the lobby after leaving the theater. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” director Celine Sciamma also walked out.
Polanski was arrested in 1977 and charged with raping and drugging a 13-year-old girl. Polanski later accepted a deal in which he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse, and underwent 42 days or court-ordered psychiatric evaluation to determine his sentence. He fled the country in 1978 without reappearing in court and his supporters have since claimed the judge intended to have him imprisoned and then deported. (Under US law, judges have authority to reject a plea deal.)
Polanski has since been accused by other women of rape, including one who says she was only 15 at the time.
Haenel, in November, filed a sexual harassment complaint against Christophe Ruggia, accusing the director of sexually harassing her when she was 12 years old and appeared in his 2002 film “The Devils.” The abuse — which included “forced kisses” — continued until she was 15 years old, she told investigative journal Mediapart.
Shortly after the publication of the Mediapart article, the Paris prosecutors’ office opened a preliminary investigation “sexual aggression on a minor carried out by someone in authority,” according to CNN. Ruggia was also removed from the Société des réalisateurs de films, the French directors’ association that he helped lead, which declared its support for Haenel.
Haenel initially said she hadn’t planned to file a formal complaint out of concern over how French authorities would handle the case, but was said she was compelled to come forward with her accusations after watching “Leaving Neverland,” the documentary about Michael Jackson and his alleged abuse of young boys.
“Now that the judiciary has opened an investigation, I won’t hide the fact that I will do everything in my power to see this process through to the end. What I hope for now personally is support and compensation from the justice system,” Haenel said in a statement via translation.
Before Haenel even walked out of the Salle Pleyel where the César awards were being held, protesters had lined the streets outside, protesting the nominations for Roman Polanski’s film.
Polanski won two Cesar awards, one for best director and another for adapted screenplay, which he shared with his co-writer Robert Harris. His film also won for its costumes.
Although “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was one of the year’s most acclaimed French films and had gone into the Cesar ceremony with 10 nominations, it only won one award, for cinematography. Immediately before Polanski won the directing award, for which Sciamma was also nominated, Haenel and her co-star Noemie Merlant had both lost in the best-actress category to Anais Demoustier for “Alice and the Mayor.”
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