Polanski Docu Maker ‘Astonished’ by Claim of Lies

“It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers,” she says of ex-prosecutor’s retraction of misconduct accusations.

Last Updated: October 1, 2009 @ 5:13 PM

Marina Zenovich, director-producer of HBO documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," says she is "perplexed by the timing" of a statement by participant David Wells that he lied onscreen in her film. Wells claims he lied because he believed the film would not be shown in the U.S.

Wells’ statement in the film, released last year, was part of the rationale for Polanski’s defense lawyers to petition for dismissal of the case against the filmmaker on grounds of judicial misconduct. If Wells’ on-screen statements prove to be false, that increases the pressure on Polanski.

Former Los Angeles prosecutor Marcia Clark writes at the Daily Beast that Wells, who was a prosecutor in 1977 but not directly involved in the Polanski case, recanted his claim that he suggested how Judge Laurence Rittenband could send the director to Chino State Prison for 90 days of "diagnostic testing." (Rittenband died in 1993.)

Instead, Clark says, Wells told her he merely conveyed a newspaper photo of Polanski cavorting at Oktoberfest to Rittenband, who blew up and told a reporter, "Screw the (plea) deal, he’s going to state prison." When Polanski’s lawyer found out about that and conveyed that to the director, Polanski skipped his sentencing hearing.

Meanwhile, L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley told the Los Angeles Times that "there are still five or six other much more serious charges pending" against Polanski that "won’t be resolved until his final sentence."

"It’s about completing justice," Cooley said. "Justice is not complete when someone leaves the jurisdiction of the court."

The former prosecutor Wells told the Los Angeles Times in January that he regretted making the statements in "Wanted and Desired" but never said they were untrue. The Times says that Wells today said that he notified the district attorney’s office several months ago that he had lied during the film and apologized for his actions.

The following is Zenovich’s statement:

“I am perplexed by the timing of David Wells’ statement to the press that he lied in his interview with me for the documentary ‘Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.’ Since June of 2008, the film has been quite visible on U.S. television via HBO, in theaters and on DVD, so it is odd that David Wells has not brought this issue to my attention before.

“For the record, on the day I filmed Mr. Wells at the Malibu Courthouse, Feb. 11, 2005, he gave me a one-hour interview. He signed a release like all my other interviewees, giving me permission to use his interview in the documentary worldwide. At no time did I tell him that the film would not air in the United States.

“Mr. Wells was always friendly and open with me. At no point in the four years since our interview has he ever raised any issues about its content. In fact, in a July 2008 story in the New York Times, Mr. Wells corroborated the account of events that he gave in my film.

“I am astonished that he has now changed his story. It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers when something like this happens.”